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July 06, 2008

Some Advice On Child Rearing

Although I usually don’t talk much about my personal life on this blog, I thought I would make an exception today because so many people write to me with questions about how to raise their children. As regular readers know, I have two children, Suri and Maddox, and they are, as one prominent child psychiatrist put it, “perfect.”

Raising perfect children is a combination of science and art. Some would argue that genetics also play a role, but that would give partial credit to the children themselves, which is nonsense. No, when raising perfect children, the credit belongs to the parent or parents who are actually doing the hard work of molding perfection from witless lumps of flesh; just as you wouldn’t credit the stone for Michelangelo’s “David,” nor should you credit the child for their own fortunate happenstance of being raised by me (and to a much lesser extent, my wife).

Question: how do I do it? How do I manage to maintain a busy professional and social life while simultaneously imparting all of my knowledge, grace, and humility to my offspring? Answer: with a big heart and a firm hand.

First, the tough stuff – punishment, because that’s what everybody wants to know. “How do I discipline my child in a safe and loving way?” Read on.

Now, I am not an advocate of corporal punishment because, frankly, it doesn’t work. When a child misbehaves, I never spank or hit that child. Instead, I follow our president’s lead – I use waterboarding. Now, obviously you don’t waterboard every time a child acts up because that would cause the punishment to lose its efficacy. Instead, you reserve “going swimming,” as I call it, for those occasions when the child has acted so egregiously (peeing on the toilet seat, leaving hand prints on the glass door) that you simply have no choice.

When most people hear the term “waterboarding,” they immediately think about what a small number of our interrogators did (or do) to a small number of high-value detainees at some of our nation’s detention facilities. And if you believe the liberal news media, you would think that this kind of treatment is beyond the pale. Well, I don’t know how they waterboard at Gitmo, but the way we do it at our house is to hold the child upside down, put a wet wash cloth over his or her mouth, pinch the child’s nose shut, and then pour a thin stream of water into the mouth. Believe me, this is not torture. If it was, it would be illegal, and as our president has made clear, this is within the bounds of the law. It’s just simulated drowning. The child is never in any actual danger, but it sure scares the pants off them!

That’s the key to punishing your children: make the punishment severe enough that it has the desired effect – namely, to get them to stop the behavior that got them punished in the first place! Trust me, time-outs only get you so far. Now, just the threat of being waterboarded is enough to get their attention. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I had to take out the washcloth.

(By the way, this particular form of punishment has in no way deterred the kids from actually going swimming. Suri and Maddox are both excellent swimmers and love going in the pool.)

But punishment is only one half of the equation when it comes to raising perfect children. The other, more important part is love. Love your children like the precious gifts they are. You know that old saying: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry?” This is especially true in the parent/child relationship. My children know I love them because I never apologize to them. This may sound odd, but it’s important to remember that, to a child, you are like the Mighty Zeus: all-powerful. When you apologize to your child, the façade of infallibility crumbles and you look like just another schnook instead of a godhead. Be a godhead for your child. 

Love also means doing stuff with your children. Stuff that both of you enjoy. Say your child loves horses. Take her to the horse track. That’s a good place to find horses. Or if your child loves baseball, take him to the horse track. That’s a sport, too. Maybe your kids love to cook. Great. Take them to the horse track. They have food there. You see? Of course if they don’t have a horse track where you live, that’s okay. You could go to the dog track.

Another piece of advice for anybody interested in raising perfect children: get an au pair. Au pairs are young girls from all over the world who come to the United States to study and learn about our culture. In exchange for a small stipend plus room and board, they agree to look after your children for up to forty five hours a week. That’s a lot of time that you don’t have to watch your kids! Maybe that sounds counterintuitive; after all, shouldn’t you spend as much time with your kids as possible? No, no, and no! The last thing you want is for your kids to take you for granted. The less they see of you the better. Plus, having an au pair means you get to have a young European girl living with you. Far out! There’s nothing like a little “cultural exchange” to keep parenting exciting. The kids learn a lot, and so do you.

Finally, make sure to tell your kids you love them every single day. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents neglect to tell their children these simple three words. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t love their kids as much as I love mine. That’s probably it. But even if your children aren’t as perfect as mine and you don’t love them that much, fake it. That way, they won’t be able to pull that “my parents never told me they loved me” crap so popular on therapist’s couches all over the country. I tell my kids I love them even when I’m giving them a simulated drowning. Why? Because it reinforces the idea that what they’re experiencing is their fault.

I could probably write a whole book about parenting perfect children, and one day I probably will. But if you follow the advice I’ve just given you for free, chances are your children will wind up just as perfect as mine. (I’m obviously exaggerating to make a point – your children will never be as perfect as mine. Not that it’s a competition. But if it was, your kids would lose.)

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Preston

Firsties! I'm the man!

that stoner kid

When I rear my child (or perhaps a child not my own) I will keep your invaluable advice in mind.

jolie

I'm going to have children right now just so I can follow that precious advice

Amir

Meh, sending my kid to work in a sweat shop seems to keep him in line well enough.

J

I saw Michael Ian Black at Foxwoods Saturday. He looked very intense and I watched his table for about 10 minutes; I don't think he said one word. David Sedaris probably would've been beaten him.

I also think I saw Showalter - if it was indeed him then he needs to shave and lose 10-15 pounds. He was 2 feet away from me and I kept staring because I couldn't decipher whether it was him or not. But once I saw the Black I was sure it was. I guess they do everything together.

Cedric D.

Wow, J. Creepy, much?

Zane

I knew I had aced parenting when my daughter was finally able to make a perfect dry martini aka "Mommy's morning smoothie".
No longer do I have to hear her crying while I look for the belt. Everyone wins.

Camille

I was a nanny back in the day and always wondered why in the world they needed me when the mom didn't work,watched tv up in her room and/or went to the club to play tennis/swim/ogle the poolboys. You sure cleared up my misconceptions!

Susanna

Waterboarding always means so much more to children when it's lovingly inflicted by their parents.

Therese

I find mental torture so much harder for them to tell their teachers about...

Kenny Stride

I love your writing Mr. Ian Black. It makes me laugh all the time. You are the best at Comedy and I am the best at Swing Jumping. You don't believe me? I'll prove it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErkK_rmL2_A

Told you!!

Reen

So funny and yet, so icky.

Yesterday a friend sent me a youtube of Christopher Hitchens being "waterboarded".
I can't imagine a worse torture...well actually I can, but I won't say because I just had some toast. And maybe others did too.

Mean daddy? Pish-posh! I bet Suri bats her eyelashes and Maddox smiles impishly and when they ask oh so sweetly: "Daddy can I have this?" you fall over your own feet hurrying to get it for them. THAT'S what I think.

And just when you thought you were having a fun evening out with friends, "J" comes along to inform you that you were too intense and unapproachable for his taste, and that Sho has the audacity to put on a few pounds. How dare EITHER of you do that on HIS watch?

Camille

I don't know Reen, I had the same problem. I stared for at least an hour,not blinking and drooling and he never acknowledged me, just kept averting his eyes. I mean, it's not creepy to go to every show,is it? Every. One. Of. Them.

J

I didn't say he was unapproachable, just really into the game. I wasn't being creepy by watching his table. I'm a fan of teh game of poker and his table was one of the "high roller" tables. Not a ton of money, but more than most, so I was interested to watch. I wasn't stalking him. Furthermore, I wouldn;t want to bother him. I thought he was there to play poker, not have someone come up and say "big fan." So go fuck yoruselves.

And I was being sarcastic about Showalter (although he was unshaven which threw me for off). I would've totally given him a blow j.

Man, for a comedian's site, the commenters really don't have a sense of humor.

J

Next time I see a super celebrity like Craig Ferguson I won't let you guys know.

sheber

"I tell my kids I love them even when I’m giving them a simulated drowning. Why? Because it reinforces the idea that what they’re experiencing is their fault."
Genius writing!

Reen

Oh JJ, now just hold on now little Buckaroo. Hold the phone here now. I can only speak for myself, but I was picking up on a snippity-snappity disapproving feel to your comments. That said, it IS hard to read a "tone" via comments/messages/words on a screen. Unless, of course, one uses those annoying emoticons. :-) <--See? Everyone is happy now. Pretty sure.

Anyway, clearly you are just a fan like the rest of us. Welcome, and my apologies.

(And you best believe I want to hear all about that skanky cad Craig Ferguson! And how! ;-)

R_Bishop

but how does MIB stand up to "torture"? i bet the terrorists take away his bloomingdale's charge card and he'd tell them everything

Reen

And Cam, not that creepy, the shows are in your area, give or take a few hundred hours. No intervention needed UNTIL you start flying to shows, or worse yet, sailing!

some person

I almost drown once while wakeboarding. I assume it is the same thing, except only fun for one of the two participants.

I can't wait to have kids someday when I'm old enough, so I can mold them into perfect beings by means of near death and sexy Czech foreign exchange students. Oh, and love, or at least the verbal reiteration that love is present.

Your genius advice does not fall on deaf ears. Thanks.

Julie

I was thinking waveboarding when you said waterboarding. So I was sitting here wondering, "he takes them out on a boat to punish them? terrifying."

Ryalye

Wakeboarding, waveboarding and waterboarding are 3 different things. Waterboarding will always be my favorite though, because even though it was a punishment, at least it meant mommy was paying attention.

Jaime

Ah, so you are into discipline nouveau. How posh of you with your fancy and creative (and patriotic) penal system. I adhere to a long standing tradition of book balancing and kneeling, and my two year old has the bony knees and osmotic love of literature that rivals no other!

Still, it is old hat.

(Although I do scream "I love you" for the full duration, to of course reinforce the experience and fault as rightly all his. That is quite important, I agree.)

Hands down, you are the most perfect parent, if simply for keeping it interesting. I applaud your innovation sir!

Camille

J-

Actually you did say he was unapproachable on the last blog's comments,but I had no clue that it was a casino and that he was playing poker. Much different atmosphere and mood than if he was signing fan stuff after a show(which is what I thought you were talking about).
Just add an "LOL" and we'll know you're joking.

Z

J, you seem really cool, LOL. I loved your super funny stuff about Showalter gaining weight. You are hilarious, LOL. What else did they do at the poker table? Order drinks? We are all dying to know. Did anyone have to go to the bathroom? Did you get scabies from watching them? LOL!

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