Given the fact that we’ve perpetuated the human race for centuries, parenting must be at least a little instinctual. And yet — despite every advancement we’ve made since the earliest of men became fathers — none of it comes easy. Especially, the basic stuff. Things like: What should you do if your kid is on the husky side of the size spectrum? Or: How much should you tell them about yourself? Similarly: How do you tell them about that family member you don’t get along with? Speaking of extended family, how do you stop your in-laws or own parents from parenting your children in ways that piss you off?
Then there’s all the stuff about being a kid today — the height of the internet age. Such as: When should you get your child a smartphone? Can you Facetune them in family photos you post online? And most uncomfortable of all: When should you have the talk… about sexting?
Listen, we get it. That’s why every two weeks, we publish Basic Dad, an advice column for dads who feel stupid about asking for basic advice. And because today is Father’s Day, we thought there was no better time to collect all of Basic Dad’s best tips in one place. Consider it our gift to you, Dads of the World. May it make your next parental quandary a breeze.
When your teen is still wetting the bed, and you’re worried this might mean they’re a serial killer
They might actually just be constipated. “See, holding their poop causes a stretching of the colon that can cause residual backup, which can cause bladder overactivity,” says Steve Hodges, pediatric urologist and co-author of It’s No Accident. “The reason why this happens is because the nerves that go from the brain to the bladder come out of the bottom of the spinal cord. They go around the end of the colon and are very sensitive to stretching, and this stretching gives the bladder the sensation that they have to pee.
“Now, that doesn’t mean that you can just give your kid a laxative and they’ll get better. When a kid is so backed up that they’re wetting the bed, this isn’t sufficient. You need to diagnose it, and aggressively treat it until their rectum is back to normal size.
“Some doctors think if you poop every day, you can’t be constipated, but the only way to know for sure is with an X-ray. What we do is, when we have teenagers who come in who wet the bed, we give them an X-ray, and if the X-ray reveals that they’re backed up, we clean them out and they do a lot better.” READ MORE
When you’re unsure when you should start giving your kids an allowance, or if giving them money to do chores is sending the wrong message in the first place
“I believe kids should get an allowance, and I think they should start as early as age 5,” says Jacqueline Whitehead, a financial adviser and mother of one. “This is usually when they begin to understand the concept of money — they’re paying more attention to their parents as they’re spending.
“As far as the amount, I believe they should get a dollar for each year, so a 5-year-old gets $5 a week, a 15-year-old should get $15 a week and so on. I believe this can continue until they go off to college. This way, they see that there’s value to money and that you need money to live. Secondly, this is the way for them to see that money is important in life, and that they need to know how to handle money.
“I also believe that this should be given automatically, not for doing chores around the house. Maybe if they do an extra chore they can get extra money, but regular household chores should just be a responsibility. Further, I believe in the concept of 80/10/10, where you live off 80 percent of your money, you save 10 percent and give the final 10 percent to charity. Financial literacy isn’t taught in schools, so it’s up to the parents.
“Another thing I’d like to point out is that parents should make sure that they make a few cash purchases with their children present each week. When my daughter was growing up, I used my debit card all of the time, which meant she didn’t understand that I was using actual dollars to buy things.” READ MORE
When another kid is acting like a little shit and you’re not sure if you can step in and tell them that they’re being a little shit
“It’s completely appropriate to discipline other people’s children when they’re in your care,” says Veronica Acevedo, a clinical social worker. “If a parent has entrusted you, it’s okay to discipline them appropriately. Also, if you know the child, then you likely know the parent and you can mimic their disciplinary style, or say something like, ‘Would your mommy or daddy want you to be doing this?’ Remind them of the expectations set by their own parents and that those expectations still apply, despite being in someone else’s home.
“For a child not put in your care, like one on the playground, if they’re being disrespectful and it’s your own child who’s on the receiving end of that, I’d try to find the parent and let them know. If they can’t be found, or you aren’t sure who they are, it’s okay to let the child know that, as an adult, you’re not going to allow a child to hurt another child. So it’s okay to say something like, ‘Don’t push,’ or to ask them to apologize.
“A lot of times, children are just reacting to their impulses, and if you bring attention to that, they’ll likely stop. But if they talk back or become oppositional, it’s wise not to engage in the power struggle — that’s the time you have to try to find that kid’s parent.” READ MORE
When you’re still walking around the house naked, but your kids are starting to grow out of the toddler phase and noticing that you’re naked
You might want to throw a towel on or start to lock the doors when you’re in the shower or getting dressed. “When they’re very young, like 2 years old, it’s not considered to be an issue,” says Matt Brescia, a father of three (two boys and a girl). “I think once they start getting to 3, they might become more aware of the fact that daddy is naked, but it doesn’t really bother them. Probably about 7 is when you want to stop entirely. They’re in school, they’re on the bus making dick jokes, it’s part of their vernacular at that point. And that’s the age when they become more articulate and express their opinions. They’re like little adults at that point, so you want to put up your decency walls.
“I’ll be more conscious of it around my daughter; she’s still just 2, whereas my boys are 6 and 10. I’ll probably stop with her at a younger age. There’s definitely a double standard. Also, for a daughter, once you stop appearing nude in front of them, there’s never a point again where you can start it back up again. Like with a boy, if they’re older, you may not do anything on purpose, but if you’re at a gym or something, it may not be a big deal to change in front of your son. But with a daughter, once it goes away it’s gone. That’s your final penis swan song.” READ MORE
When your kid likes ‘The Cosby Show’ and it turns out that the show’s namesake is a serial rapist
“When something like a sexual harassment case occurs in the workplace, it becomes a learning issue for everyone in the company,” says Vanessa Fils-Aimé, an HR specialist. “So, if you’re not already training on sexual harassment and training on what it looks like, you create awareness and educate.
“It’s the same thing at home: You gradually increase a child’s awareness. My son is only 4, and we’re already teaching him about body awareness and boundaries. As they get older, you can evolve that conversation to tackle what they see on the news and what sexual harassment is and what forms it takes and why it’s not okay, so that they know how to navigate through the world themselves.
“It’s complicated because America is just now dealing with this issue, trying to separate art from the person and trying to appreciate what someone has done for the culture. But it can be hard to separate those two things, and many people want to separate them because they want to appreciate it and not feel bad.
“The best thing we can do is be honest with our kids that we don’t have all the answers. All you can do is have an open, but still age-appropriate discussion and explain that we’re all trying to navigate through this world right now — just do what you can to create a trusting dialogue between you and your child. As parents, no, we don’t have all the answers, but I believe our role in this is to create human beings who know how to behave properly and be respectful.” READ MORE
When your daughter gets her first period and you have no fucking clue what to say
“Too much of our discussion about puberty with kids is centered around the changes they experience as strange, upsetting or uncomfortable,” says Al Vernacchio, sexuality educator. “That’s a lousy frame to use: When I talk to young people about puberty changes, I tell them puberty is the time in life when they develop their adult superpowers. So, getting a period is the start of a girl’s reproduction superpower. It’s her body turning on the mechanism that will allow her to get pregnant if and when she’s ready to do so. It doesn’t mean she has to get pregnant, just that she can.
“Another lesson all superheroes must learn is that, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ Thus, this is a time to talk to a young woman about learning more about her body, how to take care of it and keep it healthy.
“Don’t talk about a period in negative terms: Don’t call it a curse; don’t call it a problem; don’t call it messy. Don’t make them scared of a natural body process, and don’t show that you’re scared of it. Normalize the experience — make her feel proud of her body and its abilities. Make her feel powerful, rather than powerless.” READ MORE
When your child has the competitive drive of John McEnroe — and the same propensity to be an asshole on the field and sore loser off of it
Make sure they’re failing enough. “I wanted my kids to learn at a very early age was that they wouldn’t get a hit every time or win every game,” says Rick Greene, father and former Major League pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds. “Parents these days, in my opinion, don’t let their kids fail, and in the end, this will hurt them more than they can imagine. Baseball, especially, is built on failure — three hits out of ten at bats means that you’re successful. That means that they fail seven times! Baseball, like life, will have many failures. It’s the strongest and most successful who learn to handle adversity and learn from that.” READ MORE
When your toddler is throwing a shit fit in public
Preemptive measures are crucial. “[When it comes to flying with your kids], parents who ensure that they’re equipped with the proper entertainment and necessities (like snacks and drinks) have the most successful flights,” says Beth Blair, a flight attendant manager. “Screaming and yelling is the most ineffective way to deal with upset children on an airplane — usually it only increases the child’s negative reaction and triggers other children to cry. Parents who expect the plane itself to be the entertainment are asking for trouble: Children allowed to kick seat backs, ding the flight attendant call button, run the aisles or jump on the seats may find themselves in conflict with the cabin crew and other passengers. The most important thing is for parents to know their children and what type of attention span they have, and to ensure they’re equipped to handle the flight, plus any unexpected delays.” READ MORE
When you’re terrified that they might turn out to be like you — or worse yet, that they might find out that you’re not as perfect as they think you are
“It depends upon the situation of the parent,” says Joan, 87, a mother of two. “When my husband took off, he took all of our money, and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I was 46 years old and had never worked; my son was away at college, and my daughter was just 11. So for Cindy and I, it was complete honesty from that point forward. I was honest with her about how I was feeling, but I didn’t want her to be afraid. So I told her that I’d take care of it.
“The way I was raised, I was very naïve: My parents, pardon my French, wouldn’t have said shit if they had a mouthful. I think that’s totally unfair to a child — to leave them that naive. As soon as they’re open to understanding, you can share things with your child that happened in your life, things you were disappointed in or things that you expected that didn’t happen, things that hurt as well as things that were good. You don’t have to give them the whole ball of wax or anything, but I think you can start sharing that stuff at 10 or 12, but start softly. Don’t lie to them, but don’t make it a Dracula movie where everything is horrible either.
“I think the child should know right from the start that a parent isn’t perfect. I always say this, and it’s something I live by: ‘I never profess sanity or perfection, because I can’t live up to either one.’” READ MORE