Nothing But Punts In This Parental Playbook

Most airline magazine articles are just so much brain-candy, designed to pass the time onboard reading about celebrities, clothes, and travel destinations. If you haven’t packed a Kindle, iPad or Android device, your only real option ends up being read the airline magazine, browse the SkyMall catalog, repeat the dosage until landing or at least until sleep ensues. But on my flight out from San Jose to Vegas this past Friday, I was pretty astounded by the parental advice being proffered in Southwest’s onboard magazine by the son of Hollywood legend Preston Sturges.


In the 1950s and ’60s, the generation of parents who survived the Depression and WWII wanted to make growing up an easier, safer experience for their kids. They ended being astounded that the subsequent Boomer generation responded by collectively flipping the bird and shouting “don’t trust anyone over 30,” prior to their head-first plunge into the narcissism of the Me Generation. But those Happy Days/Dick Van Dyke Show-era parents hadn’t seen anything yet:

Universal Music Group VP and father of three Tom Sturges, who recently penned the book Grow the Tree You Got & 99 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Adolescents and Teenagers, shares a few of his golden rules for staying close to your kids.

Embrace Kindness

“Be nice every chance you get,” says Sturges, whose own father, the legendary film director Preston Sturges, died when Tom was just a boy. “Even if your child did something that disappointed you, or he’s in the middle of studying, walk in and give him a hug.”

Keep It Down

“You’re going to get upset with your children. But when you do, whisper rather than yell. I always try to show the greatest respect in everything I do, and by whispering when I’m upset, I believe I under-score how much I do, in fact, respect my child.”

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Let Them Be Beautiful

“However your children feel beautiful, let them be. If your son wants to grow his hair past his collar, say, ‘OK.’ If your daughter wants to wear camo, let her choose her beauty. It’s the parents’ job to help their child figure out the person she’s meant to be, and then help her become that person.”


That last item essentially turns parenting into a laid back, laissez-faire profession, rather than actively preparing a young person for the future. (And would likely cause old school-style parents such as Bill Cosby’s fictional Heathcliffe Huxtable and the real-life Amy Chua to weep.) I can’t help but think it provides the answers to the questions posed by a article we linked to here last month. Yahoo noted that “the public isn’t as child-friendly as it used to be.” One reason for that backlash is that parents became far too child-friendly over the decades based on advice from experts such as the above.

Somewhere between Lee Ermey and Leo Buscaglia would seem to happy medium. What say you, parents?


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