Jon Vaughn teaches his kids important lessons about responsibility, integrity, and a positive attitude using one simple word: No.
I’m a dad. I’m a male. My inability to create lists, especially shopping ones, is the main cause in my frequency at Target. The item in question, the purpose of my visit, never makes it to my cart, subsequently never making it into my home, therefore causing the dreadful and unnecessary revisit. Sure, I end up with a cart full of things I didn’t want but when I reach my house, especially when the item was toilet paper, that’s when I realize it.
It may not be 100% my fault. I’m not naive to the fact that I’m walking into a store built by marketing geniuses, stealing my attention with ever-changing sales and simultaneously convincing me that I’m in dire need of a particular item because it has a clearance sticker on top of another clearance sticker, confirming my need for said item. I’m more excited that I got 75% off, and 0% of what I went there for. They get me every time; bastards.
Having Olive in tow during a shopping adventure is one of my favorite things. It’s common for us to visit the greeting card section, breeze past the toys and then find ourselves in the shoe department. She loves shoes, especially ones with sparkles and lights; twinkle toes, as she likes to call them. I see her little mind start brewing, preparing to ask a question full of sugar and spice. The inevitable question, Can I get these shoes?, falling out of her mouth with those puppy dog eyes. It’s like she’s been deprived her whole life, and in Daddy Warbucks fashion, I concretely say No.
Back up 15 years to my first real job. I was hired by one of those family fun centers; one with race cars, bumper boats, batting cages, miniature golf, and yes, unfortunately, crawl tubes with a ball pit. Like all entry-level employees, my responsibilities were everything that no one else wanted to do. The worst part of this job was cleaning the aftermath of a child’s fecal frenzy inside the tubes. Most of these kids were of diaper age, and in my experience, disposable diapers are a godsend when used correctly. I’m convinced that some parents believe that the “22-37 lbs,” boldly printed on the side of the box, is an indication of how much dung one diaper can hold.
Eventually I’d be promoted to Game Tech, the guy with dozens of keys that’ll fix your video game woes. I caught on pretty quick, learning how to use an ohmmeter and solder replacement parts on motherboards. Fixing a ticket jam or an inconsistent coin-op was like asking Bob Ross to paint a tree. The experience built my courage to apply within a new company, John’s Incredible Pizza, that hadn’t opened yet, but was in need of a Game Tech. I got the job, and a few months after we were opened, I was promoted to Arcade Manager. Seventeen years old, still earning my high school diploma, and averaging 35 employees to manage any given day; that was me, managing a place without crawl tubes.
While I’m sitting in my office one day, preparing the day shift deposit, a night shift employee walks in and asks if she could talk with me for a minute. It was one of two things: She is quitting or she wants a raise. In her case, it was a raise, requesting a whopping 25 cents more per hour. This was the type of employee a manager dreams about. On time, consistent and understood there was never “nothing to do.” Her interactions with children and grumpy parents were parallel with what this pizza place was trying to accomplish. She was the most deserving of the raise.
After hearing her spiel, I told her that I’m not able to give her a raise and used the “higher authority” card, a ploy used by decision makers to delay an agreement. The reason wasn’t to review her performance but rather her attitude when she didn’t get what she wanted. What I found was rather surprising, teaching me unforgettable things about integrity and attitude and it happened to come from a teenage girl my same age. Not once did I see a change in her work ethic, and throughout that week of observation, she never once showed a sign of disappointment, especially in me, which was almost a guarantee. I was being an asshole manager. When it came time to approve the time cards I gave her twice the amount of her request, retroactive to the day she asked for it. Future raise requests were handled in the same manner, but not with the same results. This is an easy way to expose the quit in someone.
Somehow this tactic embeds into the father in me. Saying no to my daughters is a good thing. It has given them opportunities to control their own attitudes during unfavorable times and an understanding that whining and complaining is not the key to success. I don’t cave, and I don’t need to negotiate with my daughters by means of chores or good grades. What I need are children that understand the value of a positive attitude because with that, they’ll be able to get whatever the hell they want, and those are the types of shoes that’ll last them a lifetime.
This post originally appeared at FullTimeDaddy.com.
Photo: Roberto Verzo/flickr