Scott Behson can’t cure the world of all jerks. But he can help his son not become one.
I’m trying hard to be one of the good guys.
I know that the two most important things I’ll ever be are husband and father, so I take great care to, as best I can, align my actions with my priorities. My wife and I try to “walk the walk” in being supportive partners to each other and kick-ass parents to our 8-year old son, Nick. The best way I know to being a good man is trying to be a good father. And most of the men I know are trying hard to be good men and good dads.
So when I see fathers denigrated by the New York Times and Clorox, or see dads’ family contributions minimized by Amazon and Huggies, I tend to get riled up. When I see books like “All Men Are Jerks” and “The End of Men” not only taken seriously but also applauded, I really get pissed off. I find myself wanting to scream, “Men are really trying to be both good caring fathers and still be manly-men providers, and they’re working so much harder at this than prior generations…”
But then seemingly every week, I see something like this – Former football player leaves 3 year old girl alone in a car to go to strip club, or this- Father lets 9-year old daughter drive car (which she slams straight into a tree). SMH.
And then it hits me.
Not all dads are like those I know, working incredibly hard to be good men and better fathers. We see too many men who aren’t good guys – they don’t treat women well, they don’t treat coworkers or employees well, they don’t treat their kids well.
The sad truth is a lot of men are Jerks. Jerk bosses, Jerk boyfriends, Jerk husbands, Jerk fathers, Jerks. And these jerks ruin it for the rest of us.
It is harder to get mad at Huggies when they run ads poking fun at the presumed incompetence and negligence of dads when there actually are guys who refuse to take the 10 minutes required to learn how to change a diaper. It is harder to get mad at “doofus dad” humor that tells boys and girls that they shouldn’t expect much of men when some dads do the incredibly stupid things they do.
I can’t control what other adult men do. But I may be able to improve the situation going forward by being good dad to my son.
Kids are sponges, and they learn far more from what we do than what we say. We have to be super-careful about how we act around them so we are role models as good men, and encourage them to stay on that path.
It seems to me most jerkish male behavior comes from an inability to:
1. control anger
2. admit error
3. relate to women as equals
Here are some things I try to do (I don’t always succeed) in raising my son to not be a jerk. For now, I will focus on the first two because the third deserves a full article unto itself.
1. I am careful about expressing anger in front of my son
We all get angry. When the idiot in the luxury-brand SUV (and it’s always a luxury-brand SUV) cuts me off as if he’s trying to kill me, I want to blow a gasket, yell obscenities, and flip the a-hole off. If my son’s in the car, I don’t. When the little-league umpire who is taking the game too seriously makes a bad call, I want to chirp my disagreement (or worse) – especially when Nick is upset that he’s out because of a bad call. But I don’t. Instead I bite my tongue, pull my boy aside, explain that while I don’t agree with the ump, we have to respect his decision, and hey, life’s not always fair. I can’t always catch myself before getting angry. But I try, and I hope my son sees and learns from my example.
I also try to teach him that it’s ok to feel angry or sad or however he feels. But he can’t act badly to others just because he feels bad. Sure, he can blow of some steam, but he can’t be rude to mom, yell at an ump, or push another kid. He’s more likely to listen to me if I role model keeping my anger under control.
2. I apologize to my son
I’m the authority figure and senior partner in the relationship with my son. But that doesn’t mean I’m never wrong. Sometimes I’m too short with Nick when I’m stressed out. Sometimes I get too focused on writing or work to be present with him. Sometimes, I make a bad decision or fail to see his side of the situation.
But when I catch myself in the wrong, I don’t just brazen my way through or dismiss Nick’s feelings. I get down to his eye level, and I apologize. I explain why I was wrong and why I won’t do it again.
Through my example, I hope that Nick will learn to take responsibility for his mistakes, and to treat people with respect even when he is the one in the position of power.
I’m trying to be a good man. More importantly, I’m trying to raise my son to be a good man. I know a lot of other guys doing the same.
Hopefully, in the next generation, we can cure the world of jerks, one son at a time.
—excerpts of this article originally appeared at Daily Plate of Crazy.
Photo: Tobyotter / flickr