TV Guide calls him one of the top 50 favorite TV dads of all time. For almost a decade, Alan Thicke portrayed loving father and psychiatrist Dr. Jason Seaver on the hit sitcom "Growing Pains." Now Alan, the father of three boys in real life, is sharing all he's learned in his new book titled, "How to Raise Kids Who Won't Hate You." Alan was invited to discuss the book on “Today.” Here’s an excerpt:
“What’s this book about, anyway?” you may well ask, given that you’ve possibly never read me before. By way of explanation, it may be helpful to list the other titles we considered:
- How to Raise a Kid Like You, Only Better
- Scary Things They Don’t Tell You about Children
- Simple Rules for Simple Minds
But we settled on "How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You" because that, after all, is what many of us live for: nurturing decent, healthy, happy children who grow up in our image (sort of), stay out of trouble (mostly), and still love us unconditionally at the end of the day because of our bond and in spite of our annoying qualities.
Thanks for buying this book, but I have to admit, the title is bogus. It’s a lie. A false premise. Can’t happen. Your children will hate you. Maybe not completely, and possibly not for long, but sometime, somehow, and for some reason, you will be the object of their all-consuming enmity and rage. You are the one blocking their path to the cookie jar, no matter what’s in that jar. OK, maybe hate is too strong a word, but it’s a word that appears in many Kanye West songs, and if you don’t know who Kanye is, you’re probably already in trouble with your fifteen-year-old. It’s important that you keep the sizzle and not fizzle with the kizzle when his schnizzle’s in a pizzle. If you understand that, you’ll be all right, give or take a few brain cells. (That was Snoop Dogg. I’m always happy to credit other authors.)
Do you remember the moment you first hated your parents? That instant? That day? That year?
You hated them because they said “no” a lot — or maybe one time in particular — and you vowed that when it was your turn you’d be nicer, because the last thing you would want would be for your kids to loathe you.
We aim to change the things we think were mistakes by the previous generation. This is known as Bush’s Law: George Jr. knew he should go after Saddam because his dad did not. OK, bad example.
An extreme makeover of your parents’ style is rarely necessary—what’s important is to keep their good traits in the gene pool while eliminating the things that bugged you. However, the love we want from our kids is so important that we as moms and dads sometimes make bad judgments to ensure we get that love.
AMA? FDA? MSNBC?
It’s a full-time job keeping up with the experts, since they change their minds about as often as the rest of us change our socks. In the 1890s, Dr. Luther Emmett Holt’s recommendations included that children should dine at an early hour on mashed, strained, or boiled foods—nothing fresh, nothing colorful, nothing flavorful. (Evidently, he knew my mom.)
By the 1920s, John B. Watson dug deeper and advised that (1) you never let children sit on your lap and (2) when you say goodnight, kiss them once on the forehead.
Holt also recommended ignoring the advice of grandmothers, as they are notorious front-runners who invariably side with the kids. You have a better chance of getting an unbiased opinion from Fox News or an under-tipped cabbie.
In the ’50s, Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s first true pop-Freudian guru, urged mothers to loosen up and to get in touch with their feelings as well as those of their children. He said that because kids don’t come with an operator’s manual, parents must learn to trust their instincts.
These days, we are often paralyzed by too much information and cannot consistently make confident decisions without a counselor, teacher, pediatrician, nutritionist, or Mommies Group. Thousands of advisors have been heard from since Dr. Spock and now you have me, and I’m glad to be of service. I’ve rounded up data on your behalf from doctors, psychologists, philosophers, and in some cases simply outspoken, opinionated loudmouths—you know who you are. Everything else will be rumor or hearsay, along with my own smart-ass remarks.
“If you want a helping hand, look at the end of your arm.”—Bernie Mac’s mother
Bernie’s mom never told me that, and I’ve never met her, but she sounds like a great lady in Bernie’s book "Maybe You Never Cry Again" (Harper Collins).
I thought of consulting several celebrities, because the American public never seems to tire of hearing what famous people have to say whether or not they have a clue about the subject. Unfortunately, as soon as we embrace a shining star, he does something stupid or illegal, and suddenly I’m stuck with a book full of parenting tips from felons. Besides, one of the first people I called for family-friendly advice didn’t call me back, and I figured I might spend forever getting nowhere. That was Courtney Love, and you’re welcome to try her yourself at 693-956-8155. I think that’s her cell.
My point of view will be decidedly male because we are commonly assumed to be the gender most in need of enlightenment. I’ll mostly refer to your child as “he” simply because that’s easier for me as the father of three boys.
I may even quote myself inadvertently — or advertently — since my own opinion is often my favorite. My previous book, an insightful effort called “How Men Have Babies: The Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide," is eminently quotable. You’ll find my level of confidence, however tenuously justified, will come in handy in your role as a parent. A sense of authority will be important when trying to convince your kids that you are right, even when you’re just winging it. That will buy you time to look up the right answer.
Let me also boast that my credentials include a Doctorate of Banquetry, having matriculated in boiled chicken on the lecture circuit, where I have spoken at healthcare and parenting fundraisers and risked salmonella to do it. I’m always attentive to other speakers, so every dinner has been a seminar for me as well, and I’ve learned much at these events, including how to be the first to get up and go to my car.
Who Ya Gonna Call, Ghostbusters?
There exists a black hole, a troubling void, in the “preventive maintenance” area of parenting instruction. We have plenty of remedial and rehabilitative options, from guidance counselors to pastors, child services to the prison system, but where do we turn to for advice (reruns of Growing Pains aside) before serious problems arise? You can choke on a chicken bone and have a paramedic at the door in minutes or call a fireman to get a cat out of a tree, but whom do you call when your kid says “no” to everything? I would prefer that you not call me, on the assumption that everything I know came from a T-shirt or a bumper sticker and is covered in these pages. Or, you could try Courtney Love again. But don’t you wish you had an organized, systematic approach for staying ahead of the curve and avoiding trouble?
I’ve always believed there should be courses in high school on marital relations — what to expect and how to make it work — followed by a curriculum on how to be a family. Bravo for English lit and math, but more students will grow up to be parents than to be Stephen Kings or Stephen Hawkings, so let’s spend time preparing our youth for those roles, too.
To quote myself — I just couldn’t wait any longer — if this is the only book you read on child-rearing, I’m flattered and you’re screwed.
Other published works will describe the incomparable joys of parenting, and I concur completely. There are thousands — no, millions — of fabulous things about raising your child that will entertain and amuse you, fill your heart, and move you to thank God for your good fortune in creating this angel.
But my mandate this time around is not to celebrate those self-evident pleasures. I’m here to talk about the dark side.
In warding off the Evil Empire of Influential Forces, I will remind you that The Temptations were more than a Motown group.
That’s why the concept of Defensive Parenting is important. You must recognize that (1) there are outside influences on your child that you’d prefer did not exist and that (2) the best way to handle them is to be a Defensive Parent.
Psychologists tell us we are our child’s primary influence until age five, at which time the peer group gains a toehold. From then on, it’s a splintered universe.
Against the Evil Empire, you need to do four positives: anticipate, educate, infiltrate, and terminate.
You’ll be glad you did.
Excerpted from, "How to Raise Kids Who Won't Hate You." Copyright 2006 by Alan Thicke. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, iUniverse Star.