Dan Higgins column: Father Knows Best ... Mostly

3:38 PM, Jan. 18, 2013  |  Comments
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"My name's Dan and I've been a father for 14 years."

"Hello Dan" comes the obligatory response from the Fathers Anonymous crowd gathered for our monthly meeting.

" My eldest child admitted I was right before I even said hello when I got home from work last night," I say.

A murmur ripples through the crowd. Usually I stand up to confess my sins of cajoling, begging and sometimes outright bribery to get chores done around the house and to eat something other than chicken patties, french fries and pizza.

I'm sure they could recite my well-worn catchphrases:

"If you follow my instructions you'll be done in 15 minutes."

"You spend more time arguing with me than actually cleaning your room."

"Good choices have good consequences, bad choices have bad consequences."

"Because I said so."

"Do it or (insert appropriate punishment here)."

"Just go to your room."

I know what the assembled fathers are wondering now, 'So that works?'

Before they can answer I admit I've gone off the well-worn path: I put my public relations degree to real use for the first time since graduating from college.

That's right, I've begun what amounts to an advertising campaign that sells the benefits Dad's wisdom. My target audience is my kids. (Confession: The fact that I have to advertise the benefits of Dad to my kids is probably the result of using the TV as a babysitter a little too often.)

It started as a once-a-week campaign: a timer to prove that indeed it doesn't take more than 15 minutes to clean one's room when using Dad's method.

With that campaign as an early success I added in some frequency pointing out that if clothes were actually deposited in the laundry basket during the week, one could cut their room cleaning time in half.

Another rather successful effort was the Doing Homework Makes You Feel Better campaign.

The crux was based on drawing attention to the anxiety one feels when there is work to be done and how it all goes away once it is completed. The key is the followup, asking, "Don't you feel better?"

That was maybe my first, albeit begrudgingly, "You were right," moment.

Be warned though, extensive market testing shows a humorous approach is the key.

In practice my most recent campaign went something like this:

"I put just two pieces of pizza* in your lunch and wrapped up the last piece to have as a snack after school," I explained as we got ready for school.

This met with the usual resistance.

"Believe me, you're going to get home after school and thank me that I kept this piece for you to enjoy as a snack.* And you're going to say 'Dad was right, this is so yummy,'" I said in a joking voice with even a little jostling.

And there you have it, a "You were right" admission without asking.

Sure, this example isn't life changing in itself, but every deposit I can make in my kids' 'Dad Knows What He's Talking About' bank, builds my credit. It is credit I'll need in a couple of years when I hand over car keys along with a list of rules and expectations.

* The author fully admits giving kids pizza both for lunch and snack is a violation of every good parenting advice about feeding your kids and suggests you do as he says not as he does in this case.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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