Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Fathers, stop coddling your kids

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
June 16, 2013 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Give dad a break and take out the trash for him this Father's Day. Give dad a break and take out the trash for him this Father's Day.
HIDE CAPTION
Chore thing: Waste management
Chore thing: Pest control
Chore thing: Drain duty
Chore thing: Lawn care
Chore thing: Auto upkeep
Chore thing: Garage service
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: What we want for Father's Day is an attitude adjustment for our kids
  • Navarrette: Many fathers worry they coddle their kids and produce spoiled brats
  • He says it's our job to instill strong values and teach children how to become good people
  • Navarrette: Fathers shouldn't check out, hang back and let their kids raise themselves

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

(CNN) -- If I may speak for some of the dads who have spoken to me over time, this year, our kids can skip the ties, golf clubs and fishing poles. What many of us really want for Father's Day is an attitude adjustment for our kids.

There's a story that a friend shared a few months ago that really made an impression on me -- as it did a roomful of other middle-aged parents who are struggling with raising their toddlers or teenagers.

One day, my friend said, he walked into his house and casually told his teenage son that he needed some help with some minor chore outside. The son, who had been playing video games, was clearly bothered. Exasperated, he said, "Dad, whenever you ask me to do stuff like this, it's just such an inconvenience."

Showing more restraint than I would have at that moment, my friend calmly apologized to his son for disturbing him. Then he picked up the phone, and fired his landscaper. Next, my friend sat down at the computer and ordered a gift for his son: a brand new lawnmower. This summer, the teenager -- who is now responsible for doing all the yard work at the family home -- is learning the true meaning of the word, "inconvenience."

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

It's a great story. But what I found most interesting was the crowd's reaction. It amounted to thunderous applause. It was as if they were ready to name my friend, "Father of the Year."

There must be a whole segment of Americans who are thirsty for this message. They're worried that in trying not to be too hard on their children, they've gone too far in the other direction and turned too soft. They're concerned that they've been too lenient on their kids, too eager to cater to their whims, too quick to spoil them and too determined to convince them that they're special. This was all done with the best intentions, but it has produced some bad results.

Modern fathers face new expectations

Now, I suspect, a lot of people are experiencing a kind of parents' remorse. Many of us were raised in strict homes full of rules and expectations where mom and dad never tried to be our friends and weren't shy about yanking us back in line. And so, when we became parents, we took a different road.

Most important job: Being a Dad
Kids: What makes my dad great
It's bound to happen somewhere in America on Father's Day: There will be a skinny gift box, and inside there will be a tie. "Is there anything more impersonal than a tie?" asks Cory Byrom, a 35-year-old father of three.
Most of us have been guilty of buying a last-minute gift, but a modern dad wants something that allows him to express his style. To quote Doctor Who, "Bow ties are cool." Still not inspired? Don't worry. We asked dads what kinds of gifts they don't want -- and which ones they do. It's bound to happen somewhere in America on Father's Day: There will be a skinny gift box, and inside there will be a tie. "Is there anything more impersonal than a tie?" asks Cory Byrom, a 35-year-old father of three. Most of us have been guilty of buying a last-minute gift, but a modern dad wants something that allows him to express his style. To quote Doctor Who, "Bow ties are cool." Still not inspired? Don't worry. We asked dads what kinds of gifts they don't want -- and which ones they do.
Father's Day: Do dads want ties?
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
Father\'s Day: Does dad really want that? Father's Day: Does dad really want that?
Dad might not be easy to shop for, but don't even think about getting him another necktie this year. There are lots of gadgets out there that can help make a difference in your father's health and help him get into shape. Dad might not be easy to shop for, but don't even think about getting him another necktie this year. There are lots of gadgets out there that can help make a difference in your father's health and help him get into shape.
Boost dad's health on Father's Day
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Boost dad\'s health on Father\'s Day Boost dad's health on Father's Day
Frank Sinatra and daughter Nancy (with Yul Brynner), 1965. Frank Sinatra and daughter Nancy (with Yul Brynner), 1965.
Famous dads and their daughters
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Famous dads and their daughters Famous dads and their daughters

We bought into the philosophy that children needed unlimited self-esteem, maximum freedom and minimal pressure to succeed in life or contribute to society. We taught our kids to think of themselves as entitled and to see themselves as the center of the universe. Now instead of parents having expectations of their children, children have expectations of how their parents are supposed to behave. We're here to serve them, to make their lives as comfortable and convenient as possible.

One father told me recently that all he wants from his kids is a little gratitude. That's it. He wants them to show even the slightest bit of appreciation for all that their parents are working hard to provide them. Things come too easy to them, he said. Whatever they want, they get. Now they've forgotten even how to say a simple, "thank you."

Another father told me that he wants his teenage kids to toughen up a bit before they leave home in a few years and enter the real world. He would like for them to understand that, if you want something, you can't just demand it. You have to work for it. You have to earn it.

As for me, I'm getting more comfortable with the idea of making demands on my children -- ages 8, 6 and 4.

This Father's Day, and for all the rest to come, here's what they can give me:

I want each of them to stop acting like an only child, and learn to share everything with their siblings, including their parents' time and attention;

I want them to get out of their heads this corrosive idea that the world revolves around them, and all that matters at any given moment of the day is what they want, need or feel; and

I want them to treat people better, starting with their family members, and then moving on to complete strangers, and not look down on anyone -- ever.

Of course, the rub is that this is what parents are for. It's our job to instill these values and teach children how to become good people. It doesn't happen organically. And it won't happen magically. It'll only happen if we set the standards and and lay down the law when they're not met.

And fathers have a special role to play in all of this. It's not easy being a good dad. In fact, it's exhausting. And it can often be frustrating.

In fact, frankly, a lot of fathers decide it is too hard. They give up, check out, hang back and essentially let their kids raise themselves. It's one of the reasons why we got into this mess.

The only way out is for fathers to get back in the game. We have to be present in our children's lives. Forget about being their friends. They have friends. They need fathers.

We have to be in our kids' faces, just like Grandpa and Dad used to be. And for the same reason -- because we care enough not to be anywhere else.

Happy Father's Day.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT