Kids Are Great Bullshit Detectors

The first thing I had to be honest about with my kids – was me. When Lisa and I began to do the work of raising our family… I wasn’t very honest. I mean, I wasn’t a pathological liar, but the truth was I went to work and called myself a leader. I even went so far as to join an organization, EO, whose tagline is, “Engaging the World’s Most Influential Leaders.”

And to be honest – I wasn’t leading anyone. Not at work. And especially not at home. Because I was afraid. I was afraid I didn’t know how to do it. I was afraid that others would let me down if they didn’t do it my way.

So I ran. And hid. And avoided all of the tough conversations. I liked to live a social media life. Just the good stuff. And don’t look behind these covers… because there is nothing to see here.

That was in 2005. It started to turn around then. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was exhaustion, maybe it was a burning desire for authenticity. I don’t know. All I know is that I started doing the work. And the honest part is, I was still scared. Scared I didn’t know how. Scared I wouldn’t be great. Scared to be seen. But I kept doing the work. And that is the honest part of doing Dare to Dad. It is hard. It is messy. It is real. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great places to highlight and share fun things – but my life is messy at times. I don’t need to floodlight any followers with every single detail but we do experience all of the emotions in our family: FEAR, LOVE, ANGER, SADNESS, SHAME, HAPPINESS. All of them. Sometimes in the same dinner.

I’ve said it here before: kids will follow what they see. Being honest about feeling my feelings is the greatest work of leadership I’ve done in my family. That is the messiness. Back in 2005, I knew how to show two emotions and was comfortable with only those two: anger and joy. Boy what a roller coaster ride Lisa was on—huh? Either pissed and mad or fun and happy. Flip a coin. I am sorry for that. I am ashamed of that behavior. And I made amends. I am still doing the work.

Honesty in families is an interesting thing. Fast forward to today. I have a 15,15, 13,13, and 5 year old. And they can all “feel” what is true even if I try and wear my mask and hide it from them. Kids are great bullshit detectors. And it is in this vain that I have to do my work. I have to show up and been seen with them. I have to feel my feelings, be honest and do the work. Three simple things and yet so very hard to do all the time.

When we launched Dare to Dad I had adolescent children. People would listen to me speak and I could hear the whispers… “Yeah, well wait until he has teenagers… this stuff won’t work.”

At first I wanted to deflect. But things changed for me when I said, “Yes, you are correct. I don’t have teenagers yet. So I honestly don’t know if this stuff works or not.” That was me doing my work. I could be honest about it. And I could engage. Get intentional. Talk with my teenagers about THAT very thing. Do you believe in our Mission? Vision? Values? And what happens to our behavior if we do? And do we have to be perfect? But rather aware and intentional about it?

I started talking to Dominic and Carly about alcohol, marijuana, smoking and sex when they were about 8. It was age appropriate information. Each passing year, we have upped our intention in these conversations by sharing honestly.

It scares the shit out of me to tell my 15 year olds that Coors Light, Titos and cranberry are REALLY FUN sometimes. But here is why we talk about that. They see it. They see us entertain at our home. They see us go out to parties and/or tailgates. They know that alcohol is and has been a part of our life. Kids will follow what they see. So the leadership part in me said, yes, let’s be honest. And the conversation is 2 degrees off from alcohol is a blast and smoking pot is fun. We honestly talk about why people engage in it. And why/how/if they are emotionally mature enough to engage in it. Or physically mature enough. Because to me that is my honest answer. If you are smoking pot to “not feel because you are angry that your parents make you do chores” then that is not being emotionally mature. We NEED to talk about that.

We need to be more honest about our own feelings in order to help guide our kids to learn about their own feelings. Otherwise the masks get put on, the comfort level of wearing those masks gets better and before we know it… we can’t tell the difference from our mask and our face. I know. It’s been hard for me to do that work. I am still working on it. Every day.

There is also an alignment to being honest with our feelings in our bodies. I think we spin out of control when our bodies feel one thing and we try to present another… it is like the Universe calling our BS. I KNOW I’ve done this… and still do at times.

It’s hard. It’s real. It’s worth it.

I have to honestly give up the seduction of my Social Media Family Image. And get in the messiness of leadership, of family, of feelings.

Honestly, it’s been the hardest and most worthwhile work I’ve engaged in. And does it work with teenagers? Honestly? Sometimes.

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