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Back off, Dad: Your five-year-old son doesn't need lady advice Add to ...

The Question

I’m in a bit of a parenting pickle. I am the dad of a five-year-old boy and I need a modern voice like yours to give me advice on educating my son on the finer points of girls. When I grew up in the seventies my dad was awesome. We had loads of father-son time and he was always cool about saying, “Hey, do you think she's cute?” or encouraging me to engage with girls and not be scared. Nothing crass, sexist or over the top, just pointing me in the general direction. I grew up to be a kind, compassionate guy with a healthy attitude about women and sex.

My problem is these days everyone is so concerned about being politically correct. How do I go about doing what my dad did in a way that’s not going to get anyone's nose out of joint? I'm not suggesting my son get himself a girlfriend and they shack up or anything like that. I just want my boy to have half a clue as he gets older.

The Answer

I think you may be overthinking the whole business.

And pardon me, but your POV strikes me as a little “off” here and there.

I mean, a five-year-old “shacking up” with his “girlfriend”? What dusty back room of your cranial cavity does that notion even come from?

What I think you should do about the whole non-issue of schooling your kindergartener on the Tao of chatting up chicks is: nada, zip, goose egg, bupkes.

First, as any sensible parenting expert will tell you: “Children learn with their eyes, not their ears.”

Meaning, it mostly doesn’t matter what kind of instructional quacking emanates from your lecturing lips. (The old Peanuts cartoons captured this best: Every time adults spoke, all the kids heard was, “Wah wah-wah wah wah wah-wah.”) Mostly, the way children decide how to comport themselves is to observe your behaviour and model themselves after it – or not.

So if you are indeed, a “kind, compassionate guy with a healthy attitude toward women and sex,” your son will, let us hope, follow in your sensitive-guy, tiptoe-through-the-tulips-type footsteps.

Then you can maybe follow up with some instructional banter on how to chat up chicks – in about five to seven years. I’m glad you had such an awesome and oh-so-seventies dad, teaching you to how to mack the honeys before you were out of training wheels, but in 2012 that might come off as kind of creepy.

Your son doesn’t need to think of girls as objects of romantic interest at age 5! Right now, if the development of my own three boys is any indication, he regards “women” as playmates who are much like him (except perhaps without the interest in construction machinery), but who don’t always invite him to their birthday parties. (I’ve never understood the sex-segregation of such events at that age, but it appears to be an immutable fact.)

It’s going to be a ways down the road before women (or men, depending on his inclinations) become shy-making objects of desire. Then you can get all birds-and-bees on him.

In the meantime, why create problems where none exist? What is truly “modern” about your question, I think, is it’s textbook overinvolved, overthinking “helicopter parenting,” i.e. hovering over your kids, trying to anticipate their every need.

Let the boy be free to explore and find out things on his own. I was home with my kids when they were little, and I tell people: “My kids were raised in an atmosphere of benign neglect, and I only say ‘benign’ to make it sound good.”

They turned out okay – so far. Soon enough, they’ll be experiencing the agonizing highs and lows of a love life; I’m not going to rush them into it.

In the meantime, although their mother and I sometimes fight (and we’ve had real doozies: she threw me out of the car on the highway once – I had to call a cab to the middle of freakin’ nowhere), they can see that we mostly conduct our relationship in an atmosphere of mutual respect, forbearance and love.

I hope they model themselves on that. Whether they do or not, I figure I’ve done my job.

I don’t need to unload a pant-load of verbiage on them about how to be with women. Unless they a) ask or b) screw up in some fashion. Then I, who am simultaneously a father and an advice columnist, will drop an anvil of advice on their tender coconuts.

Oh, and while I’m on the topic, Happy Belated Valentine’s, everyone.

David Eddie is the author of Damage Control , the book.

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