In this edition of Fatherly Advice, Fatherly’s resident parenting expert responds to a dad who is seeking wisdom on how to not raise a pushover, after his kid came home with a counterfeit Pokémon card before helping another dad wrestle with an eternal question: can parents ever poop in peace?
My first grader is totally into Pokémon cards. He mostly likes the cartoon and the pictures and doesn’t know much about the game. But he does know some cards are better than others and so he started getting really excited about trading them.
I got back from work the other day and he wanted to show me a card he traded with another kid on the bus and he was super excited because he said it was a special GX card or something. So he hands it to me and this other kid had taken a pen and written GX on this card and then added zeros to the hit points. So my kid traded a good card for basically a worthless card and I felt so bad for him because I had to tell him.
My son is a sweet kid. But now I worry that he’s a pushover who’s going to get conned by every elementary school kid he meets. I don’t want to raise an easy mark, you know? So how do I make my kid less of a pushover and more streetwise about this stuff?
This story is as old as Jack selling the cow for a fistful of magic beans. Personally, I suspect that the story of Jack and the Beanstalk was created to make a parent feel better about having a gullible kid. After all, it worked out for Jack, he killed the giant and got the goose that lays the golden eggs. That’s not the case for your kid. His shitty fake card will remain just that. But happily, you can fortify your kid for the future by teaching him to think critically about these kinds of decisions.
“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.
I’ll tell you this, though: raising a skeptic is the easiest thing to do with a first grader. He’s still a bit young to figure out that people have what’s known as “persuasive intent”. In other words, he doesn’t get that people are willing to bend the truth or engage in hyperbole in order to sell him stuff. Because of that, you’re not going to get terribly far by just lecturing him. Instead, you’re going to have to live like a skeptic and show him the ropes.
Luckily, we live in a late-capitalist hellscape that offers no end of opportunities to question what we’re being sold. Life is rich with examples of people trying to get the equivalent of a fake GX card into your hands. Your job, then, is to recognize these teachable moments and start being vocal about your skeptical interrogations in front of your kids.
One of the best places to get this done is in front of the television. Kids love commercials. You’ve probably noticed that when you’ve watched TV or YouTube with your son. You can use that interest to your advantage. If your kid is enthusiastic about a toy or a product, help him ask questions to cut through the layer of bullshit. One of the easiest ways to do that is to simply Google reviews for the product or toy. Read them aloud and share them with your kid. This will help him understand that the reality of a product sometimes doesn’t track with what’s being presented on screen.
You can also be very vocal about the decisions you’re making in your own life. If you’re mulling over a major purchase, make it part of the conversation over dinner. Talk about how you’re considering the pros and cons. Offer information from your research and talk about what you’ve learned. Kids pick this stuff up. They are fantastic mimics because that is how they learn. Offer your kid examples of how to be skeptical and they will eventually internalize the habit themselves.
Of course, the purpose here is to not turn your kid into a dark-hearted cynic. So while you’re teaching them to question the world, you’ll also want to teach them to question themselves, particularly when it come to negative views of the world. For instance, if your kid claims he never gets anything, or never gets to have fun, or any similar phrase common to the parlance of children, simply ask him if that true. Ask how he came to that conclusion and what makes him feel that way. Really try to get to the root of the feeling and help him see that the truth is not as ugly and dire as it might seem in the moment.
All of this might sound incredibly intensive, but trust me, it’s not so bad. It just requires talking more about stuff you already do. In no time, your kid will be trading more cautiously and probably more effectively. You’re on your way to raising a kid who sees the whole picture — and, maybe, the best Pokémon trainer on the block.
I have two young kids and I’m often home with them because I’m here when they get off the bus. The problem is that my schedule is that I shit in the afternoons. It’s just the way my body works. And it never fails that while I’m in the bathroom a kid comes charging in or needs something. I haven’t taken a poop by myself in weeks. And I try and lock the door but then they just bang on it and cry and whine which is almost worse than them coming in and staring at me while I’m trying to do my business. Is there any way I can get my kids to not bother me while I’m taking a dump? I just want to poop in peace.
St. Louis, Missouri
Oh man, we’ve all been there. I totally get it. There’s nothing more debasing than having a bowel movement while your kid stares you down. It’s awkward and creepy and just no fun. Plus, if you’re a toilet reader, it’s distracting.
Look, hitting the throne is prime Dad time. Always has been. But it will take your kids a little while to figure that out. Right now you’re in the bad place, but trust me when I tell you that they will, eventually, learn to respect your privacy.
In my house, my six-year-old is just getting there. He’s in Kindergarten now and school has taught him a lot about needing a private place to poop. Part of that is because privacy is enforced in school thanks to bathroom stalls. He’s starting to understand that defecation is not a time for socializing.
He’s also becoming averse to the smell of the bathroom when I’m on the toilet. Instead of barging in, holding his nose, and laughing, he’s asking me his urgent questions from the other side of the door. We’re very nearly in the good place.
But something I want you to think about: I’m not sure how young your kids are, but if they are anywhere near potty training age, having them barging in might actually be a good thing. The fact is that kids are super curious about pooping in a toilet. It’s not natural to them, particularly because they’ve spent most of their life pooping in a diaper. Many kids have the thought that poop is a part of them that is being flushed away and that’s a deeply frightening thought. So seeing you do your business in a calm and relaxed way might just be what they need to have some confidence to do it themselves.
In the meantime, I’m afraid that this is just one of those things you’ll have to live with until your kids understand the concept of embarrassment or can’t stand the smell. Until then, maybe try to poop at work before you come home. Do it on the company’s dime and enjoy some “you” time.