One Dad’s Take on Raising Young Boys vs Girls

This is part two of a two part series on a united front to parenting.  In this episode my husband Bret joins me!

Hey, there. Thanks so much for joining me on this edition of the Chalene Show. As promised, I have here with me, my very special guest, Bret Johnson, who also happens to be my partner in business, my partner in life, and my partner in parenting. Of course, we have different perspectives on parenting. We’re on the same team. We believe in the same things when it comes to our children, meaning, we want the best for them, but we are a team.

And even though Bret was raised by different parents and he had different experiences, as have I, we both agree that what we want for our kids is for them to be happy, self-sufficient, confident. We want them to be kind, we we want them to feel as though they are loved because they are uniquely themselves. We don’t want them to be little mini versions of ourselves. We want them to be happy, and we want them to make other people happy, but not at the cost of sacrificing who they are and what they believe in.

Bret and I have spent a lot of time reading parenting books, talking about parenting, talking about our own experiences. And one thing I want to say before I turn it over to him is that it’s really important, especially, ladies, I have to tell you that your husband is going to do things differently than you. And that has great value. And when you nitpick, and when you tell your spouse or try to fix things that your spouse has done, or correct them in front of your children, you really diminish their power, their authority and their interest in wanting to contribute and be an equal partner in parenting.

All right, that was my two cents. Without further ado, Bret Johnson.

Bret Johnson: Hi, I’m Bret Johnson. Thank you so much, Chalene. So today, we are going to talk about how to talk to your son or your daughter. We have one of each. And so the first thing that I want to talk to you about is that it’s so important for you as parents and to co-parent, is that you really need to communicate and you really need to consult with your spouse before talking to your child about anything major. Chalene and I do this all the time. We talk about who would be the best person to talk to the child, you know, about a certain situation.

A lot of times, if one of us had something that happened to us in the past or something that happened to us as a child that we can draw on our experiences, then that parent usually takes the reins there and says, “You know what? I’m going to go talk to son, or I’m going to go talk to daughter.” And we don’t script it, but we go over like the key points that we want to get in, that we want to touch upon, and really kind of go over all the pros and cons that we’re going to talk about with our child before we do so.

And I think that’s really important, because now you’re on the same page so that there’s going to be no confusion. There’s absolutely zero confusion when you have some communication or you consult with your spouse before you go ahead and talk to your son or your daughter. That’s rule number one.

My first tip for raising your son, especially as a father, is that I think that it’s very important that you teach boys that it’s okay to express your emotions. That, actually, by expressing emotions, sometimes you can show even more strength than not. And I want to give you an example of this.

Recently, our son has gone off to college and he’s gone quite far away. He’s on the other side of the coast. He’s on the East Coast now and we live here in Southern California. Now, he’s in Washington, D.C. and attends Georgetown University. So the final night before we headed back to Southern California, after dropping off our son to Georgetown, we went out to dinner. And right before we got the check, I didn’t know I was going to this, but I felt very overwhelmed by just the fact that, you know, in 24 hours, three of us were going to be leaving the East Coast and heading back home and leaving our son there to attend his first year at school.

And it wasn’t a sobbing, crying speech. It’s just I wanted to tell him, and I also told Sierra, our daughter, how proud I am of both of them, of how they have listened to us, and they do the right thing, and they’re mature, and they can make good decisions, and their mother and I trust them very much. And that we feel like we’ve raised them well, and I was prideful that they had taken our parenting and developed like this sense of confidence that I was so secure leaving him there, that it was just like, I was joyful. I was so joyful that he was going to be able to experience college and I know I didn’t have things to worry about because of the person that he had become.

It was more of a, “Congratulations, Brock, I’m proud of you. And this is why I’m proud of you, because you’ve learned how to do the right things. You have great integrity, you’re very faithful, you’re a kind person, you make good decisions, your judgment is going to be spot on.” But it choked me up a little bit. And I think that’s important for you to show your kids and especially your son, as a father, that, you know, it’s okay to get emotional and it shows strength. And I felt really good after telling him that. And I think it was well received. I don’t think I’ve done that probably enough in my life, but I’m here to tell you that if you feel those emotions, don’t like hold back, like express them because it’s going to do great things for your son.

I think sometimes society can mistake, sometimes, tears for like sadness or something. And I think more times than not, and in this case for sure, it was just a sign of intense feelings, that, you know, how proud I was of both my son and my daughter for continually making smart decisions. And just feeling like, you know, we’ve raised them well and we’re confident that, you know, they’re going to be able to survive. I mean, that’s the ultimate thing for a parent is that you feel confident that you’ve given your son and you daughter the tools and the confidence to succeed once, you know, they’re out on their own. I mean, that’s the ultimate goal.

When you have that feeling, you can lie down at night and your son and your daughter aren’t under your roof, and you feel like they’re going to make the right decisions, their judgments are going to be good, they’re responsible, they’re kind, you know, all those things. And when you see examples of your son and your daughter doing that, it just reiterates to yourself, like, I’m on the right track, they’re on the right track, keep doing what you’re doing.

Now, I want to give you a tip for all those fathers out there that have daughters. And this is probably one of the most important things that I’ve learned over the years through reading books and just, you know, actually doing therapy myself and being really aware of listening to other women talk about, like, what happened to them as kids, and just hearing stories and watching television. And just like really trying to educate myself, like, what are some key factors on raising a really strong daughter. And I think, probably one of the most important things that you can do, as a father, is give your daughter physical affection and communication.

What I mean by that is, I don’t think the dad that just hugs his daughter in the morning and says, “Good morning,” that’s good enough. I think it’s great. I think physical affection is more when you know they need a hug, or you know they had a bad day and you need to go and like talk to them, and figure out like what’s bothering them, and try to help them through that process. I think when your daughter is having one of those days, or needs that physical affection, or needs to communicate, I think it’s really important that the dad goes just as much as the mom, you know, to talk.

I think that the daughter is looking for that, you know, male companionship and the male compassion. And I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than your daughter having a bad day and you going to work it out with her, and figure out like what the solution is going to be. You know, you just have to listen. Because if you just listen to them ramble on about like what happened at school, or what happened at work, or what happened at their sporting game or their practice or whatever, and you just listen to them talk, more times than not, after about 15 minutes of them talking, just let them talk, they’re going to work it out themselves just by talking to you and just you listening.

And I’ve never not had this happen, where I’ve had my daughter talk to me for 10 or 15 minutes and both of us haven’t come to the same conclusion, or I haven’t been able to help her, or see the problem, or give her some kind of solution. And let me tell you, there is nothing better as a dad than coming up with a solution or working something out that’s bothering your daughter. I mean, that’s huge because in life, she’s going to go look for that. I mean, that’s what she’s going to look for in a boyfriend, in a husband. And if you can provide at an early age what that role model looks like, what that modeling looks like in terms of a man like communicating, and listening to her, and accepting her feelings, and acknowledging her feelings, it’s huge. It’s everything. And I’ve read enough books that, you know, physical affection is good, giving them a hug. But, you know, listening to them, communicate and talking to them is even more powerful than that.

Along the lines with that, that the dad has a totally different vantage point, too. He’s looking at her as, you know, obviously as a male, and probably, the things that she’s going to be talking about, he probably didn’t have those experiences as a kid. So you’re coming into the situation in a totally foreign – it’s almost like a foreign language. But if you just let them talk it through, most of the time, it just comes down to like a common sense issue. So don’t be freaked out about like they’re going to drop some bomb on you, that you have no clue what they’re talking about, because that’s not what’s going to happen.

They are going to talk to you about their feelings, and by expressing themselves, you’re going to be able to come up with good realistic, you know, expectations of what she could do, or an alternative, or a solution. I mean, you’re a smart guy, so just let it go, and go in that room or sit down with your daughter and just let her talk. And let her get it off her chest and don’t interrupt. Listen to what – everything that they have to say. And then come up with some kind of, you know, for us guys, come up with a game plan or come up with some kind of strategy to help her out.

And I guarantee you, if you execute this once a month, I mean, just think about that, if you did it once a month, if you just sat down and talked to your daughter when you know she’s having a bad day, trust me, if you have a teenage daughter, she’s having at least one or two bad days a month, for sure. And with everything that’s going on in social media, and her friends, and sports, and school, and jobs, and every boys, and everything that’s going on. So, I mean, just think about that, you know, to have, over a course of a year, you know, an opportunity to talk to your daughter 12 or 15 times and help them through their problems. I mean, you are creating a one strong, confident young lady by doing that. I promise you.

Okay, I’ve given you one tip for boys; I’ve given you one tip for girls. Now I’m going to give you a couple of tips that doesn’t matter if you have a son or a daughter. And it’s something that adults don’t do often. They don’t do it to one another, so I know they’re not doing it to their child. So if you have a spouse, or you have a friend or something like that, I know apologizing isn’t a big thing for people. It’s hard for people to apologize, and it’s even harder to apologize to your son or daughter. But let me tell you something. There’s nothing more powerful than when an adult, especially when a parent goes up to their son or their daughter and apologizes because they made a mistake, they misinterpreted something, they’re wrong, right?

There is no chance that you are always in the right when you are talking to your son or your daughter, or maybe you assumed something, or they didn’t get a good grade on their test, or they went out when they weren’t supposed to. I don’t know what it is, because I have it happen to me all the time. So I know it’s happening to you, so don’t say, “Well, I never make a mistake with my son or daughter, so I don’t need to apologize.” There’s no chance that that’s happened. You’re human, so you’re making mistakes and you’ve said something to your son or your daughter that you regret, and as soon as you feel that in your gut, don’t wait one more second. I’m telling you. You feel it in your gut that you should be going downstairs or up into their room, or if you’re not with them right now, text them immediately. In your gut, you are wrong, you need to tell them that.

And boy, let me tell you, the soonest you feel it in your gut, don’t wait until the next day or anything like that because they’re feeling it right now. They’re feeling like, “Why is mom and dad on me so much when I didn’t do anything? And they just got all over me and it wasn’t my fault,” right? They’re saying all those things over and over in their head, and meanwhile, in your gut, you’re saying, “I should really say I’m sorry,” but you wait and you’re missing that opportunity to save the day.

I’ve done things that are bad. Like when I coached Brock – when I would coach Brock in football, there would be days and times when I was really tough on him and I would coach him extra hard, and it wasn’t needed and it was my fault that I coached him hard. It was me having a bad day or it was – I brought something from work to practice, and I would coach him extra hard. And I’d feel that in my gut on the way home. And the first thing I do is I’d walk in the door, before I ate, before I give Chalene a hug, and I’d walk up to him and I’d say, “Brock, I’m really sorry. I was having a bad day. I did not mean to take that out on you. It wasn’t your fault and I’m really sorry that I did that and it’s not going to happen again.” And I’m done with it.

So now, I’ve defused the whole situation. I’ve apologized. Now, Brock’s looking at me like, “He’s my dad and he’s saying sorry.” I mean, that’s pretty big. So you’re teaching your kid that it’s okay, when you feel in your gut, that you made a mistake. You say – you apologize. Be the bigger person and say, “I’m sorry I messed up.” It’s huge. It will create good, young, strong kids that will carry that on into their relationships in the future, whether it’s business, or relationships, or anything. It’s the right thing to do. You do something wrong, you make a mistake, you feel it in your gut, say you’re sorry immediately. End of story.

Okay, now my last tip for you is I want you, as a parent, to always be aware of the message that you’re giving your kid, and I think the best way to talk about this is just to give you my personal experience and my thing that I always have to be aware of. What I know about myself is that I’m intense, and that when I compete, I get very intense and it’s hard for me to shut it off. I have all kinds of rules that, like, when I coach or anything like that, I try not to talk to parents or players to at least 20 minutes after the competition ends because I like that. It’s like a cool-off period. And I think it’s very valuable. Sports science has shown that that – it’s very beneficial to, you know, have a cooling off period because emotions can run high.

My daughter has taken up track, and I wasn’t a track athlete. I didn’t run track, and she has decided that that’s what she wants to do. And let me tell you something, it’s a sport. And you might think, like, “Oh, Bret wants his daughter to be an Olympic sprinter.” Or, “He wants her to be the number one” – you know, “track star,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s the farthest thing that Bret Johnson wants. What I want is my kid to be happy. I want my kid to feel like they’re strong and they can do anything. And I will do just about anything for them to have that feeling. So will I go out, and if they’re interested, get them a personal coach? Yes. Will I help them with their nutrition by getting them a nutritionist? Yes. Will I take them to people that could give them an advantage? Yes. As long as they are interested in it and as long as they say, “Hey dad, I really want to do this.” If they don’t, it’s not me.

I’ve already had my athletic career. It’s long gone, right? But I can’t get rid of my intensity. I have to be really careful around my kids that they see the right message, because you can’t just tell them once. You can’t just tell them, “Hey, dad’s intense, so everything that I’m going to say, you need to know that and it’s not directed at you, or I don’t want you to interpret this the wrong way.” I have to tell them – I have to keep my message to them consistent. So I have to tell my daughter, like, yeah, I might be intense after one of her races and, like, you know, asking her questions and – I try to wait 20 minutes.

But if I sense that she doesn’t feel like she did well, or if I sense that she’s let down or she’s let herself down, the worst thing that I can do is have her think that I’m let down. That her performance has somehow let me down, because that’s the farthest thing from the truth. But because I’m an intense person and I see that on her face, it’s hard for me not to get, kind of, uptight about it. That’s the last thing on the earth that I want my child to feel when they get done with a sporting event, is that they feel, like, let down, or they’ve let somebody down, or they feel like they didn’t do their best. It just bothers me because I know what that feeling’s like.

But I tell my daughter this all the time. I’m like, “Sierra, if you came up to me” – because this has happened before. She used to be a high soccer player. She used to be in club soccer, and she quit playing club soccer, and she was very good at club soccer. And when she quit playing club soccer, I said, “Okay. No problem. What are you going to do?” And she said, “I just want to focus on track.” And I’m like, “Okay, cool. We’ll just focus on track.” So she has that, but sometimes, I have to remind her that and say to her, like, “Sierra, you understand that if you have a bad performance on the track and you see your dad might be a little intense or a little upset, I’m not upset at you. Remember the soccer talk. If you came up to me tomorrow and said, ‘I don’t ever want to run another track. I don’t want to do any sports. I want to get a car. I want to get one of those food trucks and I want to do a vegan food truck’, well, guess what? Dad would be intense about making that vegan food truck the best thing ever.” We would research. We would get the best truck. I would help her with all that kind of stuff, and I would be intense about it because that’s what my kid wants and I’m intense about things that my kids say that they want. That’s it.

But if I do not remind them of that, then that can be perceived a totally different way, that dad’s only happy if I do well, and that’s the farthest thing from the truth. I just want them to be happy with themselves. And when they feel like they have let themselves down or they’ve let somebody else down, or they didn’t have the greatest race, and I can tell by their body language, that bothers me. Those are things that I have to work on, but I am aware that I have to work on it, and if I feel like their energy is sensing that, I remind them. I tell them. And that’s that whole communication part.

So I think that last tip is something that you have to be very self-aware of yourself. You just can’t go through life, and just throwing out random comments, and you really have to evaluate of – like, what you’re saying and what you’re doing, how is that affecting your kid? And you have to take responsibility for it. If you need to change or you need to communicate with them – see, I don’t think I can change my intensity. I try, but in that competitive nature, it just comes out. So I have to constantly remind myself and remind my children that that intensity is myself and it’s not directed at them, and, you know, I’m proud of them no matter what they do, 100%, and they know that. And they know I love them, and if they come in first or they come out last, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want them to be happy and feel good about themselves, and, you know, I’ll do whatever it takes to make them feel that way.

Well, those are some tips. And I hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. I sure have enjoyed my time with you guys. It’s something that I’m very passionate about along with Chalene. I just think that, as parents, it’s our responsibility to create good little soldiers for the world, and to have them to be the best that they can be. And you, as a parent, have so much responsibility and you play such a huge role that it’s good. And the fact that you’re sitting here, listening to a podcast about parenting and listening to what other people have done, and their experiences, it’s just showing that, you know, you’re responsible and you’re taking action, and that’s huge. And thank you so much for listening to this and have a great week.