Parenting tips from a dad of 5

Kindred Howard, whose twins appear in the movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting, discusses his parenting style.

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Photo: Courtesy of Kindred Howard

Being the father of five small children is a lot like being Willy Wonka in the chocolate factory — right after the oompa loompas have done espresso shots.

Just like Willy, I’m somewhat isolated from the adult world and a bit eccentric, having spent much of my time with rambunctious little people.

Only, unlike the dutiful tiny folk Mr.Wonka lived with, my oompa loompas aren’t always voluntarily cooperative, often exude unpleasant odors and think that it should be socially acceptable to pee in their pants if they are having too much fun to go to the bathroom.

Our oldest is also our only daughter, Emerson, who is nine. Then our four sons: William is six, Carson is four and our two-year-old twins, Samuel and Asher. My wife, Meredith, and I were blessed to adopt our twins from Ethiopia in 2010.

What’s the key to raising five kids? I’ve found that one important factor is to keep your sense of humour. I take raising my kids seriously; I don’t take my kids too seriously.

Take, for instance, a situation that occurred not long before I wrote this article. I made some parental decision my son, William, didn’t like. After I made it, he got emotional, started crying and yelled, “You’re the meanest daddy in the whole world!”

I calmly looked at my son and said, “Actually, I’m the second meanest. There’s a father in New Zealand named Nigel Stonewaggle who’s much meaner than me. He’s the meanest.”

Now more baffled than upset, my son looked at me and asked, “For real?”

“Oh, yes,” I said. “He’s so mean that he gave all of his sons girls’ names, and all of his daughters boys’ names. And when Nigel Stonewaggle puts you in timeout, you have to sit naked on a cold rock in the middle of a broccoli field.”

By the time William figured out I was teasing, the drama had passed. Sometimes, good parenting is all about mastering the art of tactful distraction.

My kids need two things from me: my love and leadership. If I can provide both, then, who knows, maybe the oompa loompas will end up just fine.

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