When I was a teenager, my dad was strict. He was, I would’ve told you back then, unreasonable, over-protective and stubborn, and I would’ve rolled my eyes to illustrate my point. (Seeing as how those same eyes were thickly be-decked with Clairol Electric Blue Mascara, my moral authority should have been taken with a grain of salt.)
He almost never raised his voice. He was gentle and respectful, but he made himself clear:
He gave me a firm curfew, and it wasn’t a suggestion. I couldn’t miss it by 60 seconds.
He made it clear that I could not, as long as I lived in his house, wear a bikini.
He told me that when a boy came to pick me up for a date, he should come to the door. If he honked the horn, it would be my dad, not me, who would be headed out to the car.
I had to work for an allowance, and I got grounded for bad grades.
He told me if I ever got in deep trouble and called him from jail, he would absolutely come pick me up the next morning.
He paid attention to the lyrics of the songs I listened to. When they were out of line, he pointed it out.
I hated it.
And I loved it.
It was clear to me, even as I rolled my clumpy Clairol eyes, that my dad held me to high standards for one reason only: I was worth it. I was worth fighting for. I was worth protecting. I was worth expecting good things from.
A lesson like that settles deeply into the psyche of a kid. As I was developing my sense of self, my moral compass, my ideas about relationships, my dad’s opinion was the solid starting point. He thought I was worth it, so I must be.
I couldn’t help but think about this as I watched the furor over 16-year-old Miley Cyrus’s pole-dancing routine. It’s tempting for me to jump on the what-were-her-parents-thinking bandwagon -- I’m as angry as anyone -- but mostly, I’m just sad. Her dad reportedly stood and clapped when her performance ended. My dad would’ve marched up on stage, thrown a quilt over me, and marched my 16-year-old backside out to the car.
I’m sad for Miley and for any kid whose parents don’t have the gumption to make a hard stand:
Come home on time because I love you and I want you to be safe.
Treat your own body with modesty and respect, because it is beautiful and a treasure worth saving.
Work hard because you’re smart and capable and I believe in you.
Not to do this is to miss a chance to tell a kid that he or she is worth the very best -- the highest praise we have to give them as parents. They’ll grumble and roll their eyes and make it difficult for us, but they’ll tuck the lesson deep in their hearts: you’re worth it.
It’s a good way to start.