Don’t Suffer From The Stupidity Of Forward Thinking


Another father told me that he would never yell at his children because it was the type of behavior that would lead to his kids turning into “unthinking animals.”

When I didn’t respond he took that as a prompt to continue and told me he believed “forward thinking” parents understood that “progressive parenting” meant you explain everything you do to your children every time.

For the next five minutes he regaled me with tales of his parenting skills and theory while I wondered when my number would be called and I would be given an excuse to say goodbye and walk away.

But bureaucracy refused to cooperate and when I saw the line wasn’t moving I shrugged my shoulders and decided to engage.

“When my son was two he tried to run into the street and I yelled at him to stop.”

My companion in line asked me if I thought that was necessary and suggested that perhaps I should have held my son’s hand so that I didn’t have to yell.

“You know we can’t keep our children in bubbles or encase in them in bubble wrap. They have to learn how to do things without us. How many kids do you have and how old are they?”

He looked at me and proudly said he had one child, a bouncing baby boy who was three months old and was already off the charts for every measurable statistic.

I smiled and told him that my oldest is going to be heading off to high school in the fall and suggested he not fall into the trap believing that “forward thinking” and or “progressive” means better.

And then my number was called and the conversation was over.

Reality Check

I didn’t tell the other dad he was stupid, inexperienced or naive because there wasn’t any point in doing so.

I remember how excited I was when I was a new father and how determined I was to do everything better than my parents, grandparents and every great television dad had done.

It is funny to me to look back and remember how certain I was about my ability to do it all because I had access to resources my father and grandfathers never had.

They didn’t need to feel badly about their shortcomings because they didn’t have the tools I had.

If you listen closely you might hear them all laughing now because reality kicked me in the teeth and knocked some sense into me overnight.

I could tell you about sleepless nights spent with babies who were fed and had clean diapers who screamed at us for what felt like countless hours.

We talked to them. We asked them to tell us what was wrong and promised we would fix it and they still screamed.

I remember watching the learning to walk and how I explained to them exactly what they had to do to become expert walkers but that didn’t make them learn how to do it any faster.

It wasn’t because I was a bad teacher either. It was because some learning is done based upon the foundation of knowledge and until you reach a certain level you can’t always advance to the next.

Don’t Suffer From The Stupidity Of Forward Thinking

A while back I sat in on a meeting and listened to a team talk about the importance of being progressive and forward thinking as it related to their business.

They went around the table and asked everyone to pitch ideas and or share thoughts about what they could do to meet those needs and then asked me for my input.

I asked them if they could explain what those expressions mean and why they are important.

It wasn’t because I was trying to be adversarial or because I didn’t have any ideas but I wanted to understand where they were going and what they were trying to do.

I wanted to know if they were using progressive and forward thinking as buzzwords or if they had real meaning.

What I call the stupidity of forward thinking refers to missing the forest for the trees.

There is always merit in taking a hard look at your business and trying to figure out how to more effectively distinguish yourselves from the competition.

It makes sense to try and come up with ways to work smarter and not harder but you need to be careful not to suffer from tunnel vision.

For example if your business offers products and or services for families there is a good chance you’ll start by targeting mothers.

In concept that makes sense but unless it is something that only a mother can use (breast pump, maternity clothing) it would be a mistake not to widen your scope.

Use What Works

I am not saying you don’t use what works. I would absolutely market to mothers but if you don’t include fathers it is a mistake.

Fathers are a significant part of the family makeup and they are involved in every aspect of family life.

I suppose we are still living in a time where targeting fathers for some of these things would actually be progressive and forward thinking.

But the real point is as we said before not to mistake the forest for the trees and get so caught up in trying to be different that you ignore what is proven.

Old isn’t always bad.

Nor is it wrong to try and find a better way. The trick is to find the right blend of the two.

All those new tools and resources I had to work with as a new father didn’t mean that my father and grandfathers didn’t have the same desire to provide their families as I did.

All it meant was there was access to different ways to meet that desire.

Sometimes we forget how the more things change the more they stay the same.

What do you think?

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  1. Tim Bonner March 21, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Hey Josh

    I remember when my wife and I brought our son home from hospital after he was born. It was like “OK, so what happens now?”.

    The first night he slept really well but the second night I spent the whole night trying to get him to sleep. I felt like I was lost and wished there was an off switch!

    Still those early days are distant but fond memories and over time we learn to find our own way as parents.

    • Joshua March 22, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Hi Tim,

      ‘An off switch.’

      That made me laugh so very hard because I remember having the same thought. Sometimes I tease my kids and tell them I am going to press their secret off switch so they’ll stop talking. 😉

      Those first few months of parenting were something else. Fun to look back upon now.

  2. Mary Stephenson March 20, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Funny how young parents have such ideal thinking. Then find their loveable monsters are out of control. Unfortunately some find out too late how wrong they were about raising well-behaved and liked children!

    All we can hope is they grow up to be responsible people that can stand on their own two feet.

    Looking back I can see how I could have done a better parenting job. But unfortunately that ‘little bundle of joy’ didn’t come home from the hospital with an owner’s manual for that specific personality. So you end up winging it and hope somehow you get it right. There are no set rules, each child is so different. Mine was such a challenge. My mother would give that ‘look’ and you knew that you were doing wrong. I tried the same and my daughter asks ‘what are you looking at!’


    • Joshua March 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Hi Mary,

      Your comment about the owner’s manual made me laugh because I just had that conversation with my daughter. She was irritated with me and said I should know better than to do XYZ and I told her that we left her owner’s manual at the hospital.

      She didn’t appreciate it but I suspect one day when she has kids of her own she will.

      You are definitely right about the challenges and how each child is different.

  3. Lori Gosselin March 20, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Hi Josh,
    It’s frustrating to observe different methods of parenting, ones you don’t agree with. I think as parents we do raise the bar, though. We do better than our parents do, even though at times we hear their words coming out of our mouths. That’s the challenge, to identify what we want to change and change it.

    We are all doing the best we can, though. I love the quote you started with. I see you are unarmed LOL


    • Joshua March 20, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Lori,

      Unless I see a child being abused I tend to adopt a live and let live attitude. The only time I truly get irritated is when a know-it-all like this guy tries to lecture me.

      Otherwise I figure do what works for your family, I might not agree with it but I am not the one who makes that decision.

      I think the key thing is to be willing to learn and adapt as you go.

  4. Larry March 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Give this guy a little while. If he’s not a fool or a hard head, he’ll come to some conclusions. We’re all parenting and marriage experts till we live through it and then we realize things AINT so easy.
    I have a post coming up tomorrow about this.

    • Joshua March 20, 2015 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Larry,

      Yeah, it would be interesting to check back in with him after he has had a little more experience under his belt. I bet he’ll have some new insights to share.

  5. Danny Brown March 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Fantastic post, mate, and so true on many levels (personal, familial, professional). Like you, my wife and I promised we wouldn’t our parents when raising our kids. We’d be patient. We’d never yell. We’d always smile and never let frustration get the better of us.

    Yeah, that didn’t last long…. 🙂

    It’s not that we (generic we) are bad parents because we do the things that are supposedly “bad” to do – it’s (much like you say) the only recourse left until understanding and comprehension begins to see the light of day in kids. We can’t expect our children to know why walking into traffic will not see all the cars magically stop for them – that needs a major vocal increase to scare the bejeezus out of them and get their attention fully on you.

    We have one job – make our kids good people. Sometimes even good people need a yell, though… 🙂

    • Joshua March 20, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Danny,

      I don’t know if you are familiar with the term ‘Mensch’ but my goal as a father is teach my children how to be ‘Menschen.’

      Plain and simple it is to teach them how be people of character who are productive members of society so you and I are on exactly the same page there.

      And when mine were very little there were definitely times I helped them associate walking into the street or touching a pot on the stove with a loud yell because it was more important for them to be concerned about whether it was ok with us than to learn the hard way.

      It is certainly a job where you learn more by doing than almost anything else I can think of doing.

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