My eldest sons just turned ten, which means I’ve been a father for ten years.  Ergo, it’s time to inventory the top things I’ve learned from my decade of experience.  In no particular order:

1. Kids are a consumption good, and always have been

2. Have kids to create beloved companions, pay forward the gift of life, and see the world anew, not to get a person to mold or boss around.

3. Discover things you and your kids enjoy doing together, and make plenty of time to actually do them.

4. You have little effect on your child’s intelligence, success, or even character.  But you have a genuine effect on his appreciation of you – how he feels about and remembers you.

5. Your kid’s preferences may differ from your childhood preferences, but it’s still helpful to remember and try to be the kind of parent you wish you’d had.

6. Don’t use discipline to turn your kid into a good person when he’s an adult.  It won’t work.  Use discipline to turn your kid into a good roommate when he’s a kid.  It won’t work miracles, but it’s way better than nothing.

7. Mild discipline, mechanically enforced, deters bad behavior far more effectively than harsh discipline, arbitrarily enforced.  Idle threats, no matter how lurid, (“I’ll sell you to the gypsies if you don’t eat your dinner” “I’ll turn this car to Disneyland right around”) do not improve behavior at all.

8. Never lie to your children.  Kids soon see through your deception, reputation matters, and in any case, lying is wrong. 

9. Expressing anger at your children is counter-productive.  It undermines your authority and gives wayward children hope of besting you.

10. Raise your children with kindness and respect.  When they behave badly, calmly carry out promised punishments like Javert, then restart the game like Valjean.

Bonus lesson: If your kids say you’re embarrassing them, they’re probably right.  Don’t argue, don’t tease, just stop.