Years ago when Ricki was pregnant with our first child, Ian, a colleague at Cass Tech told me how thrilled he was for us and told me, “Get your fake in early.” I looked at him quizzically and asked him what that meant.
A little background first. My friend had been a sergeant with the the Detroit Police Department before retiring and becoming involved in the education field. He shared that he knew whether or not a kid he had to arrest had a shot at a turnaround based on the response he received when he called home. If the parents started making excuses or even blamed the arresting officer, he had learned that, too often, he would see that young person again in a similar situation. If, again when he called home, the parent(s) were supportive of the police based on what they learned about their child’s behavior, he knew the child had a better chance. Some parents even asked him to hold their child in a cell for awhile and run him/her through normal arrest procedures so the child could see what being arrested entailed. He shared that he rarely saw those kids again.
So what did, “Get your fake in early,” mean? “Well,” he explained, “you would never harm or intentionally allow harm to come to your child, but they have to know that there are rules and there are boundaries and know that you will enforce and support those rules and boundaries. Your child has to know that if they violate their boundaries there are repercussions and that, while you support them and love them, you will hold them responsible and support the punishment they may receive if they violate those boundaries.”
I considered his words and reminded myself of them while raising our children with my wife. Kids have to have a healthy respect for their parents and be concerned that the cost of misbehavior is higher than the attraction of misbehaving. You’d never really harm your child, but they’ve got to respect you to the point that if a phone call goes home about something they’ve done, the punishment at home may well be worse than the punishment doled out at school or elsewhere. At school when I tell a kid I’m calling their parent(s) and the kid says, ‘Go ahead,’ I think, ‘Uh-oh.’ When I tell a kid I’m calling their parent and the kid says, ‘Oh no!,’ I think, ‘Ok, this kid might have a chance.’ The kid has respect for their parents because the parents made it clear that misbehavior is unacceptable and comes with consequences. They got their fakes in early.
To be clear, getting one’s fake in early is definitely not recommending illegal or harmful consequences. It means that a child who grows up knowing there are rules and consequences for breaking rules, is much less likely to get into trouble in the first place and they have a better chance of making path corrections if they do get into trouble.
I have seen this play out time and time again in school. The kids who get into frequent trouble most often live with parents who make excuses or blame a teacher for their child’s behavior. Heck, I even had one parent who we showed a video of their child clearly stealing another student’s phone, deny that the child had stolen the phone. That child learned a lesson, but it wasn’t, “Thou shall not steal.”
The earliest authority figures children encounter are their parents. Parents who establish responsible rules and authority over their children have children who know what is expected of them behavior-wise and are much more likely to be successful in school. Those parents successfully got their fake in early!