Dad, one of the greatest things you can teach your child is to learn how to let something roll off his or her back. In other words, it's not necessary to respond to every insult or negative action with another insult or an equally rude reaction. It's hard to shrug it off and walk away. As two guys, believe us when we say our ego pleads with us to fight back, to stand up like a man — to not take crap from anyone.
Mountain or mud?
The problem is, that kind of response rarely ends well. It can result in a black eye or worse. It can leave both sides holding a grudge, which can be self-demoralizing. If you choose to return fire with an unkind remark or action, you have lowered yourself to the level of your adversary. Rather than take the high road, you've chosen to slog in the mud, too. That doesn't exactly announce to the world, "Look how tough I am!" "Foolish" may be more accurate. "Dangerous," perhaps.
Take the driver's test
As humans, we all find ourselves in situations that test us. How about when someone rides your tail in the car, which seems standard behavior anymore? Are you tempted to slow down even more and really infuriate the jerk behind you? Or slam on your brakes to watch the driver panic? Do you prefer to roll down your window and give the universal "salute"? Or do you hope you'll be passed so you can recite that special vocabulary you reserve for such occasions?
You know as well as we do that in this day and age, these kinds of interchanges can result in what we've come to call road rage. These often end tragically. Too frequently, innocent people are the victims of this insanity.
We may not have sure-fire solutions to preventing these kinds of attacks/counterattacks. However, we'll offer some teaching tips to pass on to your kids.
Even the brave retreat
First, when someone insults you, cuts in front of you or behaves in some other boorish manner, take a breath, stay calm and think to yourself: "Must be awful to wake up every day and have to live with who you are."
Second, when someone tries to bully or intimidate you, just smile and walk away. That will drive your antagonist crazy. By walking away and not giving that person any satisfaction, you have already taken the higher road. He's eating your dust.
Third, if someone near you goes off on a tirade about bad service or some other rotten condition in their world, give them the time and space to make a complete spectacle of themselves. Why interrupt someone who is self-prosecuting in the court of public opinion? Make the point to your children that some people just may be unhappy with life, or mad at the world, or perhaps suffering some trauma in their life.
Dad, tell your teenager that a real show of strength is to flex mind over muscle.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.