Developing your own parenting style and values is no easy feat, especially for people who didn’t have caring role models. What are the “right” ways to raise a kid? How the hell do you follow through? And how can you ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself? These are questions even the former president of the free world may have asked himself. In the latest episode of her new podcast, The Light Podcast, Michelle Obama shared that her husband Barack Obama struggled having not known his father, who left his mother when he was just 2 years old.
“I know that he didn’t approach fatherhood intuitively, but he was very deliberate, there was a deliberateness in him because he didn’t want to be the fathers he had seen,” she said.
In the episode, she sat down with actor and filmmaker, (and ICYMI: godfather to Prince Archie!) Tyler Perry who, unfortunately, faced similar dilemmas. His father was someone who “beat the hell out of [him] every chance he got,” he said, and told him he was an awful, terrible jackass “every day of [his] life.”
“That’s what I heard all the time,” the Madea mastermind said. “But being a writer helped me just find my catharsis and a lot of things. And so all the things that my father was doing, I realized he was teaching me how to be a father just in reverse. So if I did the opposite of everything he did, I have my answer.”
Perry recalled a time when his son was 5 or 6 and was talking back to a nanny and fighting her on brushing his teeth. Perry had the nanny leave and sat down with his son. He prefaced the conversation by telling his son that he and his wife love him. But then he told him he will not behave like this, he was taught better than this, he is a better kid than this, and he will be a better man than this.
“And I’m starting to get emotional,” Perry said. “…I had to leave the room. [My son] said, ‘I’m sorry, Papa,’ and he brushed his teeth. But I went out on the balcony in tears because I realized that nobody had sat down and talked to me eye-to-eye and had a conversation with me that I can understand. It was just yelling and cussing at me and [talking about] what [I’m] not and what [I’m] never going to be.
So to be able to have that conversation with his son, it not only corrected the behavior and led him in the right direction, but Perry said it helped the “little boy inside of [himself] heal.”
“It was a beautiful moment,” he said.
Obama discusses this strategy of “reversing the dynamic” in her book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming Uncertain Times.
“So many of us don’t like the way we were parented,” she agreed. “We can now look back at our mothers and fathers and the people in our lives and thinking of things that we think you would do differently. You know, but that’s an opportunity to learn too. You don’t have to repeat what you you’ve seen, but it takes a level of conscientiousness to do what you were talking about.”
Before you go, check out Michelle Obama’s best quotes about being a mom.
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