I Taught My Son To Use The Mantra – Don’t Be A Dick. And It’s Working.


I write about my son quite a bit. We both like to educate people on how to help kids with anxiety and he’s always approved of the things I write about him. If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’ll know that he’s a super sweet, kind, funny kid who battles anxiety on a daily basis.


You’ll also know that he’s not ashamed of it and advocates for himself and for others. You’ll know he’s pretty freaking awesome and that the bond between him and I is solid and strong.

What you might not know is that he is the #1 button-pusher of all button-pushers.

He’s the kid that will play the “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you” game with his sister in the backseat. He’ll make noises incessantly just to annoy the s**t out of me and push me ever-so-slowly over the edge.

You can see the wheels turning in his head with thoughts of “If I do or say this…I’m going to get a reaction”…and he’ll typically choose to do or say just to annoy the person he’s interacting with.

It’s irritating and some days when I’ve given him my all and he decides that now is a good time to push my buttons, I want to take him to the curb, place him in the garbage can and skip away.

Judge away. It’s going to get worse in a second.

The other day he and his sister were playing and although, in general, they get along, they also bicker and fight. Totally normal.

But, my son likes to take things to the next level.

Sometimes he does things to be funny, but it’s not funny, it’s hurtful and he knows it’s going to be hurtful, but he chooses to do it anyway. He chooses to be a jerk. It ends in hurt feelings, me yelling and my son….smirking.

My son and my daughter were playing and I could see things escalating. I could see his little button-pusher wheels start turning and I said:

“STOP! Just stop. Owen – I’m going to teach you four words I want you to run through your head any time you think you should do something, but you have a feeling like maybe you shouldn’t. I want you to run these four words through your mind ANY time you question your next move. I want you to live by these four words forever. Use them every day and make decisions based on them.”

He stopped. He looked at me and said “Okay…what are they?”

“Don’t. Be. A. Dick.”, I said.

“MOM! What?!”

“Yup. Seriously. Don’t be a dick.”.

And listen, it works.

Should I say these words and push this button?
Don’t be a dick.
Then decide.

Should I take this action that could cause harm?
Don’t be a dick.
Then decide.

Should I take advantage of this situation?
Don’t be a dick.
Then decide.

At this point, he started giggling and said “Mooooooom”. To which I responded “I’m dead serious.

Those 4 words should be your mantra and you need to start using them and live by them”. At this point, he walked away shaking his head, giggling.

Two hours later I said “O – what’s your mantra?”.

“Don’t be a dick”. So…I know he heard me. I know he’s taken the lesson. I told my friends about it and they ask him and he can say his mantra quickly now.

Are you judging me yet? Probably. And, that’s okay. I’d probably judge me, too.

But, for my son, cute and softer words don’t work. He needs an edge to his lessons and I’m happy to provide them.

“Don’t be a jerk” wouldn’t have worked. It’s too soft. “Don’t be an asshole” was too much and I typically don’t advocate swearing (although for some, the word I chose is vulgar and offensive). So, I landed where I landed, which made him giggle…but also think.

I taught my son his mantra a few weeks ago and although we joke about it a bit, the other day he told me he actually used it. He said he was doing something that he knew would annoy his friend so “I ran my mantra through my head and decided to not do it”.

Well then. Okay. Success?

It’s weird and a bit of a vulgar mantra, but apparently it works.

At least it works for my kid. Judge away if you want to, but for my kid, if he can run those 4 works through his mind before he decides to do something, he may save himself a lot of hurt and frustration in this life of his. As he gets older, we’ll expand on it, but for now…this works.

I kinda wish everyone would live by this mantra. I feel strongly that if everyone just checked in with themselves before they do/speak/post/take action as to whether or not they’re making a dick-move, the world could be a better place.

I’ve even caught myself a few times wanting to respond to a comment, email or message and have run those words through my mind and decided to respond in a different way.

It’s actually quite liberating.

All this to say…I’m parenting the way I parent and doing the best I can. The lessons I teach my children may be different than yours but hey…don’t be a dick. Let me parent how I choose to. I swear I’m doing a good job and I’m raising some pretty cool and kind kids, even if their messaging is different than yours.

This post originally appeared on LindsayGee.ca



  1. My son is always pestering people bc he thinks it’s funny…don’t be a jerk does not work for him at all. I’ll give this mantra a go. My 5 year old daughter is a big time mean girl and i can’t tell her don’t be a dick or don’t be a bitch bc she’s honestly to young…ugh

    • I ask my 6 year old all the time “if your friends at school treated you like that, how would it make you feel?” He usually decides he that it would make him feel bad or sad, and he quickly apologizes to me or his little brother(who usually get the majority of his mistreatment) for his behavior. While they are too young to use strong words like ‘dick’ I think it’s okay to make them feel the proverbial gut punch some times to get the point across.

  2. Preach, sister! That is what we call Rule #1. It is first for a reason. It is the rule to judge all other rules by and it has been recited to me by our boys since they were old enough to fight. And it works!

  3. This, SO this!!!! My son too, has anxiety, but mixed with ADHD. Everything you said hits home, no judgement here. I think I’ve sugarcoated what I say to him to much. He’s young, but knows not to swear himself. Time to make a change

  4. I wish I would have realized this straight forward train of thought with my oldest who is now 22….he is still an asshole and has figured out how to function successfully and succeed as a Marine….but now husband and father of 2…it is in his face that he doesnt want the boys he has to follow his attitude footsteps


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