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  • Writer's pictureKeong Kam

The 7 Things to Teach Dads about Civility

If you’re as tired as I am about the lack of civility in public discourse, then I highly recommend that you read Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks. He’s a contributing opinion writer for the Washington Post and past president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a moderate, right-leaning public policy think tank.

But before you read what I suggest you share with dads, what was your initial reaction to his association with a right-leaning think tank?

If it was like mine when I was invited to join AEI’s Leadership Network, it might have been a visceral “Egad!” As someone raised in a way left-leaning family, it might have been, “No way.”

But I’ve always been willing to seek out alternative views—those that challenge my own so that I can learn and grow and, in the end, become my own person separate from how my parents raised me to see the world. Someone willing to seek different viewpoints some of which I’ll agree with and some that I won’t.

7 Practices to Subvert Contempt

We live in a world of contempt. If someone has a different view from our own, we view them with contempt rather than someone who might have a valid point.


Contempt makes it easier to dismiss someone’s opinion with whom we disagree. Contempt prevents productive dialogue and debate. It allows cowards to avoid discussing their differences.

To avoid falling headlong into this culture of contempt, I decided to join AEI’s Leadership Network and the growth opportunity I knew it would present; it took me months to open Love Your Enemies. But once I picked up the book and started to read it, I couldn't put it down. I devoured it.

Why? Because it’s written by someone who doesn’t come from as different a viewpoint as I thought. He’s someone who I see as being more like me than different from me.

Moreover, I see his “7 Practices to Subvert the Culture of Contempt” as lessons we can teach dads and that, most importantly, dads can teach their children. Here they are. I encourage you to share them with the dads you serve.

  1. DISAGREE BETTER, NOT LESS Progress depends on a vibrant competition of ideas. Embrace more debate, but always disagree with kindness and respect.

  2. STAND UP TO YOUR SIDE’S BULLIES It’s easy to trash the other side when they’re not around. Be the one who gently defends those who aren’t represented.

  3. EMBRACE THE 5 TO 1 RULE Caustic public discourse gets us nowhere. Offer five positive and encouraging comments for every criticism, especially on social media.

  4. GET ANGRY Real leaders know how anger is a valuable emotion. But there’s a right way to express it.: only on behalf of those with less power than you.

  5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE NICE Nice people don’t finish last. In fact, they are judged to be better leaders and win more victories in the long run.

  6. REJECT ANONYMITY A culture based in love requires real human encouragement. Don’t post anonymous comments and don’t respond to any.

  7. APOLOGIZE We can only break out of the cycle of contempt when we acknowledge how we have been dismissive of others and ask for their forgiveness.

These are seven great lessons you can teach dads to be more civil and that they can pass on to their children.

Have you thought about teaching dads how to be more civil?

How can you teach dads to live freely in a culture of contempt?

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