Joshua T Kalis he/him/his

I build great teams and excellent software.

15 Parenting Guidelines


Parenting is a long game.

Play to win.

15 high-impact principles for raising emotionally healthy adults:

Parenting success isn’t measured in years.

It’s measured in decades.

20 years in, I’m not ready to say I know what I'm doing.

But I am starting to see the fruit of long-term thinking.

Here's what I've learned (so far):

Be Values-Based:

Families need guiding principles that are used as the basis for praise and discipline.

Parents must define them, articulate them, and uphold them.

If you slip and refuse to be accountable to your kids, you undermine them.

Give your kids an internal compass.

Explain Why As Well As What:

“Because I said so” is a means of control, not an act of love.

It's your job to teach your kids to think for themselves.

Walk them through the logic behind the decisions you make.

Let them poke holes in it.

It's critical thinking 101.

Elevate Hard Work:

We tell our kids they can do anything in life.

Then subtly teach them they’re only “good” at certain things.

Too much is made over intelligence.

Work beats intellect.

Grit overcomes ability.

Make this connection for them.

When They Need Help, Wait:

It's hard to see your kids struggle.

Your first instinct is to jump in and help.

Resist this urge.

Parents who help too much raise helpless kids.

Give your child time to work out their own problems.

Support, but don’t coddle.

Reward Effort Over Outcomes:

Results-based parenting sets our kids up for failure.

I want to raise kids who give their full effort to everything they do.

Even if it doesn't produce the desired outcome.

Whether it’s at school or working around the home, demand full effort.

Praise Risk Taking:

Many parents try to shield their kids from taking risks.

This is well-intentioned - you want to protect them - but a huge mistake.

Risk-taking is a muscle.

Kids must exercise it from an early age.

Or they become fearful, risk-averse adults.

Privately Correct:

The most vulnerable moment in the life of a child is when they've messed up.

My biggest moments of failure came from my reaction.

I shamed them publicly. It was damaging.

So much is up for grabs when they fail.

Don't compound it by humiliating them.

Publicly Correct Course:

One of the most powerful things you can do as a parent is to admit you were wrong.

It's good for your kids to see you as fallible,

But it's absolutely critical that they learn how to take ownership of mistakes.

Show them how it's done.

Be Affectionate From The Start:

The most common compliment I receive about my family ⏤

We're physically affectionate with one another.

Humans need physical touch.

It is a powerful component in bonding, relational development, and mental health.

Hug early and often.

Celebrate Success Carefully:

Performance-based love takes hold when kids only receive approval when they win.

It raises little people-pleasing machines.

I want my kids to achieve for the right reasons. For them, not me.

Celebrate who they are not just what they accomplish.

Call B.S.:

I spent years working with high school students vocationally.

I told parents:

If your kid is talking, you're getting worked.

Kids play angles and present selective information.

Challenging their perspective teaches them how to refine arguments and sell ideas.

Be Quick To Repair:

Failing as a parent is inevitable.

Everyone does. You lose your cool. You overreact. You say things you regret.

So few parents take the time to repair it.

A few words of genuine apology from a parent can undo so many wrongs.

It models humility.

Preach Strength:

We have a rule in our house: “We Are Morris’ – We Do Hard Things.”

From homework to sports, this refrain is preached over and over again.

Your kids need your resounding voice of belief.

See their strength. Call it out.

Teach Context:

Almost everything in life has a setting where it can be experienced and enjoyed.

Driving at 16 is good. Driving at 6 isn't.

Desert is good, but not if it's all you eat.

Teach your kids to put things in their proper place.

Context is king.

Don't Overfunction:

I had a friend whose mother picked out his clothes each day.

All the way through college.

Overfunctioning happens when parents do things for their children they should be doing for themselves.

It hinders their development.

You feel good. They lose.