A Few Real Resolutions

Staples principal John Dodig is a keen observer of teenagers — and of the environments that shape them.

In this month’s PTA Newsletter, he offers some insights into how we can more positively shape those environments. It deserves an audience far wider than just the parents of local high school students.

I have been going to the same gym in the early morning for about 10 years now. I have noticed that beginning in late January of each year, the number of people who show up at the door at 5 a.m. increases visibly. These must be people who resolve to do something about their weight, their lethargy, their health, etc.

John Dodig

By the end of February they are all gone. What good are New Year’s resolutions when we know from the start there is no way we will stick with them? Knowing that resolutions should be easily doable, I came up with a list to share that some of you may find useful:

  •  Resolve to allow your child to experience failure or rejection without coming to her/his aid. If your child gets a “C” on a test or gets cut from a team or doesn’t get a part in a play, offer a shoulder to cry on but let her/him know that things like this will happen throughout life. Being resilient is a helpful skill for one’s entire life.
  • If you don’t already, tell your children that you love them at a moment when nothing special is happening. I know this sounds silly, but I keep hearing from kids that they only hear those words when they bring home A’s on their report card or score a goal or get a part. In other words, for an accomplishment. They can’t sort through the message that it is really them that you love just for being your children.
  • It's okay to say no to your child.

    Try saying NO once in a while to a request that you know in your gut is not appropriate, and that the decision may incur the anger of your child. I can’t tell you the number of parents who just can’t say no when asked for permission to go to a concert on a Tuesday night, for example. Coming home at 1 a.m. seems inappropriate when the next morning is a school day, but saying no is so difficult.

  • Resolve never, ever, ever to leave your child at home alone on a weekend. This may work for some of you, but I stopped counting the number of times we hear about a child being left alone, perhaps with a sleepover friend, and the home being crashed by a dozen teenagers. It is impossible for your child to monitor that situation.
  • When your child comes home Friday or Saturday night at whatever time you establish, get up and give her/him a great big hug. Remember to take a deep breath in mid-hug and be prepared to smell something you don’t want to smell. For most of you, this will not be a problem, but you would be surprised how many times you will smell something, and then be faced with a decision on what to do.
  • I know it may be difficult, but try to have dinner as a family once or twice a week. Don’t accept silence. Ask about school, life, sports, music, friends, and keep on asking until a conversation begins.
  • Hanging out with your kid can be fun.

    Think of something simple that you can do with just one child and make your way through all of them over a month. Take a walk on the beach. Take a bike ride. Get a cup of coffee together, etc. You are creative. You will think of something. It is not so much what you choose, but that each child gets alone time with you.

  • When you are at a party with people who don’t have any children at the high school, resolve to bring up something about the high school or a student or a team that you know is outstanding. Maybe pick something that I have written about in my monthly messages. Let everyone in town know what an extraordinary school this is, and what great kids come here every day.

I will stop my suggested list of New Year’s resolutions at this point. None of these suggestions will improve your health, take off weight or build muscle. But they will all improve someone’s life, strengthen relationships, make you happy, and/or help the high school in some way.

Thank you in advance. Happy New Year!

25 responses to “A Few Real Resolutions

  1. Bob Selverstone

    Right on Dan!

  2. Estelle Margolis

    Dear John Dodig,

    When I read what you have to say to the high school kids and parents I am really proud and grateful that we chose you to be the Principal.
    You are right on about making your children more independent. I have a son-in-law who brought up three extremely resourceful, independent and problem solving young women. He did it with three little words! When they came to him with a problem, no matter how old they were or how serious the problem might have been, he said “Deal with it!”

    They dealt!
    Unlike what we did when our kids were growing up. We jumped into their problem with both feet and helped them solve it ASAP! They eventurally

    did learn to “Deal with it” as responsible grown ups, but we didn’t do them any favor by not letting them work it our themselves.

  3. Danna Rogers

    This is why Staples is so great, not test scores or AP classes… I can’t wait for my kids to get there.

  4. From everything I have heard about John Dodig, he is a very perceptive individual who’s doing a wonderful job at Staples. Still, I’m really surprised to read this. Admittedly, I’m not a parent, but I can’t get over that he feels people need resolutions to do some of the things on this list. Aren’t they basic parts of being a parent? Do that many people really need to be told or reminded how to conduct themselves in this way?

    • Fred, these suggestions touched my heart. I was a good parent and my children are now grown, but Mr. Dodig gave some ideas that I had NOT thought of. So I’m grateful for these suggestions for my grandkids. The hugs, the dinner table conversations, the alone-time with each child, the “I love you” for no reason.

    • FC – you need a license to drive a car or to get married, but there is no permit required to be a parent. It’s not as easy as it looks, though any fool can give it a try. Plus, each child is different so generic methods don’t always work. Last, most of us have never examined how we were raised, we either fake it or rely on reflex, which is why we often sound like our own parents.
      For an interesting conversation, ask *your* parents how they managed to raise you right.

  5. Arthur B. Champlin, Esq.

    Is Dodig a parent??? I thought his job was to educate our kids and not lecture the parents?? While there is not a license required to have kids, there is also not a bible on how to raise them. Each child is different and unique. The generalizations from an administrator with an ego the size of Dodig is no surprise.

    • John McCarthy

      Wow. Curious which points Mr. Dodig raises you believe is not a good idea for all kids/parents?

  6. Arthur B. Champlin, Esq.

    I didn’t say they were not good ideas but it is not Dodig’s job to tell parents what to do. It is to administer teachers who teach kids. Whether they leave their kids at home on weekends or hug them, etc. is of no concern to a public adminstrator or shouldn’t be. I find adults without kids often know everything about them.

    • John McCarthy

      Seems to me that a PTA newsletter is a very appropriate place for a principal to send this type of message.

  7. John is a father AND grandfather.

  8. Man, that guy must have some callouses on his ass from dealing with Westport parents, the BOE and Superintendent Chalmers .
    Dude, I think the 5th bullet (“smell their hair on friday night”) is about abiding – not sure though, perhaps kids today are having shampoo parties.

  9. The Dude Abides

    Lather up!! Don’t get me in this fray. I am no Dodig fan but his suggestions ain’t bad. I “spin” Friday nites will my lady. Abide later.

    • Just out of curiosity, what do you have against Dodig?

      • The Dude Abides

        He is a nice man. Met him twice. But too rah-rah, give me a “S” for special for me. Enough expectations on kids these days without inferring a form of uniqueness and/or exceptionalism on the many of those who just aren’t.

        • Dude, I disagree. One of John Dodig’s gifts is that he tries to create an environment in which every person at Staples is celebrated for whichever unique gifts he or she has. And EVERY person IS unique in some way.

          John tries to get to know as many students as he can, and not just for academics. If a kid is a great boat-builder, snowboarder, tap dancer, whatever, John celebrates those achievements.

          A couple of years ago, he singled out a kid who was into ironworking. The boy had actually helped build the staircases in the new building, as an apprentice. John’s attention to him made him feel like he’d really accomplished something (and he had).

          John also models respect for everyone. Before Christmas he honored the head custodian at a small ceremony. There was no special “reason” — it was just a way of thanking him for all he’s done for Staples. Small actions like that help make everyone — students and staff — realize that they all can contribute something special to a community (in this case, the Staples community).

          Having met John twice, maybe you can now sit down and really talk with him. He could tell you why he loves the school; you can tell him where you’re coming from. I can’t speak for him, but I know he enjoys talking about ALL the students and staff, not just the elite academic superstars.

          • The Dude Abides

            Thanks for the insight, Professor. Perhaps I judge the good principal by too much of what I read here on the blog? As you will remember, we have banged heads on the very subject of being “special” several times here on the keyboards. And possibly I judge it from my own experience at Staples, where I was a serious underachiever, preempted by an overachieving older brother. I sure had some fun though!

  10. HUGE Ego !!

  11. Sounds like simplistic advice from “Parenting Magazine”

  12. I’ve resisted jumping into the fray of comments here, but am frustrated by the “anonymous” comments directed toward my son’s principal.

    As a parent of a high schooler, I appreciate Dodig’s message and do not think his advice is “simplistic.” Eating dinner together, saying “no” once in a while, allowing your child to screw up… and learn to dust themselves off and keep on trucking, and encouraging family activities are all sound ideas… coming from a father, and our children’s educational leader. Most we already know to do, but it’s good to be reminded now and then.

    Many thanks, Mr. Dodig, for modeling good citizenship by reaching out to the community with your wisdom and insight.

  13. If you have a kid in high school and haven’t figured out that you might have to say no sometimes or you should have dinner together once in awhile . . . God help us. Keep drinking the Kool Aid. Hint: It’s all a scam. Your kid ain’t gonna to Harvard.

  14. John, one of your continual mantras over the years is that we (Westport parents) send such great kids to you at Staples. Yet you feel the need to continually tell us how to be good parents. Please stop preaching and just take care of administration concerns. And I’ll skip your advice about talking up Staples at parties. It’s a good school, not a great one.

    • Susan Waterbury

      Amen. If you have to go around bragging how good you are, you probably are not?

  15. I think many of the respondents here don’t realize how well we have it here. Mr. Dodig is not perfect, but he has a clear sense of direction and strategy, strives for excellence, and is not afraid to fight (and politic!) for the support he needs. Look at Greenwich and its revolving door of school leadership to see how bad it could be. And as far as parenting advice: I for one will listen to any advice I can get about how to do it better. Seems to me that someone who works with thousands of kids every day might have some advice worth reading. I applaud him for going out on a limb to offer his thoughts.

  16. Mary Lee & Ray Lemley

    We just read your newsletter about resolutions. Loved your comments!