Use your punk roots to teach your children valuable lessons about not judging people too quickly. While instilling the ever essential need to beware any possible stranger danger, teach your children ways to balance their initial gut reactions with a willingness to get to know a person properly. Some of the punk-based lessons you might be able to share with your kids include:
Show them how creative people of all types like to push the appearance of boundaries for specific reasons that have nothing to do with fear or spite. Sometimes it’s about challenging the less tolerant elements in society; other times it’s about self-expression and being open to all the possibilities by keeping an open mind. In some cases, it’s a deliberate poke at societal ideas of beauty, while in many cases it’s simply about having fun and doing things differently.
Explore difference with your children, using your punk experience. Explain that punks have often frightened others by their appearance alone, with their piercings, tattoos, ripped clothing and brightly colored spiked hair. Explain how some people choose to interpret this as “bad” or “deviant”. This can then lead you into a discussion about why people might be frightened by mere appearance (for older children, you can also explore the implications of the philosophies held by punks). For many punks, looking distinct is a story of creativity, boundary-pushing and challenging assumptions. And you might like to highlight how challenging conformity through appearance, actions and words can often cause fearful or uncertain people to feel threatened because they might either be upset that others have the pluck to self-express while they’ve spent their whole lives conforming or they may be jealous or fearful of what would happen if things changed too much from what they know.
Don’t sugarcoat everything. Punk culture has its dark side too, and that is something that can be explored with older children, with
Wear your punk self in ways that fit your current lifestyle and parenting role. While the green hair and black nail polish may have been “very you” in the nineteen eighties, the reality is that trying to relive the past by way of clothing, makeup and hairstyles is often a self-defeating action. Rather than clinging on to the past, find ways to look punk that fit your age and lifestyle now––there are plenty of cool quirks you can get away with that flatter your age and still denote a lack of conformity to the expected. For example, not wearing a tie, wearing brightly colored shirts, dying your hair in interestingly creative ways rather than dramatic ones and wearing cool shoes made by a local craftsperson are just some possible ways to punk up your gear without letting yourself down.
Be aware that parents can embarrass their kids easily by how they dress. However, if you’ve done a good job of teaching them tolerance and acceptance, this will hopefully be less of an issue. If you still wear a mohawk at 50, give your kids a chance to express their feelings and be open to discussing the reasons for your choice. Ultimately, while it’s important to give consideration to how your kids might feel about your outward punk expression, this is another lesson for them in being understanding and accepting.
Be careful to avoid wearing anything that could harm a child. Accidentally knocking your baby with a stud wristband while wrestling with the diapers on the change table is not a good outcome.
Come to peace with some of the nasty necessities of life, or find viable alternatives. Grown-up realities like mortgages and daily work can either be something you groan about or you reach acceptance about. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up––it means finding ways to make your current reality less onerous, more cheerful and one that works best for you. And if you can’t reach acceptance, find an alternative like freelancing, renting, living off-the-grid, etc., while still making sure that your kids are getting a decent, healthy upbringing. Whatever you choose, help your children to see that life has meaningful purpose.
Parents who keep trying to “stick-it-to-the-man” risk teaching children more about anger and staying stuck than about being free unless you action your words and be that entrepreneur, business owner or free spirit you’d prefer to be. Show your children more personally satisfying ways to live than complaining and running away.