Frank Zappa on Parenting

What have you said to your kids about drugs?

All I told them was, “You see examples of drug-crazed people on television and all you have to do is look at those assholes.” They get the point. The biggest thing you can do for kids is to give them the ability to figure things out. I use a risk-reward program. One of my kids comes to me and tells me he or she wants to do something. I say no if I don’t think it’s a good idea. If they can convince me, logically, that I’m wrong, they get to do it.

You’re creating your worst nightmare: a house full of lawyers.

I don’t think we have to worry about any of them becoming lawyers. But it does help to develop reasoning and communication skills–you might even call it sales skills–to manage to get your way in a fast and efficient manner. I don’t think it hurts. Look at the alternative: They could go “Wah-wah-wah” or break things, or sneak. We don’t have very much in the way of tantrums or sneakage problems.

I look at kids as little people. The little people have certain assets and liabilities. They’re born with an unbound imagination. They’re born without fear and prejudice. On the other hand, they don’t have the mechanical skills to do big-person stuff. But if you treat them like people, they’ll learn. If you think of them as your precious little commodities and you want to mold them and shape them into something that you imagine for them, it breeds problems.

You obviously don’t buy the argument that you have to give your kids something to rebel against.

Well, my children certainly have decided not to grow up like me. They don’t smoke. They don’t eat hamburgers or bacon. They find their own way. I just want to keep them out of trouble and make sure that they can get to adulthood with some sort of marketable skill and a chance for a happy life on their own terms. I don’t want them to be like me or like Gail. They should be like them. And they should be as well equipped to be themselves as possible. As parents, we have to do everything to give them the equipment to be themselves so that when they go out into the world they can maintain their identity and still survive.

Read the full interview here

Frank Vincent Zappa was an American musician, composer, activist, and filmmaker.

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