Every father has to have a certain amount of difficult “talks” with his son throughout the course of his life, and these father-son talks are a quintessential part of your child’s upbringing. The most stressful moments of my life came during one of these talks, after my son David had been caught cockfighting. I’d become what’s known as “The Cool Dad” among David’s friends, and I was worried that coming off as anti-cockfighting would harm that reputation. But by keeping the following four ideas in mind, I was able to stop the cockfighting, while still seeming calm, cool, and collected.

Step Into His Shoes

I know you really want to fly in there and improvise the whole speech, Steve Martin style, but I’m telling you, ya gotta plan it out. First, think way back—but hopefully not too far back—to when you were a teen. When I think about being a teenager, I’m flooded with memories of cruisin’ around in my ’82 Firebird (god I miss bench seats), smokin’ grass with Randy on the weekends, and laughing my ass off to Coneheads.

When I think a little harder, though, I begin to dig up some memories I had blocked out. I remember listening to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It, And We’re Definitely Not Gonna Stop Cockfighting” on the Firebird’s radio. I remember Randy telling me that he had scored some pot off a guy who he’d beaten in a cockfight. And I remember turning Coneheads way up to drown out the muffled sounds of farm animals tearing one another apart in Randy’s basement.

The truth is, whether you’re a teenager in 1987 or 2018, cockfighting is all around you. Unfortunately, cockfighting has long been a part of American youth culture, since way before we were kids. Acknowledging and accepting this fact of life can help you to enter the discussion with a little more empathy for your boy’s situation.

Try Not to Cry

In difficult and emotional situations like these, it’s often easy to lose control and begin to sob, but you have to remember that you’re the cool dad. Having real, raw emotional moments with your own son is for WIMPS, and should be left to all those lame-o dads who raise the other kids. You’re not going to cry, damnit, you’re COOL! You should maintain an air of macho nonchalance the whole time.

Throughout the talk, your son will make lame-ass comments like, “Wow dad, I never thought about it that way. Thank you for talking to me about this issue one-on-one and treating me like a young adult.” While these may seem like genuine moments where your son feels more connected to you, they are really attempts made by your child to get under your skin. You have to stay on your toes and be wary of these tricks at all times. Any suspected trick should be countered with phrases like “sure,” or “hey man, I just work here.” With these tools, you will destroy your son in this battle of wits through sheer force of will.

Brush Up on Your Classic Movie Knowledge

My biggest regret in the way I handled cockfighting with David is that I didn’t make more classic movie references. See, every time you reference a movie from your own formative years, it activates a section of your son’s brain that goes, “wow, my dad’s seen the classics? He’s so cool.” I’m still kicking myself over the countless cool points I could have scored by simply slipping in a “patience, young grasshopper,” or even the occasional, “great Scott, Marty!”

I mean, could you imagine how undeniably cool it would have been if I had ended the whole shebang by distorting my voice and going, “Randy Lewis, you’re my hero”? (That’s right, I named my son after ol’ Randy, may he rest in peace.) But I digress. You may think going in that you know every line of National Lampoon’s Vacation, but could it really hurt to watch through one more time?

Show That You Still Love Him

You’ve reached the finish line. You came off cool and distant, while also endearingly understanding, and you knocked him out of the park with your wisdom and cultural awareness. However, it’s not over yet. After the talk, your son is going to feel down on himself, and think that he’s damaged the relationship with his father that he treasures so dearly. That’s why it’s important to extend some sort of grand gesture to show him there are no hard feelings. For example, you could buy your son and his friends ice cream. This action would show your son and all his friends that, yeah they did a bad thing, but you’re not going to come down hard on them like “the man.” You’re just going to let the past be the past, like always.

With the advice I’ve given you, there should be no problem fulfilling your obligations as a dad, while still maintaining a façade of coolness in the eyes of his friends. To all dads, new and experienced, I say good luck in your future endeavors, and may the opinions of sixteen-year-olds always take precedence over any real discipline.

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