We are glad you came to So Mini WaysYahoo Life Parenting This series focuses on the joys as well as the challenges of childrearing.
Henry Winkler, Hollywood legend was late to the scene Happy Days Give a couple of times for a reason that’s very personal to your parents. His stepson, a young boy, would approach him as he ran out of his home to go to rehearsal for the Fonz.
“He would say, ‘Henry, I uh, I uh, I uh, I love green,’” Winkler recalls. “’OK. Hey, I’m so happy you told me that. We’re going to discuss green when I get home, but right now I have to get in my car.’”
However, the interruption taught him a valuable lesson. “A heard child to me, to me, means a powerful child if you take the extra 40 second to hear,” he said.
This calm, patient, and loving approach is how Winkler and Stacey raise their six children and grandchildren. He said he was this way because it is different from his parents’ and he knew better.
“I love the idea of, and I don’t mean to sound corny, being able to listen and not reproduce my own parents,” Winkler tells Yahoo Life. “When I would get out of sorts I could literally hear myself say, ‘OK, that’s not what I meant to say’ or ‘that’s not how I meant to say it. I’m going to stop, we’re going to start again. This is what I mean.’”
The Winklers were able to take the time to understand and listen to their children. Winkler’s wife, his wife, also included their children into decision-making. This included setting a curfew, determining a fair punishment, and discussing homework.
“Max [his youngest son] would listen to the radio when he would do homework,” Winkler recalls. “I would say, ‘you can’t listen to the radio. You need a good chair, a good light and a good desk.’ Max put his knee on his chair, never sat down, sometimes stood at his desk and I thought, maybe him listening to the radio as a funnel of sound he would go into because the grades were coming home … Maybe I should just shut up.”
Winkler had a difficult time growing up with school. Winkler struggled greatly in school and was often mocked by his parents about his academic achievements. It wasn’t until Winkler was 31 that he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
There was a time when Winkler caught himself saying to his children the same things he heard from his own parents — things like “you’re not working hard enough.” Then, the switch was flipped.
“I realized, wait a minute,” Winkler says. “I know what it was like for me and [dyslexia] It is [often] hereditary. So the people who were yelling at me, the people who grounded me, gave it to me.”
Winkler and Winkler’s wife then let their children understand that it is important that they do the best for their families.
“If you do the best you can, I do not care, Mom does not care what grades you bring home, but if you don’t do the best you can, there will be consequences,” Winkler says.
Although he’s best known for his work in film and TV,, the Emmy winner has another role that is inspiring a younger generation of fans. Winkler, along with Lin Oliver, is a best-selling author of the children’s book series , which is about a dyslexic child based on many of Winkler’s own experiences.
Winkler is a frequent attendee at fan conventions such as this week’s where he interacts regularly with parents and kids who struggle in school just like he did.
“Parents say, ‘oh my kid is learning challenged,’ and I look at the kid and I say ‘how you learn has nothing to do with how brilliant you are because no one has asked me about a hypothesis since 1963,’” Winkler says. “I was called stupid. I was called lazy and I’ve had a pretty nice career.”
He says that children need to be acknowledged for their strengths regardless of what they may be.
“Why do we celebrate only the top 10% of a class and not the bottom 3% of the class, which I’m in?” Winkler says. “I need what they can do. I don’t care that they don’t know how to spell. They are able to do things like be a plumber or perform in the theater. We need everything that the child is good at to keep our country great.”
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