MacNuggets of Wisdom from Bernie Mac

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Go with God, and keep them laughing in heaven! [From TV Guide Magazine]

People come up to me all the time asking for advice. They want advice about their love life, they want advice about their job, they want advice about their clothes. (OK, they might not want advice about their clothes, but damn, some of these people need serious help.) They come to me because they know Bernie Mac always tells the truth. I say what everybody else wishes they could say. So when they ask me about raising kids, I tell them straight up: The biggest mistake you can make is trying to be your child's friend. You cannot be your child's friend.

Tough love, that's what kids need. You don't negotiate with kids. You don't worry about hurting their feelings. If they ask, "Why?" you tell 'em, "'Cause I said so, that's why." Kids need to know you love them, but they also need to know if they do something wrong.

I'm not talking about child abuse here. I'm not talking about hurting kids. Just getting their attention. When I was growing up, we not only had ass whuppings, we had appointments for ass whuppings, just so we could think about it all day. My mama used to tell me at nine o'clock in
the morning, "When your granddaddy gets home, he's gonna whup your ass." Man, my whole day was messed up. I couldn't eat, I couldn't play sports. I'd be playing baseball, thinking about my grandfather coming home, and I was in such a trance that the ball would go right past me. Everybody was hollering, "Bernie Mac, what is wrong with you?" And all I could say was, "My grandfather is gonna whup my ass." He never did. But the threat of the belt was enough.

As a parent, you're not here to be liked. I'm 44 years old, and it was my
generation that dropped the ball on this. The older generation — my mother and my grandmother — they knew how to discipline. They taught us respect, and they made sure we followed rules. They used to say, "This ain't no popularity contest," which is a good thing, 'cause they'd have damn sure finished last. But they didn't care. They'd send me to my room, and I'd say, "I hate you." And they'd just yell back, "We hate you, too. Now, you're gonna go in there and clean that room." And I did.

Parents today don't want to be parents. They want to be too cool. They want to be hip. They don't want to be the bad guys. Well, that's our job. We're not here to make those kids like us. We're here to save their lives. When they do something wrong, it's our job to tell them what they did wrong and in a way that they understand. You can't sugarcoat it. You can't worry about them being mad at you. I say, "I don't care if you're mad or not. You'll get over it."

Now we want to reward kids for everything. We give 'em money for grades. "I got all Bs." "Oh, here you go. Two hundred dollars." "My teacher said I didn't cause any trouble today." "Really? Here's $50." No. Uh-uh. I am not gonna pay you for doing something you're supposed to do.

You can say that's too harsh, but our parents were harsh, and we're better people because of it. I'll give you a perfect example. When I was 14, we had a cat who stayed on our block who looked like he was having all the best fun. Kids in that house could stay up till six o'clock in the morning. They had the girls, they had the beers.

I mean, their house was the house. But my grandmother wasn't having none of that. We had to be in the house at eight o'clock, by the time the streetlights came on. And I don't mean on the porch in front of the house, I mean in the house. We hated it.

But when I go back to my old neighborhood, those cats are still there. They haven't changed a bit. They've got no discipline, no sense of responsibility. They don't take care of their kids, they don't take care of themselves. They are just careless with their lives, 'cause they never had anyone to keep them in line. No one gave them any drive. I am so grateful to my mother for making me come home. If she hadn't done that, I don't know where I'd be. But I wouldn't be as successful as I am. I know that.

So, once you understand that raising children is like waging war — there will be victories, there will be defeats and there will be casualties — you've got to follow the basic rules of warfare, the most important of which is:

KNOW YOUR ENEMY. There are things you need to understand about kids and how they operate. Yes, they are small, but they are sneaky and do not have a conscience. So, here's a short list of things you need to know about your children.

KNOW THAT THEY WILL LIE. Kids will lie to you in a minute, even if they know that you know they are lying. Kids wanna play and stay up late. They wanna watch television and wear the same drawers every day. And they will lie to accomplish these goals. I once told the minister that my grandmother was choking me, even though I knew she'd done no such thing. The minister (and a social worker) ended up having a talk with my grandmother, and I spent the rest of my childhood unable to sit down.

to look innocent, even when they are caught in the act. They will give you a look like a puppy dog, as if they're weak and helpless. Because they are ruthless, they will use this against you.

KNOW THAT THEY HEAR EVERYTHING YOU SAY. And they will use it against you. Kids may not be able to remember why they took off their clothes in the grocery store, but they will remember everything you said, in complete detail, and they will quote it back to you whenever it suits them. They've got some kind of special memory bank inside their head. Kids will crawl under your bed to hear your conversations. They will spy on you, and if necessary, they will tap your phone.

In conclusion, just remember that when you are tough on your children, it's for their own good. Letting them have their own way is the same as telling them you don't care. And if you think you're being too hard on them, try to remember the words of Nietzsche, who said, "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger."
(photo from Google)


  1. Oh, he was SO right. About everything.

    I found out on TWITTER of all places that he passed today.

    Rest in Peace, Bernie. You'll be missed. :(

  2. We were shocked and saddened to learn about Bernie Mac's death! That death could come so early to one so funny and profound is so sad. Thanks for posting this.

  3. I had no idea how much Bernie Mac and I had in common! Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Thank you! I needed to read this today.

    Jenn@Juggling Life sent me over here after reading my post today. Nice to meet you!

  5. I was very sad to hear that Bernie had passed a way. I agree, we need to love and teach our children and not worry so much about being their best friend. Thans for the post.

  6. thanks for this, mel! i've always loved me some bernie mac. was a fan of his show and what he says just makes sense. he will be missed!

  7. EXACTLY why I adored him and his show. Thanks for posting this.


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