Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Jacklegs

Lately, my children have been testing me. Well technically, “testing me” is a constant state of being for them, but lately they just seem to be doing it on steroids. And that means it’s time to review some discipline tactics I’ve long had in my arsenal but forgot were there. I was looking over some materials from a “Love and Logic” course my husband and I took when my oldest was a toddler. Among the neatly bullet-pointed parenting ideas was this question: “What are the five most important things you want to instill in your child?” 

I have to be honest. I really hate questions like that, because there are a LOT of important things I need to instill in my children. If all parents stopped at five, I think the world would have a terrible problem on its hands: Well, my kid is dumb as rocks, but I already instilled kindness, emotional strength, faith, self-respect, and responsibility in him. Maybe I should have bumped up intelligence on that list. I guess I’ll just swap that out for kindness with the next one. Both of my kids don’t need to be nice, do they?

Considering I have a hard time deciding what to order at Cheesecake Factory, how do these parenting gurus expect me to pick only five important things to instill in my children? Well, I have out-smarted the gurus. I have found the appetizer combo platter of good parenting. There is just one thing I need to instill in my children that will inevitably cover all the bases: don’t be a jackleg.

Jackleg is a term used by my dad to describe anyone who is acting as a plague to society (and apparently it can also be found in a real dictionary. Like Merriam-Webster, and not Urban). Synonyms might be dumbass, dipstick, a-hole, douche canoe and anything in the jerk family: jerkhead, jerkwad, jerkoff, or jerkstore.  Over the years, my dad has educated us well in identifying jacklegs by their telltale characteristics. A good majority of them are usually found on the road at any given point in time, as that is most often when my father yells, “Come on, jackleg!!! Get with the program!” They are also abundant in the Senate, House of Representatives, and associated with political campaigns in general.

I know enough to know I don’t want my kids to be jacklegs.

Once upon a time, I wrote a blog post about some brilliant parenting advice from hippies, by way of the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song, “Teach Your Children.”  In it, I discuss that as parents, we often over analyze how we raise our children, when maybe all we really need to do is make sure everything stems from “feeding them on our dreams.” My dreams for my kids are love and happiness. If I just make sure everything I do falls in line with them feeling loved and happy, then I will probably end up doing a pretty good job. This whole jackleg thing is along those lines. Everything I want my children to be stems from teaching them not being jacklegs. Let me illustrate.

  • I want my kids to have a good work ethic. Jacklegs are lazy good-for-nothings. Don’t be a jackleg.
  • I want my kids to have compassion for others. Jacklegs make fun of other people and only care about themselves. Don’t be a jackleg.
  • I want my kids to be able to own up to their mistakes and learn from them. Jacklegs don’t take responsibility for their actions and are dumb heads. Don’t be a jackleg.
  • I want my kids to value family and nurture important relationships in their lives. Jacklegs never call their mothers. Don’t be a jackleg.
  • I want my kids to build a life blessed with faith and live according to the fundamental teachings of Jesus. Jacklegs are the Devil’s minions who sacrifice goats and sometimes humans and barf green pea soup out of their mouths. Don’t be a jackleg.

See, it’s really very simple. From now on, whenever my children find themselves in a situation where they need to make a decision, where they need to figure out a code of conduct, where they need to discern what is right or wrong, all they need to do is identify what a jackleg would do…and do the opposite. It is a foolproof disciplinary tactic.

So the next time my daughter sasses me or my son colors on yet another piece of furniture, I’m going to take a page from my dad and yell out, “Come on, jackleg!!! Get with the program!” I think that should do the trick.

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Feel free to use the jackleg method with your own children. Share it with your friends. And the next time you find yourself at a baby shower, and they pass around one of those sweetly decorated little books where everyone is supposed to write down their best piece of parenting advice for the mommy and daddy-to-be, just write, “Don’t let your baby grow up to be a jackleg.” When they ask where that bit of wisdom came from, so brilliant in its simplicity and logic, tell them it is the brainchild of “Kelly’s Dad,” the parenting guru second only to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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28 thoughts on “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Jacklegs

  1. “anyone who is acting as a plague to society” … I could write volumes … in fact, I guess a good portion of my blog posts talk, in some way, about jacklegs. Btw, I’d never heard this term! Douche canoe, yes … I’d heard that one (coming out of my own mouth). I think your method is pretty solid—I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down! :)

    • I’m happy I could be the bearer of new things. Both are pretty stellar terms, if you ask me. I was just surprised that jackleg was actually a word! I had only ever heard it come out of my dad’s mouth, so I assumed he just created it. But it turns out it actually means someone who is unskilled or inferior. I wonder if my dad knew that.

  2. I’m still nodding my head at all of these excellent tidbits of wisdom! Could you please tell me when “Hey, Kid…Stop Being A Jackleg!” will be hitting stores? I’d love more examples of when NOT to be a Jackleg, and I’d like to start working it into the bedtime reading routing:)

    • Does that mean I have one official advanced copy order? Yes!!! And I forsee a whole bedtime series…”Once upon a time, there was a little jackleg who always lied to his mother…” The possibilities are endless!

  3. I remember having the same desire for my kids (aka, your husband) meaning love and happiness. I just hadn’t thought through so carefully what that meant as you have. I don’t think I would ever come up with “jackleg” but I have begun to foster a desire to know more about the traditional virtues of careful thinking, self-control, courage and social justice. Great ideas! still learning.

  4. I have never heard of Jackleg before! Maybe it’s because “Fish face” and “Oh Sugar” were the swear words in my home growing up… Anyway, it’s so true, it really all boils down to don’t be a jackleg. I get it and I like it.

  5. Jackleg and Douch Canoe will now officially be a part of my vocabulary. Thank you, this post introduced me to both!! Loved this post and honestly, if all parents worried about not being jacklegs (and teaching their kids the same) …. well this world would be a better place!! :-)

  6. Love this post, Kelly! We wrote similar posts this week, from different ends of the spectrum. So, in reading your bullet points, I kept wanting to send you a WWJD bracelet. I never knew that J was for Jackleg, but I love it! ;-)

  7. Knock wood…and I am hopefully done (I still have a 19 yr old at the house). Ok, this is rare but you get a serious comment from me. We merely used The Golden Rule. Maintain a firm grip, but treat them with respect. Teach them to “think” vs. facts. We have 3 wonderful young men now. :) no jacklegs

    • You can’t beat the Golden Rule. But I think it was originally supposed to go: “Treat others as you would have done to you…in other words, don’t be a jackleg.” But they they realized that was kind of redundant.

  8. I’ve been a big jackleg lately and so have my kids. Even the dog. My husband has been resisting the pressure to jump on the douche canoe but the water is getting deep. This is a reminder that I needed. Jackleg-ness is highly contagious but preventable. I’m going to try to not be a jackleg today and see if it rubs off!

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