Fox News stalwart E.D. Hill’s new primer for parents, “I’m Not Your Friend, I’m Your Parent,” shows that she knows boundaries and isn’t afraid to set them.
The veteran of the popular “Fox & Friends” and regular stand-in for Bill O’Reilly knows what she is talking about, as the busy mother of eight.
During an interview with Newsmax, she also delivers on what the book promises: teaching you how to be that great parent, encouraging you to reclaim control and meet the needs of your children with resolve and grace.
“Parent” is chock full of not only philosophy but also practical advice and real-life examples on down-to-earth dilemmas such as: Learning to relate to your teenager.
Along the way, you will reach the realization that your children not only need boundaries but really want them. During the chat with Newsmax, Hill also opines on O’Reilly and Sen. Hillary Clinton, and how Barack Obama has attracted youths to the political process in an unprecedented way.
It’s all done with consummate charm and humor – not so much a formal lesson plan as a fun and really informative read.
Newsmax: Before we get to your wonderful book, what an exciting political season we’re having. How’s it playing at the Hill household?
Hill: It’s always interesting to see how kids perceive it – because when they get interested in politics, it really means that it’s starting to hit home. The Barack Obama candidacy absolutely captured their interest. Whether or not they like him as a candidate, it’s got them thinking and talking about the process, and asking questions. My kids in the past hadn’t asked that many questions about presidential politics.
I hope that no political fault lines have opened up within the family.
It turns out that our kids have strong varying opinions on the candidates. One of them is staunchly pro-McCain and one of them is staunchly pro-Obama.
Nurture or nature, I wonder?
The oldest one who is for McCain really formed his opinion about a woman’s choice last summer when he had to write a paper on the subject at school. I hadn’t realized how much he had taken it all to heart until he started talking about this election and pointed to McCain as his man since he was so clearly pro-life.
What did you think of Hillary’s speech at the convention? Did she smack the ball out of the park?
She did. But I think that she’s just looking to the future and doing what she feels is best for her politically. She has actually played this very pretty well.
What’s it like working with Bill O’Reilly? Is he gruff and grumpy, or is he just an old softy?
I describe him as one of those big old sheep dogs, because he has this really gruff presentation and he’s so tall and has an overpowering presence. But he is the sweetest, kindest, most real person you can imagine. I know that out of a handful of people that I could rely on regardless of what I need in my life, he is one of them. If you’re friends, you’re friends and he’s just always there for you.
One of the things that surprised me about your book was that you weren’t shy about putting details about your children in there – naming names.
Yep, the good, the bad, and the ugly – it’s all there. You know, I talked to the kids about it ahead of time and they felt comfortable with it. I think people relate to me because you watch a show that I do and you know who I am, you know where I’m coming from. There’s just nothing fake about it. I don’t try to pretend I’m something I’m not. The book needed to be just as open and honest.
I would write a chapter or a segment and I would throw it out at them and I would have them read it and give me their thoughts on it and, you know, they went back and forth.
There is one section where they had to change it at the very last second. They had already printed the advanced copy, and one of the kids read a section of the book that I guess she had only skimmed over. She now goes to a very, very strict school and this incident was something that she had done two years ago when she was really sort of pushing the limits. In her new school, the more your nose is in the books, the more popular you are.
“My teachers will read this, my friends will read it, their parents will read it and, you know, they’ll think that I’m some wild kid,” she complained. In the end, we kept the embarrassing segment, but we edited it so you can’t figure out exactly which child we’re talking about.
You also have child-rearing vignettes from parents around the country. How did you get those for the book?
On my blog I just invited people to share comments. During the shows, especially when I was on “Fox & Friends,” we were always talking about families, and people would e-mail me funny things or we would tell a funny story and they would e-mail ways that they had handled it in their own life.
I kept those, and then later on, I solicited more e-mails from people. Some of them were pretty controversial. Some I agreed with. There isn’t a perfect way to parent. Some children react well to certain punishments and others react just the opposite way.
Parenting is a job and you better be ready for it. What we have done is that, as we have gotten busier in our lives, we have started shirking some of the responsibilities that we have. Then you have society telling you that’s fine, that’s fine … don’t tell kids that they aren’t perfect because then they’ll never want to try. Don’t tell kids that they aren’t the winner because then they’ll never want to compete. Don’t tell kids they can’t do something because then they’ll never try it.
You go through all of these things and what do you end up with? You end up with kids who are now manifesting the highest level of depression, the highest level of what is diagnosed as ADD or ADHD – issues where they have to be medicated. You got the highest level of kids who say that they are dissatisfied with the way that things are going.
I think I make it very clear in the book that a lot of the experts don’t know dilly-squat. Most parents instinctively know what’s right and what’s wrong for their kids, and instead of listening to all of the experts telling us what we should be thinking, we have to listen to ourselves and maybe listen back to our grandparents.
What is your personal favorite section or issue in the book?
Sportsmanship. I love that section. The whole nonsense thing about everybody wins and all games tie, because otherwise, kids would get upset, and they will cry, and they won’t want to compete.
In kids baseball, for instance, regardless of what happens on the field, it’s going to be a tie. But then you get to the end of the season, and then all of a sudden they decide that they are going to have a tournament – and there will be real-life scoring rules that everybody follows and it’s not the same as the rules that they were going by the rest of the time.
In elementary school, no one is a winner, no one is a loser. But then you hit junior high, and the coach knows that his job is on the line if he’s not winning. He’s not playing kids to lose; he’s playing kids to win.
There’s a price to be paid for this invented always-feel-good treatment practiced on our youngsters?
Young adults are entering the work force, coming into the office – and they absolutely expect their needs and wishes to be met. “I’m a person and I have feelings. I got plans. I can’t work late. What are you saying – my presentation isn’t good enough – of course it is.”
They are completely ill-prepared to meet the real world, where there are winners, there are losers, there are people who are smarter, some people who are dumber, there are people who are lazier, and there are people who work harder. … It’s not that everybody is equal. They’re not, and you won’t be treated that way.
While we’re on the subject of the rigors of the workplace, let me ask if, during all those years on “Fox & Friends,” were you and the guys really having that much fun?
Yeah, yeah. You know it’s a blast. Working with those guys was just such a hoot, you know. We had kids, Brian and I had kids basically the same age. I think his wife, Dawn and I gave birth to two of the kids within months of each other, and so we can really relate to each other.
When you were sitting on that set at the crack of dawn every morning, were you ever fretting about your kids, worrying about what they were up to?
No. That was honestly the one thing that I didn’t worry about. My concern was that I wanted to be home in time to be there when they got back. If you have gotten kids off to school in the morning, you know that it’s the worst part of the day because they are always running late. They never want whatever breakfast you have fixed and they can’t find their books, their shoes, their jacket … it varies each day.
So that’s the crazy time, and I am very happy to let my husband handle that. I wanted to be there when they had their games. I wanted to be the team parent. I wanted to be the class mom. I wanted to be there for the school activities and then be there when they came home from school; be able to make them dinner; and be there to help them with their homework.
My 10th-grader is the quarterback on the football team, so it’s really important for me to be there for his games. My 12-year-old wants me to be lunch mom. Now Fox News has told me, hey, if there is a big game and it conflicts with work, then go to the game. I mean, that’s pretty amazing.
A mom as savvy as you might be nettled by a term like “soccer mom.” The term certainly doesn’t appear in your book.
I kind of view that term in a different way. When I think of a soccer mom, and I have been there at the soccer games, I think of parents who are exclusively focused on one thing – one sport.
I have talked with so many professional athletes, and they have all said the same thing: Try every sport. If you start your kid at 6 playing soccer and you keep him doing that, their schedule will get jampacked. They have these things called travel weeks: The kids are working out after school, after their school activities, three times a week, and then they are traveling sometimes 200 miles for games on a weekend – so they can’t do anything else.
There’s this one child that I know and he’s been playing soccer and hockey. He doesn’t have time to play with friends. He’s a good friend of my child at school, but outside of school, we have never ever been able to have the two boys play because he never has had a free moment.
Maybe he could be a great tennis player; maybe he could be a great football player; maybe he could be a great golfer, who knows. He’s never going to find out because there’s that tunnel vision – they’ve got to practice nonstop.
So you get a chance to sit down and have a meal with your kids in the evening?
Just how important is that?
There’s a new study that just came out about kids and obesity. Here’s this culture where we’re so obsessed with keeping girls from becoming anorexic and bulimic, and, quite frankly, the exact opposite has happened. We got more kids who are more overweight and obese then ever before.
If you have a teen that is overweight, the gist of this study was that if you hound them about dieting it won’t work, but the most interesting conclusion was that for overweight teens less than half of the families ate dinner together.
If the kids are left to fend for themselves or they aren’t making healthy choices, it may just be that there is not someone there to guide them to make those healthy choices at mealtime.
You have to make the choices for your kids. If you don’t think that you can, or you are unable to make a career choice that allows you be there for your kids – then now is not the time to have kids. There are sacrifices that you make, and if you want to be the CEO, think about it which parent is going to be there for the kids. The sacrifice has to come from somewhere …
You certainly make it plain in the book that this parenting business is not for the faint of heart and those unwilling to sacrifice.
You’re not going to get the CEO position if you are making those sacrifices, or if you don’t have a partner that’s there with you that is willing to step up to the plate and take over. Somebody has got to be there to do it, and if you can’t figure that out, it’s not the time to have kids.
There is no bigger job of work; there’s no more time consuming and emotional job that you can possibly dream up. You’re crafting a project for 18 years. Tweaking here and tweaking there and coming up with failures sometimes and coming up with successes other times. But it is a constant project – and you have to think of it that way.
Do you think that this parenting thing can ever be, well, overdone?
No, and let me give you an example. I visit my kid’s locker when I’m at school. One of the parents came up one time and asks what I’m doing. I say I’m checking my son’s locker, and they say you can’t do … and I’m thinking is there a rule? Am I not supposed to be in school? What’s wrong here? The response from the parent was that my locker inspection might embarrass the child.
I turned to her and I said I couldn’t care less if it embarrasses him, because if there is anything to find in here, the faster I find it, the faster I take care of any potential problem. And if there is nothing to find and if I come back here time after time, I’m going to stop coming by or I’m going to come by as frequently. It is my job, and if he is embarrassed, he will get used to it.
You don’t just abandon the responsibilities because you are afraid that a child might be embarrassed by you going through their backpack or their locker. You do it because you are a parent and you need to know.
[Editor’s Note: Get “I’m Not Your Friend, I’m Your Parent” – Go Here Now.]