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Until you have kids of your own, it's hard to comprehend exactly how much of our empathy and respect for fellow humans is taught and not inherited. Evolution hasn't had enough time to weave these types of complex social rules into our jacked up monkey brains, leaving the task of not being assholes up to us. So we spend our entire lives making sure we don't slip up and offend someone by blurting out what a ridiculous monstrosity his cheek tattoos have turned him into. Then, when it comes time to teach our own children, we realize that if we use that same social etiquette on them, they'll be dead or homeless before age 30. So parents have to make an exception to rules like ...

It's Rude to Talk About Someone's Weight

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As an Adult:

It's still what I'd consider to be a universally accepted bigotry to make fun of the obese. Meaning that I don't see a whole lot of people putting their foot down and demanding justice when someone starts whipping out the fat jokes. We still see overweight people as having inflicted a grotesque debility upon themselves, and we have an extremely hard time sympathizing with that, even if we know that the problem is beyond their control. However, what we won't do, unless we're straight-up sociopaths, is walk up to a stranger on the street (or even a loved one) and say, "Holy shit, you're fat. We're taking care of this problem right now. From now on, no soda, no chips, no chocolate ..."

If you made it past calling them fat without getting your lips punched off of your facemouth, you'd consider yourself pretty lucky, right? But even then, once you got to the second part of that ridiculous confrontation, you'd most likely never make it to your list of banned foods before they told you to go fuck yourself and ate, out of sheer spite, the foods that you're now listing to their middle finger as they walk away.

OK, that may be a little on the excessive side. And slightly weird.

But to Your Children:

Not long ago, I had to have a heart-to-heart with my oldest son, who was rapidly out-assing month-old pants. He's had off-and-on problems with weight, but nothing we'd consider major. It doesn't appear to be genetic or a malfunction of whatever organ prevents you from becoming floppy. He just has a tendency to eat a lot of nasty bullshit, coupled with hobbies that require him to sit motionless for hours on end.

Now, given, I didn't just walk up to him and say, "Hey, fatass! I heard you in here growing ever fatter, so I thought I'd come check out this freak show for myself." But I did have to beat back the politeness alarms that went off when I decided that it had to become a serious conversation. Those voices that pleaded, "No, this is taboo. Talking about this will make him feel shame!" Yep, and not talking about it will bring him heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

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It's either diabetes or heroin addiction. I can never remember which is which.

So we temporarily set aside everything I had ever taught him about manners and filtering, and we had the conversation that every parent needs to eventually have with their children. Letting them know that maintaining a healthy weight is not about adhering to the entertainment world's impossible body standards, but about making sure that their arteries are able to carry blood from one organ to the next without having to pass through a dam of grease. And his restraint isn't always going to come in the form of a parent not buying bad food -- very soon, that responsibility will be on his own shoulders, and no one will step in and remind him that "You are eating your own funeral."

If you let that shit go on into adulthood, unaddressed, you're not doing your job as a parent. And if you condemn them to a shortened lifespan because you were afraid of being impolite, you're not doing your job as a human.

"Man, there is nothing like a box of chicken skins and the fresh, open air."

You Can't Tell People They Smell Bad

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As an Adult:

I'll never forget my first task as a newly promoted supervisor at my last job. We had one employee who was notorious for having rancid breath because he chewed (as in chewing tobacco). Because of that nasty habit, his bottom teeth were all brown -- well, the half of them that hadn't rotted out. Not only was it disgusting to other employees, but he was also in direct contact with customers. So naturally, my job was to make him bring a toothbrush and toothpaste to work with him every day and make sure he used them. Because my boss was half demon.

I couldn't do it. At least not at first. Eventually, the boss told me that if I didn't take care of the situation, I wouldn't be a supervisor anymore, so I did what I had to do. But the point is that it took forever for me to figure out how to bring it up, or even if I could. I just couldn't imagine the balls it would take or what level of asshole a person had to be in order to do that without being forced to under threat of unemployment.

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It got pretty weird.

But to Your Children:

I've yet to meet a parent who can't look their kids directly in the eyes and say, "You smell like Satan's asshole. Go bathe before I cleanse your stink with acid." Then, as the child closes the bathroom door, they have to add, "And USE SOAP!" Because we know for a 100 percent fact that if we don't add that in, they will not.

Say it to an adult, and they will get defensive: "Hey, fuck you, pal. I've been busting my ass all day at a job I hate, just to pay my rent. I'll show you a bad smell when I make Limburger fondue on your flaming goddamn corpse." You're an asshole because you're saying "I'm offended, and you are the cause." But saying it to your kids is necessary. Without your reminders, they won't get into the habit of regular hygiene. The only way to develop good lifelong habits is repetition when they're young. And that means cutting out the bullshit and addressing the problem directly.

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"Yes, you need a shower. No, that's not mud."

Even if it means renaming your children "Stink," "Gravy," and "Skidmark."

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Don't Judge People by Their Appearance

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As an Adult:

Well, that's a no-brainer, right? We've all seen that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts returns to the snooty Beverly Hills clothing store and says, "You work on commission, right?" And then she pulls out a machine gun and says, "Closing time, bitches. But first, I'd like to make an exchange ... on these bullets." Or however that scene goes; I was kind of just imagining my own plot as the movie droned on in the background.

But the lesson has always been pretty clear in just about every story ever told. The janitor is really a genius mathematician. The frog is a prince. That chick in The Crying Game was slingin' dick. If you judge someone based on their clothes or features, you're going to get burned, because they aren't going to turn out like you imagined.

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For instance, dig deep enough, and you'll actually find that these people are into pop punk.

But to Your Children:

Being judged based on what they're wearing is a fact of life that your kids are not going to cure. Does that mean that they have to play the game themselves? No, not from the judge's standpoint. But it sure as hell means they need to know the basics from the position of being judged. They need to know what proper-fitting clothes look like. They need to know the difference between cheap and nice ... between what looks like something they bought as an afterthought versus what gives the appearance that they give a shit.

That's the important part. You don't have to give a shit about your outfit, but in certain situations, it needs to give off the illusion that you do. It's extremely hard to explain that to an early teen, because we've hammered it into him since he was born that appearances and material things are shallow, and you're an asshole if you covet that dumb bullshit. Then the first time he goes on a date or a job interview, we're harping on him to comb his hair a certain way and wear his dressy clothes. Do you own a tie? No? Holy shit, go buy a tie, are you crazy?!

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"Hello. I would like a bag of job clothes, please."

So they end up getting this convoluted and sometimes contradictory lesson that has all of these exceptions and asterisks, and it basically boils down to "People shouldn't judge others based on appearance ... but everyone does, and having a nice appearance takes knowledge and practice, which requires you to live like everyone has decided to ignore this lesson."

Never Interrupt

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As an Adult:

Everyone has that one acquaintance or co-worker who just doesn't know when to end an already boring story. They drone on and on about the most inane bullshit, and it just never ends. And they always have a story. You've known them long enough that you've actually developed a system to dodge them -- maybe a go-to excuse to leave the room, or you know when they take their break, so you time yours 10 minutes later than that.

But what you can't do is look them dead in the eyes and say, "You have to shut the fuck up. If I have to listen to even five more seconds of your IQ-puncturing drivel, the people who find your remains will assume that you were attacked by a tornado full of tractors."

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Oh, it's comin', bitch. Just keep on talkin'.

But to Your Children:

You are the last line of defense for the world -- we're begging you to use this power wisely. How you handle an annoying or overly talkative child will determine whether you gift the world with a normal, tolerable human or ... that guy.

Luckily, I've never met a parent (and maybe I've just been lucky) who didn't recognize when their kid was being an annoying sack of shit and just told them that point blank. It's really the only time I've seen that reaction be not only socially acceptable, but demanded by virtually everyone within earshot of the offending douchechild.

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"So that's why sometimes you just have to shut your big ol' stupid word hole."

My middle son loves Minecraft, but when he first got it, nobody else in the house played it. Every time one of us turned around, there he was, desperately trying to explain some facet of the game that none of us had the ability to comprehend. To us, he was just saying a random collection of words, and every time he found something new, that string of words got longer and longer, until I finally had to tell him, "No one has even the most remote idea what you're talking about because we don't play the game. That's great that you want to share it with us, but it's just one of those things that none of us care about. You're just going to have to accept that this is your thing and we want no part of this one." And then I punched him in the face, because that's what I call my "Learnin' Stamp."

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Never Talk About Money

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As an Adult:

This is the number one rule at pretty much every workplace in the free world. You never, ever discuss what you make, because if it's more than your co-workers, they'll get pissed, and the peasants shall revolt. Jealousy springs up. People start storming into the boss's office, demanding a raise. Everyone compares their work to yours, and every single one of them will swear that they're 10 times the worker that you are. Others feel inadequate and unappreciated. Morale just goes to hell -- I've seen it happen more times than I care to remember.

But it doesn't begin and end with pay scales. People don't want to hear how much you paid for your car or your house because it makes you sound like a braggart. They don't want to talk about bills -- hell, their own bills are stressful enough. Why would they want to talk about yours? It's pretty much universally accepted that if what you're about to say has a dollar sign somewhere in there, you can just bend right on over and fuck yourself.

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"I had a whole box of these custom made just for you. It cost $4."

But to Your Children:

Have you ever wondered why we do the Santa Claus thing, where we pretend the Christmas gifts are from some supernatural home invader rather than from Mom and Dad's paychecks? I'm convinced that half of it is due to parents not wanting to have "that" conversation with their kids, because it would be considered rude, or cynical ("Look, we have $200 to spend this year on you guys, so if you get that bicycle, that only leaves us enough to get your sister a Ziploc bag of sauce packets we stole from Taco Bell").

Because most of the parents I know take that attitude year-round -- kids are given no concept of what Mom and Dad make, or of how good or bad the money situation is, aside from a series of vague complaints Dad mumbles when he's going through the bills. When disaster strikes, all they know is "We had to cancel vacation this year, and Dad is missing a kidney." And when they grow up, they have no way to know what lifestyle any particular income will provide them. They have nothing to compare it to. That's why so many kids screw themselves with debt right out of college -- they're trying to get a home like the one they grew up in, not realizing that they're only making half of what their parents did.

My parents were like that, although I think it was because they actively hated money, therefore refusing to keep any of it in their possession. For other parents I know, it was because their parents brought them up with the "never speak this demon's name, lest it scorch the earth with its vengeful wrath" financial philosophy. And in all of our cases, we had to learn how to budget, save, spend, and manage all on our own from scratch. Yes, some of the consumer education classes from school helped, but that's a pretty fucking piss-poor replacement for seeing an actual budget in action. Yes, generic canned corn is 10 cents cheaper than the name brand. Thanks, high school.

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"Look, I'm doing economics!"

So where my kids are concerned, I'm transparent with what I make and what I spend, because it helps them know what money is and why it's so valuable. A shocking amount of people aren't -- even in the examples I mentioned above, where as adults the parents realize how hard their ignorance about money has made their lives, they still don't want to talk about it to their kids. It's just so ingrained that it's not a subject of polite conversation.

Personally, I don't want to add another annoying, financially ignorant, stankass shithead to the adult world -- we already have enough of those. So I'm talking to my kids with that socially polite bullshit stripped right down to its naked, boner-sporting truth. The way I see it, they might as well look at its shriveled, misshapen balls now, because it's going to flash them sooner or later anyway.

John is a columnist right here at Cracked. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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