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Parenting lessons from Larry King

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Larry King will always be remembered as a legend and American icon who graced our television screens with his piqued curiosity, sense of humor, candor and authenticity. He fell in love with broadcasting at the young age of 5 and went on to host "Larry King Live" on CNN, where he shared heart-to-hearts with the most influential politicians, leaders, athletes and actors; his interviews were raw and real and entertaining in a way that sparked deep conversations among families in households across the country.

Conversation was his craft and he drew us all in by breaking the most relevant stories, asking the most provocative questions in the most respectful way and drawing his guests out of their shells while engaging the viewing audience at home — and he did so more by listening than by speaking. He fashionably sported his iconic look with the big glasses and suspenders for decades — and just look at that smile.

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As we bid him this final adieu with prayers to rest in peace, let’s take a look at his legacy and the wisdom he has shared over the years, much of which can be directly related to the parenting struggle that is oh-so-real. So, in honor of the great Larry King, I share with you a few pieces of his wisdom for a life better lived:

“You gotta ask why questions. 'Why did you do this?' A why question you can’t answer with one word.”

OK, King hit the nail on the head with this one. Seriously, aren’t we all sick of those one-word answers from our moody teens? How was school? Did you have a good day? What’s wrong? These are my go-to questions and they ONLY produce one-word answers. Good. Eh. Nothing. So, from now on I will ask my children more "why" questions: Why aren’t you smiling? Why do you despise everything I say and do? Why don’t you brush your teeth? OK, maybe that wont work. Let me rethink this. Why are you excited for the weekend? Why do you save your homework for the last minute? Why do you dislike doing chores so much? Why do you love me? Why is Maggie your best friend? OK, I get it. This could work to open up some improved communication. Thanks, Larry.

“If you do something, expect consequences.”

Simply and unarguably the truth: No matter what you do, there are sure to be consequences. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but that will always depend on your choices and your decisions — so choose wisely, parents, and encourage your kids to the same. Perhaps the best piece of advice to accompany this one here is to practice the pause before you take action. It's a good lesson to teach our kids and one to remember ourselves as well.

“You cannot talk to people successfully if they think you are not interested in what they have to say or you have no respect for them.”

I admit it — I will often ask my kids a question and then totally space out or get lost in my phone when they answer. If I want to be a great communicator, this needs to stop. Show your kids that you are interested in their answers. Make eye contact. Ask follow-up questions. Listen with enthusiasm. They just may talk more.

“Getting your house in order and reducing the confusion gives you more control over your life. Personal organization somehow releases or frees you to operate more effectively.”

I am just going to text this to myself every day for as long as I live because damn — ain’t this the truth? Simplify, organize and clean, and yes, you will be set free. It is time to bring back the Marie Kondo trend. If in doubt, throw it the hell out, friends!

"I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. I never learned anything while I was talking."

This is a powerful reminder to remain humble and teachable and go ahead and take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. Speak less. Listen more — especially as a parent. Teens in particular often feel that they are being talked at, constantly told what to do or what they are doing wrong or what they can do to be better or what they should be doing. Sit back, be still, and let them talk. Then be an active listener and be eager to learn whatever it is you can from your kids.

“[Parenting] is the most rewarding thing I have done in my life. Whatever you do in your life, nothing beats parenting.”

In one of his final in-person interviews with Casey Adams, King declares that of all the amazing, remarkable things he has done in his life, “nothing beats parenting. Anything you do in life, the rewards are in your children.” King raised five children and conquered the world as one the all-time best in American television. Still, parenting was the most rewarding thing he ever did. As parents, we need to remember that. We need to remember that no matter how tough it gets, how heavy it feels, and how much we worry about and try to ease the pains of our children, nothing in our life is more important than being a parent. Embrace that. Write in a journal or get a tattoo or speak it out loud every day to your spouse — whatever it is you need to do to remember that this part of life — the parenting part — while it may be the hardest and the most confusing and the most defeating at times, it is the greatest gift of all.

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