Actor Steve Schirripa played a mobster on TV's "The Sopranos," and he knows how to intimidate in his role as a real-world dad as well. He's penned a new book about his old-school way of parenting called "Big Daddy's Rules: Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look" (Touchstone, $25).
Schirripa will be on Long Island this week to sign the book, which he says is part comedy, part advice and part love letter to his two daughters, Bria, 21, a junior at the University of Delaware, and Ciara, 17, a junior in high school. Unlike most parenting books, Schirripa's is filled with salty language and unusual parenting missives such as, "Staying calm is overrated." It's co-written with Philip Lerman.
"Big Daddy's got a big mouth, a big temper and a big heart," says Schirripa, 55. "I live in downtown Manhattan. I see a lot of stuff that just drives me insane. It's all in the book, my pet peeves, parents who need to be slapped, the new parenting style, parents trying a little too hard. I'm not a parenting expert, but this is how I've done it. Knock on wood, I've done pretty good."
In your book, you state that yelling is OK. Why?
Sometimes that's the only way to get somebody's attention. I'm kind of a loud, boisterous guy to begin with. If I have something to say, I don't need to speak calmly and philosophize and worry so much about her feelings. You did something wrong, you're arguing with your mother, you're negotiating, STOP IT. That gets their attention in a hurry.
You advise dads to literally "get your hands dirty" and change diapers.
On TV shows, movies, Chevy Chase, the "Vacation" movies, Ray Romano, who I love to death, his show -- the dad's always the bumbling idiot. He makes all the bad moves. I want to take charge, I want to be involved. That is one of Big Daddy's rules. One of the rules is, "I make the rules." Another rule is, "I'm not an idiot." This is not a TV show.
You also tell dads, "Teach your daughter to throw." Why?
That's a bonding thing. They always say to do that with your son. Do it with your daughter also. We had a lot of good moments throwing the ball around in the backyard. I can't do gymnastics with her. I can't do a cartwheel. But I can throw a ball.
You recommend "Do it because I said so" as the best tool in a dad's toolbox.
Absolutely. "Why can't I get a tattoo?" "Because I said so." "Why can't I get 14 piercings?" "Because I don't want you to." I'm not above threatening them. When I say threaten, of course, not physically. They have nice vacations, they do nice things, they go to concerts. I tell them, "It will all stop. You will live a miserable life because you will get nothing." It's going to be my way. We have rules here, and I know best.
He means what he says
1. "When it comes to protecting your kids, you are the . . . immovable object."
2. "You gotta treat your wife with respect. You gotta show your kids that bad behavior is not acceptable, and the only way to show them is to show them."
3. "No negotiation."
4. "I do make sure that I find things that my kids and I can do together. Lots of things. I love spending time with my kids. And I'm lucky because they like spending time with me. Because in the long run, that's all that matters."
5. "Being a Big Daddy isn't always about bringing the hammer down. In fact, as the kids get older, one of the dad's most important jobs is stand-up comic. Every dad is a performer with his kids. It's part of the glue that holds you together."
WHAT “Big Daddy’s Rules” book signing by actor Steve Schirripa
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 Wednesday night at Port Washington Library, 1 Library Dr., 516-883-4400, pwpl.org; 7 p.m. Monday, June 3 at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, 631-271-1442, bookrevue.com; 7 p.m. June 12 at Bryant Library, 2 Paper Mill Rd., Roslyn, 516-621-2240, bryantlibrary.org
COST Free, but Book Revue attendees must purchase book at the store if they want it signed. Book is $25 but might be discounted at library presentations.