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Henry Winkler Didn’t Want to Be Like His Parents | He Listened to "Anything That the Three Children Had to Say”

Henry Winkler Didn’t Want to Be Like His Parents | He Listened to "Anything That the Three Children Had to Say”

Henry Winkler is dyslexic and was undiagnosed until he was 31 years old.

Henry Winkler is an actor, producer, and children's book author and is best known for playing Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli on the popular sitcom Happy Days.

Besides being a TV icon, the Barry star also went viral on social media for his fishing expeditions. He shares a stellar married life with his spouse Stacey Weitzman since 1978 and is a doting father to his three children. He adopted Weitzman's son, Jed Weitzman, after their marriage and together with Weitzman he went on to have two kids—Max Daniel Winker and Zoe Emily Winkler.



 

 

He knows a bit or two about parenting. In an interview with Life of Dad, he spoke about raising his kids stating that he wanted to keep his children away from the spotlight. He not only wanted a "normal and consistent" home life but also faced the challenge to ensure "that the children were not spoiled."

Winkler makes sure not to repeat the mistakes with his kids that his parents made when he was a child. One thing he recollects is that his parents gave a lot of importance to education. “They were very critical and sometimes cruel,” he told The Guardian. “Their pet name for me was Dummer Hund (dumb dog).”

However, schooling, reading, and writing were major challenges for the 1945-born actor who is dyslexic. "I was allergic to school. I was completely befuddled by school. I was trying so hard but I couldn't succeed,” he told The Guardian.



 

 

But neither he nor his family knew about his learning disabilities during his childhood. "No. I didn't read a book until I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Books terrified me. They made me nervous."

He had a very strained relationship with his parents. Winkler recalls how he was never heard as a child because his "parents didn't listen to anything". "I'd say they were emotionally very destructive," he said. 

Perhaps, these experiences made him understand what parenting mistakes he should not make. “As a child, before I went to bed, I thought every night that I would be a different parent from my parents. I don’t think I have ever laid a hand on my children – but as a kid I had hands, a hairbrush …"



 

 

Recollecting an incident from his childhood, Winkler said, "I remember having breakfast. It was cereal and I put my ear down to the bowl to hear the ‘snap, crackle and pop.’ My mother exploded and chased me around the table. All I was doing was listening. How bad was that?"

During an interview, Winkler spoke about how his son Max had told him Winkler loved him “too much” during his childhood. “And I said, ‘I would do it all again,’ because the alternative is hideous. My parents were very tough. Not just strict. They didn’t care to see an individual outside of who they were and how it translated to their life.”

In another interview, Winkler mentions that his parents wanted him to be their image. So he decided to be "a completely different parent. And that I would just listen to anything that the three children had to say."



 

 

The experiences from his childhood have left Winkler with a feeling of resentment and feelings of not being worthy enough. "So did I really have to feel so bad and struggle so much and think I was so stupid for so long?" he asks. 

The only thing that kept him going were these words from his teacher, "'Winkler (teachers called kids by their surnames in those days) when you get out of school you're going to be okay'. Those words meant everything to me," he said.

As a parent, he made sure to raise his kids in such a way that they felt loved and accepted, something he never got to experience when he was a child. 

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/may/26/henry-winkler-the-fonz-interview-hank-zipzer-dyslexia

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/26/henry-winkler-family-values

https://oldgoats.substack.com/p/ruminating-with-henry-winkler

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-p8NimiCcxA

https://www.closerweekly.com/posts/henry-winkler-kids-meet-the-happy-days-stars-2-children/

Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Kevin Winter / Staff

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