Coach, Friend, Father
By Angela E. Thomas
One of the greatest lessons parents of multiple children can learn: Each child is different.
It’s something Chris Johnson’s parents modeled for him, and it’s proven invaluable.
Johnson and wife, Annabel, have two sons, Elliott, 12, and Charlie, 9. Elliott is an athlete. Charlie is an actor.
Initially, Charlie played sports; however, a year or so in, they realized it wasn’t his forte.
“We realized he had a big attraction to the stage, singing, dancing and acting,” Johnson said.
He added that his parents handled this balancing act as well: “I have two older brothers and we couldn’t be less alike. I’m amazed at how my parents loved us equally but differently.”
The Johnsons both have siblings and knew they wanted their family to include more than one child.
“We had a plan in place. We knew we wanted more than one child, but we soon realized we didn’t want more than two,” he said, laughing.
As the youngest of three boys, he wanted his own children to experience the dynamic and magic of having siblings. “There’s something special about being able to play with your brother, to talk through family issues with someone who understands.”
Johnson is fortunate. His position as market president of First Financial Bank affords him flexibility to support his sons.
“I’m heavily involved with each of my sons’ welfare and activities. Elliott plays golf, soccer, basketball and football. Charlie is an actor and a singer. I go to their school activities, practices, games, auditions, musicals, improv classes … and I’m fortunate to do this.”
Johnson has great respect for his parents and the values they instilled in him. “My mother helped me learn to love reading. We read each night before bedtime, and I definitely see the benefits,” he said. “My father coached us a lot growing up. I remember when I’d outgrown his coaching ability, and I see that my oldest son is about ready for me to move out of the dad-coach role. I totally understand.”
The 42-year-old said respect for elders is one way that he sets an example.
“Growing up, we were taught to say ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am,’ to treat our grandparents with respect and to enjoy the time we had with them. I’m teaching my children this.”
Respect and courtesy, he said, go a long way in life, and it’s a principle that overflows into other areas such as the workplace or among team members and peers. “From there it’s a natural transition into other relationships such as marriage, and that sets a tone for the household and their parenting skills.”
It’s also carried over into the work he does as a coach. “I’ve coached multiple sports, and I usually try to find one or two children who need a bit more attention and guidance, and I provide a male voice as needed.”
Like many parents, Johnson works to find the balance between being a parent and being a friend for his sons.
“It’s important to be a friend while understanding that our children are looking to us for guidance—they’ll push the limits—but Annabel and I also don’t want to be helicopter parents. We want to be there for the boys, but we also want to allow them to learn from their mistakes.”
“My parents did this—they showed me proper discipline and overall affection,” he said. “That’s pretty powerful.”
Johnson clearly enjoys being a father. “I love that I get to watch them do what they love. To see them on the field or on the stage and make eye contact with them and convey how proud I am of them, it’s so exciting. Being a dad, it’s pretty cool.”