‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Had Complicated Relationship with Parents During Success

by Clayton Edwards

Today, Henry Winkler is a television icon. Most fans know him from the classic show Happy Days. Additionally, Winkler has been in several movies and series like The Waterboy, Little Nicky, and the hit show Barry.

At the same time, Winkler lends his voice to several animated characters. He’s also co-penned several children’s books about a boy with dyslexia. That story resonates deeply with the former Happy Days star. He knows all about the challenges of growing up with dyslexia. More specifically, he knows all about growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia. He didn’t receive a proper diagnosis until he was already in the television industry.

The undiagnosed disorder made Henry Winkler’s life hard. His teachers and even his parents made fun of him. In fact, his father called him “Dummer Hund” which is German for “Dumb Dog.” In short, the people who were supposed to be filling young Winkler with confidence for his future took every opportunity to tear him down. When he achieved success, however, his parents changed their tune.

Henry Winkler opened up about their complicated relationship in an interview with Old Goats earlier this year.

Jon from Old Goats wanted to know, “Your father spoke a ton of languages and you struggled academically. What did he think about how you turned out?”

Henry Winkler on His Relationship with His Parents

The former Happy Days star started by reflecting on his childhood. “When I was growing up, not knowing I had a learning challenge, I saw my soul – my life – as a cylinder of stainless steel, with no foothold. I kept trying to climb up to the sun, and I would slide down all the time,” Henry Winkler recalled. He went on, saying, “I needed my parents’ support when I was falling. I needed their support. I didn’t need them to tell me I was stupid.”

Henry Winkler didn’t get that support, though, even when he started to succeed. “At first, my father and mother didn’t want me to go on television, but all of a sudden they became co-producers of my life, very involved,” but it was too little, too late. “By that time,” Winkler said, “I didn’t care anymore.”

He went on to say that he needed them when he was young and confused. However, he got them when he was a budding star. When they finally recognized him for his talents, Henry said, “it didn’t touch me for one second.”

Henry Winkler’s parents taught him one very important lesson, though. It’s one that he still carries with him. They taught him how important it is for a parent to listen to and empathize with their children.