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Nov 22

How (and why) I opted out of being the meanest mom in the world

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People often send me parenting articles that they come across on the internet, wanting to know my take on them.  This one (titled How (and why) to be the meanest mom in the world) landed in my inbox just last night, and I knew immediately I’d have to write about it. First, it’s a list.  I’m a sucker for lists, and a list I can refute point by point?  That makes me all kinds of giddy.  More than that though, is the nerve that this idea strikes in my heart…. this pernicious and widespread belief that what kids need more of is meanness, and control, and “tough love.”   I think they need very much the opposite.  What kids need is connection with their parents.

It also bothers me to see, again and again, parents being told that kids need to be MADE to do the right thing, FORCED to make good decisions, and TOLD to behave in a certain way.  Is this how little we think of our kids?That they wouldn’t possibly do those things on their own unless there was coercion of some sort?

And I get it.  I do.  The post was written slightly tongue-in-cheek, and I’m sure that the mom who wrote it is not actually “mean” to her kids.  I’m also sure that, like me, she loves her kids, and only wants the best for them.

But that’s where the similarity ends.   Because just as I never uses phrases like “pick my battles” with my kids (my children and I are partners, not adversaries) I also never want to gauge my parenting skill set on how “mean” I’m being.   Words matter.  Intentions matter.

And so ….  kindness.  When in doubt, I always try to choose kindness.

What follows is her “how to be mean” list, and how I would re-write it with kindness in mind.

One last note before I get to the list though.  The intro to her article says this:

 

When your kids tell you you’re mean, take it as a compliment. The rising generation have been called the laziest, rudest, most entitled kids in history. Don’t give up. They may think you’re mean now, but they’ll thank you later.

 

This is not something new.  Every generation has called the one rising up behind them the laziest, rudest, most entitled kids in history.  Every generation has shaken their collective heads and lamented “the problem with kids these days.” This has been going on forever.  So I don’t believe for a second this idea that this particular generation is worse in some way than the ones that came before it.  But even if it was?  The answer is kindness and compassion…. not a renewed effort to be more “mean.”

 

1. Make your kids go to bed at a reasonable time.  Is there really anyone who hasn’t heard how important a good night’s rest is to a child’s success? Be the parent and put your kid to bed.

 

My version:  Help your kids learn to respect their bodies’ cues for tiredness (as well as hunger, thirst, etc) and make your home and their environment one that’s conducive to rest.   A good night’s rest IS important. This much is true.  But what that looks like is different for each child, just as it is for each adult.  Is “making” your child go to bed before he/she is ready, and possibly turning it into a point of contention, going to instill in them a healthy relationship with sleep in the future?  Sleep should be something pleasant, something that’s looked forward to at the end of the day… not something to be put into your “mean” arsenal. Work with your child on this, not against him.  As homeschoolers, we’re fortunate in that we can accommodate everyone’s sleep schedule’s, even if they’re not conventional.  But even in families where kids go to school, sleep can – and should! – be approached kindly, respectfully, and keeping each individual’s unique needs in mind.

 

 

2. Don’t give your kids dessert every day. Sweets should be saved for special occasions. That’s what makes them a “treat.” If you give in to your child’s demands for goodies all the time, he won’t appreciate the gesture when someone offers a sweet gift or reward.

 

My version:  Enjoy your desserts, whenever you may have them.  Food should not be an area of contention either.  It makes me nervous (both as a gentle parent and as a nutritional consultant) when I see people making rules about when/why/how often certain foods should be eaten.  It’s a good way to set up a lifelong unhealthy and unbalanced relationship with food.   A cookie’s just a cookie.  We don’t have dessert every day, but not because of any house rules against it.  We just don’t want it every day.  And when we do want it?  We have it, even if we just had it the night before.  If we’re craving brownies, we bake some.  If we want ice cream, we go out and get it.  If one of my kids asked to go to the dollar store for some Red Vines, I’d drive them.  Most of our daily diet consists of things like fish, fresh fruit, veggies, nuts and yogurt.  I’m certainly not going to stress out over some sweets.  As for “giving in to “demands”"?  There’s no “demanding” going on here.  Requests occasionally?  Sure.  And their requests are as respected as mine and my husband’s.  And yes, they still very much appreciate the gesture when someone offers a gift… a sweet one or otherwise.

 

3. Make them pay for their own stuff. If you want something, you have to pay for it. That’s the way adult life works.

 

My version:  Empower them and help them pay for their own stuff.   Again with the word, “make.”  This is the second of five times that she uses that phrase, “Make them…”  Kids don’t need to be made to spend or save their own money in order to learn about it.  All four of our kids get some money every other week, on payday.  It’s theirs, to save or spend as they see fit.  We buy them things that they’re wanting or needing as we are able, but they love knowing that they can buy their own things as well, whether it’s a $1.50 soda from the drug store, or a pair of $60 headphones for their computer.  All four of them have healthy relationships with money, enjoy both saving and spending, and take pride of ownership in the things that they’ve purchased on their own.

 

4. Don’t pull strings. Some kids get a rude awakening when they get a job and realize that the rules actually do apply to them.

 

My version:  When faced with a difficult or less than ideal situation, model for your children the best ways to handle it.    I have to admit, I found this one a little…. odd.  Adults pull strings and use contacts for themselves all the time, and the ones that I know are pretty darn proud of it too.  But if it’s not something you want for your child, don’t do it yourself.  As for whether or not it’s the right or wrong thing to do?  I guess it would depend on the person and the circumstance.   I do know this though:  If I’m ever put in a position of being able to help my kids, or purposely stay out of it for no other reason than to “teach them a lesson”, I will help them.  Every time. If they’re not doing something that’s damaging to themselves or others, I’m on their side.

 

5. Make them do hard things. Don’t automatically step-in and take over when things get hard. Nothing gives your kids a bigger self-confidence boost than sticking to it and accomplishing something difficult.

 

My version:  Encourage and support them when they’re faced with hard things.   Sticking with something and accomplishing a personal goal are powerful things indeed.  But again, kids don’t need to be “made” to do them. Confident and well-adjusted kids do hard things all on our their own… when it is important to them.  Our job as parents is to encourage them and cheer them on, and let them see us determinedly pursuing our own goals as well.

 

6. Give them a watch and an alarm clock. Your child will be better off if he learns the responsibility of managing his own time. You’re not always going to be there to remind her to turn off the TV and get ready to go.

 

My version:  Give them a watch and an alarm clock.  Sure, why not?  They’re useful tools when kids are wanting and able to learn to use them.  They are not, however, behavior modification tools.   Both my older boys have started using alarms for various reasons, all on their own… whether they want to adjust their sleep schedules, get up at a certain time because they need to be somewhere, or meet a friend for a Skype or Minecraft date.

 

7. Don’t always buy the latest and greatest. Teach your children gratitude for, and satisfaction with, the things they have. Always worrying about the next big thing and who already has it will lead to a lifetime of debt and unhappiness.

 

My version:  To this one, I would only add…. if you can’t afford it.  Living to simply “keep up with Joneses” is a sad (and futile) way to live for sure.  There’s always going to be someone with more.  And going into debt to get the next best thing is most definitely not a legacy you want to pass down to your children.  But your own attitude towards money and possessions and “stuff”, and your own gratitude and appreciation for what you have is going to make a far bigger impact on your kids than what you do or do not have in the way of belongings.

 

8. Let them feel loss. If your child breaks a toy, don’t replace it. He’ll learn a valuable lesson about taking care of his stuff.

 

My version:  When your child feels loss, commiserate with him.  My very first thought upon reading this one was, “As a parent, do you not replace your things when they break?”  Accidents happen.  I know first hand the sadness and frustration when a treasured item is broken or ruined, whether it was due to carelessness or just plain rotten luck.   It feels terrible!  When it’s happened to me as an adult, I’ve replaced the item when I was financially able, and took even greater care with the new one.  I give my kids the same consideration.  The lesson doesn’t lie in deliberately depriving him of replacing it…. the lesson happened as soon as it broke.

 

9. Control media. If all the other parents let their child jump off a bridge, would you? Don’t let your kids watch a show or play a video game that is inappropriate for children just because all their friends have done it.

 

My version:  Make informed and conscientious decisions for and with your children.   I would never do or not do something based on what other parents are doing.  The author and I agree on that point completely.  But all kids are different.  All families are different.  What might be “inappropriate” for one child could be totally benign to another.

 

10. Make them apologize. If your child does something wrong, make her fess up and face the consequences. Don’t brush rudeness, bullying or dishonesty under the rug.

 

My version:  Apologize.  You know how kids learn to sincerely apologize?  When someone they love and looks up to sincerely apologizes.  You know how kids learn not to be rude,  bullying, or dishonest? When they have parents who don’t display things such as rudeness, bullying, and dishonesty.

 

11. Mind their manners. Even small children can learn the basics of how to treat another human with respect and dignity.

 

My version:  Mind YOUR manners.   Say please and thank you.  Say excuse me.  Apologize when it’s warranted. Be kind and polite to strangers and family members alike.  Treat others with respect.   Children who live among people with good manners, LEARN good manners.

 

12. Make them work — for free. Whether it’s helping Grandma in the garden or volunteering to tutor younger kids, make service a part of your child’s life.

 

Oh, this makes me sad.  My version:  Show them what service to others looks like.  If you want your children to develop a spirit of giving (and I want that for my kids too!)  LIVE it.  Let them help you help others.  Do kind things for them and with them.  Look for ways to bless other people.  If you make it a way of life, they will learn it.  If you make them work for others, you deny them the opportunity to do it of their own volition.

And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my kids, it’s that they have huge, huge hearts.   Sometimes we get – and need! – to just stand back and watch them use them.


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  1. Sherri

    Great article! Loved your responses!

  2. Kara

    Your version is exactly what my husband and I are trying to accomplish in our house hold of 5. In the past we have been teetering between “making” and “asking” so we want to work our way to always being kind, showing respect and asking them what they think the right choice would be. We don’t want to be demanding and all knowing. We can grow and learn from each other. Thank you for this article. It has given me hope!

  3. dawnrosanne

    You have some wonderful insights here. I love “a cookie is just a cookie.” :) Thanks for making my night!

  4. Shalom

    Thank-you! I am new to unschooling and gentle parenting, and sometimes
    it’s difficult for me to put my finger on why something doesn’t sit
    right with me. I had seen this list and it was one of those things I
    couldn’t quite articulate. Thank-you for helping me navigate through it!

  5. Evi Pappa

    Your responses ROCK!!! I dont get people who write these kind of articles …Make them do this ..make them do that ….They lose the actual connection WITH their children !! I also write articles in Greek about positive parenting…I get a lot of people saying all the above I’ll certainly use your way of thinking thank you!!!

  6. Jen

    I loved this! I have seen the ‘mean mom’ thing going around on facebook and I have always tried to be the parent who sets and example by ‘walking the walk’, not ‘talking the talk’..I’m so thankful that there are other ‘not so mean’ moms out there!

    1. Jeanette

      Exactly! – “walking the walk” not “talking the talk.”

  7. Leah

    Yes yes yes yes yes! I have 2 awesome teenagers, who are nearly fully grown adults now, and your approach is EXACTLY how I’ve raised them. They are kind, patient, polite, respectful, smart and skilled in the things that genuinely interest them. Their teachers have always adored them and often select them to “help” the rest of the class. Over the years, people have asked me what my secret is. While I had to enforce some very certain boundaries when they were little, usually pertaining to respect for others, I have always striven to model what I hope they will learn. In addition to raising some awesome kids, guess what, I grew too!

    1. Leah

      I should add that I was raised with a “tough love” approach and can attest that this method can be quite damaging. Ie: I have absolutely no relationship with the living members of my biological family. This is per my choice. I do love them all; but from afar… from a very very far. Like any new mother, I was full of doubt when raising my kids. But they are so wonderful, it just fills my heart with love and amazement. Hang in there, mommas and poppas. <3

      1. Jeanette

        I can also attest the “tough love” approach can be damaging, but we can take pride in knowing we broke that cycle and raised wonderful children.

  8. Courageous Jane

    Well written. I’ve got one child in particular who is what we call a “second shifter.” She’s always been my night owl, and even if she’s made to go her room early, she isn’t able to go to sleep any earlier. And if she’s forced to get up earlier than when her body says it’s done sleeping, she still doesn’t function well. However, sometimes she chooses to set her alarm and get up early (we also homeschool), and on those days, she bounds out of bed and is cheerful and efficient and a joy to be around. I have another daughter who put herself to bed every night at 9:00 (she went to public school) because that’s when she was ready to go to sleep. She did this right up to her college days. Also, I’ve been known to say often, “You’re going to have to make your own decision on that.” This might involve spending money, watching a certain show or movie, or managing their time. They have learned to respect my point of view without feeling limited in their choices.

  9. Alyssa

    This was EXACTLY the post I needed tonight! It was another night of fighting to put the kids today, a day where I’ve felt I’ve been the mean mom. I found myself asking myself tonight, “Why? Is this necessary? Is there a better way?” Obviously yes. It’s not like that ALL the time. But reading this just cemented in my brain how hard I make things by creating an ‘us’ (parents) vs. ‘them’ (kids) mentality when we should be a great big loving happy team! That’s really what I want. To be kind. Thanks.

    1. Alyssa

      *to bed* I meant to say. ;)

  10. Kevin

    I really enjoyed this article. I actually ended up creating my own blog entry on this topic because I was inspired by what you wrote. I am including the link to my blog entry, and if you would be so kind, let me know what you think of my own experience.
    http://kevinthinking.blogspot.com/2013/11/how-to-punish-children-my-thoughts.html

  11. Jeanette

    Yes, yes, yes!!! I love how you close with you’ve learned from your kids “that they have huge, huge hearts”. I truly feel my daughter has taught me to be a better person, and I am often in awe of how gracious and forgiving she can be. She conducts herself with dignity, and I’ve been told she has a pure soul. Guess what? I was raised by a mean mom, and I wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I tried my hardest to break that type of parenting cycle. I’m also trying my best to incorporate kindness into my daily living because I want to be a positive role model. I want my daughter to be proud to call me her mom, just as I am proud (and blessed) to call her my daughter.

  12. Michael Runge

    I read the first paragraph and thought, “You missed the point.” Then I continued reading and realized that you missed the point. The author of the article is referring to being “mean” in the eyes of children. It’s the same kind of “mean” that I look back on and am grateful for because it wasn’t mean; it was love and it was preparation for what’s to come. Being all “love and kindness” is a great idea, but that’s very vague and often mishandled by well-meaning parents, leaving behind entitled, self-centered children. This article actually pisses me off because you intentionally (Yes, intentionally) left out the parts that don’t make your point and made it seem as if every one of the 12 points was wrong. You attempted to sound wise by turning many of the points back on the parent to model for their children, hoping the children will follow suit. You merely softened the language of many of these 12 points, making them seem not so “harsh” or “controlling.” They aren’t wrong. In fact, they’re spot on and (I would argue) exactly what is needed in parenting today. Straightforward and to the point. Not soft and vague.

    1. westcoastmama

      YOU missed the point. Language matters. How you frame your interactions with your children affects how you treat them. Treating children with loving kindness does NOT raise self centered children. Bullying our children and breaking down connection and trust does. It IS wisdom to lead by example – this doesn’t mean not having boundaries or following through. We can still have healthy boundaries with our children without shaming, isolating or hitting them. What is not straightforward about leading with empathy and building trust? How sad for you and your family that you do not understand this.

      1. Michael Runge

        Yeah, I wish I didn’t even read this response. I’ll save us both time and let it alone. Thanks for the dose of shame and condescension when you don’t have a clue as to who I am or how I actually parent day-to-day. That’s really appreciated.(this is written sarcastically)

    2. Lizzy

      “I read the first paragraph and thought, “You missed the point.” Then I
      continued reading and realized that you missed the point.”

      ~ I read your response once and thought “You’re full of crap.” Then I read it again and realized that you’re full of crap.

      “The author of the article is referring to being “mean” in the eyes of children.”

      ~ Splitting hairs. If something is so ‘in the eyes of children’ does that automatically render it invalid?

      “It’s the same kind of “mean” that I look back on and am grateful for
      because it wasn’t mean; it was love and it was preparation for what’s to come. ”

      ~ If this was indeed the case, I would want my child to understand that right at the time. Not in twenty years and I’m sure Jennifer would agree with me. Open communication – we dig it.

      “Being all “love and kindness” is a great idea, but that’s very vague and
      often mishandled by well-meaning parents,”

      ~ In what manner of speaking is it ‘mishandled’? What was vague about Jennifer’s response? Language matters. How you frame your interactions with your children is important. If you can guide and set limits in a ‘love and kindness’ way then all the better I think. (Sorry for stealing a quote from you westcoastmama I just thought it was wonderful)

      “Leaving behind entitled, self-centered children.”

      ~ This is a logical fallacy. You begin with an erroneous statement which leads you to an erroneous conclusion.

      “This article actually pisses me off because you intentionally (Yes, intentionally) left out the parts that don’t make your point and made it seem as if every one of the 12 points was wrong.”

      ~ People see what they want to see in things like this – making out that Jennifer is misrepresenting the facts makes it easier to dismiss her message. This is another logical fallacy.

      In any case I don’t think you’ve quite got it, I believe this author had a specific point to make, she intentionally cut out much of what she would have just agreed with and what was unnecessary and accessorial in order to get to the meat of what she was trying to explain. She was pointing out a problem with the overall tone of the original piece the “make them, force them, who care what they think?” attitude so typical of traditionalist parenting.

      As it tends to go with this author (going from what I’ve read of hers), she is not exactly trying to make it seem like ‘all dissenting points are wrong’ she is trying to show that there is a better way.

      Also I’d make the point that a lot of the scenarios mentioned in the original article aren’t even applicable to her family (her kids are home-schooled after all) she would have just wasted time pointing out that it wasn’t relevant. Did you ever think of that? That she was being economical with her points rather than being dishonest?

      “You attempted to sound wise by turning many of the points back on the parent to model for their children, hoping the children will follow suit.”

      ~ Yes. What’s your point?

      “You merely softened the language of many of these 12 points, making them seem not so “harsh” or “controlling.”

      ~ Again, yes. What’s your point? This is a good thing, you don’t
      seem to realise. I’ll repeat quote westcoastmama again; Language matters. How you frame your interactions with your children is important.

      “They aren’t wrong. In fact, they’re spot on and (I would argue) exactly what is needed in parenting today.”

      ~ I don’t entirely disagree with you here. The points made by the OP are generally okay in substance, the attitude with which they are presented (with little regard for the kids themselves, alarmist, slippery slope, sanctimonious)needs a little tweaking. That’s exactly what was done here.

      “Straightforward and to the point. Not soft and vague.”

      ~ Please point out exactly what was vague about Jennifer’s point by point, clearly set out, logical, reasoned and frank refutation? I’m sure she’d be willing to make edits if you can actually bring yourself to make a specific criticism rather than a vague negation of the post as a whole simply because it strikes a nerve.

      1. Michael Runge

        Let’s number these since you decided to tackle this point-by-point.

        1. It’s most certainly not splitting hairs. Through the eyes of a child, a shadow can be a monster. It doesn’t make their viewpoint invalid,
        but it also doesn’t make the shadow a monster.

        2. Let me be clear. I did not just now realize that my parents were doing what was best for me. I knew they were kind and loving all along, but sometimes they did things that seemed kind of mean to me at the time. I recognize now, with a little more experience and wisdom, that what I perceived as “mean” was actually them looking out for me.

        3. Perhaps I got carried away with the “love and kindness” kick. Many times parents will want to just give their kids everything they never had as a child. They will want to be their best friend. The problem is that giving them everything they want will almost inevitably turn them into a lazy, entitled adult. Being their best friend isn’t necessarily wrong, but parents should recognize that their primary role is as a parent, curbing and guiding their children while helping them grow as individuals.

        4. The fallacy is not there as you perceive it to be. The logic works like this, follow along if you will: If parents mishandle the love and
        kindness as I mentioned in point 3, their children WILL end up entitled and self-centered. I see it in action on a regular basis in my profession.

        5. When she titles the article with words like “opted out,” it leads one to believe that she is negating the entire article and that the entire thing needs to be revamped. The “mean mom” perhaps
        left out a lot of things that this author “adds,” but by the same token, leaving those things out does not mean they don’t play a part. Nowhere in the article did the “mean mom” say “Who care what they think?” I know you are pointing out an attitude, but if you do that, recognize the WHOLE attitude; don’t just cherry-pick. “With all the time you spend being mean, don’t forget to praise and reward your children for their stellar behavior. And always, make sure they know you love them.”

        6. My point is that the article was written with a title designed to render the original article invalid, but all that was said was to basically “model actions and attitudes instead of forcing them.” The biggest problem I have with her saying that is that anyone who wants to see these actions and attitudes in their children will almost inevitably be modeling them. If they are not, why would they care if their kids are? I could be wrong on that, but it seemed like a bit of a given.

        7. How you frame your interactions is very important, but softening the language doesn’t accomplish anything more than the original article. Sometimes you need to “make your kids go to bed at a reasonable time” BEFORE they are ready for bed. When you center decisions like this around what your kids want to do, your kids will begin to control the household a little more. It’s a fine line and you need to be cautious, whether it involves giving your child more autonomy (great thing to do little by little) or making your rugrats go to bed at 7:30 because they haven’t taken a nap and need the sleep. The language of these 12 points needs to be harsh because the alternative is what has been hurting the current generation (Generation Z?).

        8. I am not sure you completely understand the attitude presented in the “mean mom” article, especially when she ends it with the paragraph I posted in point 5: “With all the time you spend being mean, don’t forget to praise and reward your children for their stellar behavior. And always, make sure they know you love them. Here are 10 things a mom should tell her kids every day.” I feel like you are (both) greatly exaggerating the “negative tone” in the original article. Granted, “don’t give them,” is a negative statement because of the word, “not,” but it’s actually a pretty darn good idea to not give children desserts every day, pull strings for them, or buy them the latest and greatest. Scientific research supports this, though I do not have the sources for that on hand right now. I will gladly present resources for the research if you wish. Just ask.

        9. It doesn’t make sense to say I’m vague in using the word “vague.” Besides, it’s a continuation of the previous thought. What is needed in parenting today is straightforward and to the point tips, not softened language or vague ideas.

        1. Lizzy

          “It’s most certainly not splitting hairs. Through the eyes of a child, a shadow can be a monster. It doesn’t make their
          viewpoint invalid, but it also doesn’t make the shadow a monster.”

          ~ But it doesn’t invalidate the fears does it? Would you just ignore a child that says he sees a monster in the shadowy parts of his room? I wouldn’t.
          The feeling needs to be addressed regardless of its seeming preposterousness. And I didn’t claim a child’s perception is always accurate I said it was valid.

          “Let me be clear. I did not just now realize that my parents were doing what was best for me. I knew they were kind and loving all along, but sometimes they did things that seemed kind of mean to me at the time.”

          ~ And my point was they didn’t have to ‘seem kind of mean’ it wasn’t unavoidable. How far was the limit explained? How much were your objections heard? Did they empathize with your upset?

          “I recognize now, with a little more experience and wisdom, that what I perceived as “mean” was actually them looking out for me.”

          ~ Let ME be clear now, I’m under no misconceptions that life with kids will always be sunshine and roses sometimes I’m going to set boundaries they’re not happy with. But I would never be okay with us going to bed as enemies – we’d talk through the night if that’s what it took to understand. I’d do the same thing for my partner, for a friend, for anyone else I loved and if after all my
          best efforts it turned out they were just gonna hate me for a little while? Okay. I’ve had friends call my all sorts of uncomplimentary things because I
          went to drastic lengths to protect them. But their safety was always more important, it wasn’t about me – I had to let them get the rage out. But I’d expect our reconciliation to be a lot sooner than “when you’re older” or
          whatever the line is now. Because that’s how communication goes

          “Perhaps I got carried away with the “love and kindness” kick. Many times parents will want to just give their kids everything they never had as a child.”

          ~ Yep. That’s a real problem with the OP’s pet brand of parenting – it creates adults who either have to work of the resentments of the past on their children
          (repeating their parents actions ad nauseum) or go to the other extreme and lose things that actually hold merit (overly controlled kids become permissive parents) Please, don’t take this as a criticism – that’s not my style and if it comes across that way I apologize.

          “They will want to be their best friend.”

          ~ A friend is literally defined as ‘a
          person with whom one has a mutual bond of affection’ why wouldn’t you want to
          be that to your child? I decry the fake kind of approval seeking friendship (think Mean Girls – the film) just as much as you, but a deep bond of mutual respect and
          affection with my child? Yes Please!

          “The problem is that giving them everything they want will almost inevitably turn them into a lazy, entitled adult.”

          ~ I agree with you here. Sort of. I don’t think it’s necessarily ‘giving
          children everything they want’ that will make them ‘lazy and entitled’ but making them believe they can have whatever they want at the expense of others.
          That’s an important distinction.

          “Being their best friend isn’t necessarily wrong, but parents should recognize that their primary role is as a parent, curbing and guiding their children while helping them grow as individuals.”

          ~ As I have outlined above, I don’t think the two roles are so mutually
          exclusive. Other than that, we are in agreement on this point.

          “The fallacy is not there as you perceive it to be. The logic works like this, follow along if you will: If parents mishandle the love and kindness as I mentioned in point 3, their children WILL end up entitled and self-centered. I see it in action on a regular basis in my
          profession.”

          ~ How does one ‘mishandle’ love? If you mean crippling a child by never allowing him to think for himself, doing everything for him and making him believe he is entitled to things at the expense of others ‘spoiling’ in other
          words…then I’d argue that’s a parent acting out of fear, or laziness.

          “When she titles the article with words like “opted out,” it leads one to believe that she is negating the entire article and that the entire thing needs to be revamped.”

          ~ I really think you’re reading too much into that. It didn’t come off that way to me at all – the OP’s article is the one with an imperative in the title
          after all. Jennifer’s is a more personal post.

          “The “mean mom” perhaps left out a lot of things that this author “adds,” but by the same token,
          leaving those things out does not mean they don’t play a part.”

          ~ I’m not quite sure what you mean by this, could you clarify?

          “Nowhere in the article did the “mean mom” say “Who care what they think?” I know you are pointing out an attitude, but if you do that, recognize the WHOLE attitude; don’t just cherry-pick. “With all the time you spend being mean, don’t forget to
          praise and reward your children for their stellar behavior. And always, make sure they know you love them.”

          ~ It was never my intention to cherry-pick but perhaps I should have been more explicit. The ‘who cares what they think’ attitude is still there, the positive caveat at the end is just the carrot to the hitherto mentioned stick it’s still there as a means of controlling the child. In conjunction with the
          parentally imposed rules there is no consideration of the child’s feelings or opinions. For instance; the parent’s idea of ‘a reasonable hour’ may not be the
          same as the child’s – the OP doesn’t say anything about hearing out a child’s
          objections.

          Number four in particular resonates with me – when I was in secondary school
          I disliked my Drama teacher and with good reason. She was quite foul to me, I was a sensitive little thing (still am) and my interest in drama a subject I had previously loved began to drop. Time came I had to do a practical exam – a short performance – in front of my classmates in that teachers class, I didn’t understand exactly what the exam entailed to I did what the OP suggests “made
          the most of a difficult situation” and sought her out in the staff room after class only to be sternly put down and told flatly I should have asked her in class. She gave me no help and I left the encounter even more confused than I had been before. The next Monday I pretended to be sick, my Mum probably knew
          this – but she let me stay off school anyway until after the exam. And I can tell you I have never felt more loved. I would have struggled and failed in
          front of that class. Was that pulling strings on my Mum’s part? Was she setting me up for failure? I don’t think so. I’ve done pretty well for myself all things considered.

          This supports my point, there was a lot missing from the original argument – and I think it was this, the acknowledgement that harshness is maybe not the best parenting strategy. Maybe instead you should just be perceptive to your child’s needs.

          “My point is that the article was written with a title designed to render the original article invalid, but all that was said was to basically “model actions and attitudes instead of forcing
          them.”

          ~ You must have read a different response to me. The title of Jennifer’s article was entitled “How (and why) I opted out of being the meanest mom in the world” it was a personal confutation. She didn’t say “This
          is how I did it and why you should to.” But maybe you felt it was implied. I didn’t see it.

          And she gave a wealth of responses, some of them came
          down to “model actions and attitudes” some of them were more “talk to your kids, communicate with them, guide them with love”

          “The biggest problem I have with her saying that is that anyone who wants to see these actions and attitudes in their children will almost inevitably be modeling them. If they are not, why would
          they care if their kids are? I could be wrong on that, but it seemed like a bit of a given.”

          ~ I think what you’ve picked up on here is in response to a big problem I have with the original article which is the insidious implication that kids *must be forced* into learning these good habits, as though somehow modelling is not enough. Much of what is laid out in the original
          article ‘make them, force them’ could very well be accomplished through a combination of modelling and discussion. I’m happy to be more specific if you like.

          “How you frame your interactions is very important, but softening the language doesn’t accomplish anything more than the original article.”

          ~ Of course it does. Harsh language gets people’s hackles up, it makes the reader defensive – soften up and you might find people a little more willing to
          listen. Wouldn’t you be more receptive to my words if I was kind and gentle to you rather than harsh with my language?

          “Sometimes you need to “make your kids go to bed at a reasonable time” BEFORE they are ready for bed.”

          ~ Or conversely you could sidestep the bedtime battles altogether and give your kids the chance to learn how to regulate themselves. When staying up late
          isn’t dangled over a child’s head as some kind of special treat they don’t have the urge to ‘over-indulge’ stay-up just to for the sake of staying up. If that’s still too “vague” for you to cope with, instead of “make your kids go to
          bed at a reasonable time” turn the bedtime ritual into a bonding opportunity – time for a cuddle, a song or a special story? Something sacred that’s just for
          bedtime. Make it something kids look forward to and have lots of winding down time before hand. No ‘make them’ necessary – lots more effort for the parent but I don’t know about you but I don’t make my childcare decisions based on what’s going to be easiest for me.

          “When you center decisions like this around what your kids want to do, your kids will begin to control the household a
          little more.”

          ~ Bit of a leap don’t you think? The household doesn’t just grind to a halt because kiddie doesn’t want to go to bed at the time I chose for her. I can –
          wait for it, it’s radical – make my own decisions alongside my child. I will say something like “Hey I just yawned, and my eyes are all heavy. I think my body’s telling me I’m tired. Time for bed for me. Does your body feel tired?”
          Keep this kind of communication up consistently right from the start and you will have accomplished what Jennifer advises “Help your kids learn to respect their bodies’ cues for tiredness”

          “It’s a fine line and you need to be
          cautious, whether it involves giving your child more autonomy (great thing to do little by little) or making your rugrats go to bed at 7:30 because they haven’t taken a nap and need the sleep.”

          ~ I still fail to see why this needs to be a ‘making them’ situation. If my ‘rugrat’ is crabby and overtired because he’s missed his nap what’s wrong with saying a gentle “Sweetie I see how tired you are. Come lie down next to me and I’ll rub your back and you will feel better soon.” I know they need the sleep, if I can help get them to comply peacefully and gently (and I pmuch always can)
          where is the need for force?

          I don’t want my kids to turn out like young adult me – chronic insomnia because no one was there to force me to go to bed and I’d never learned how to
          switch myself off. (Mild tech addiction may also have played a role ;-)

          “The language of these 12 points needs to be harsh because the alternative is what has been hurting the current generation (Generation Z?)”

          ~ I couldn’t disagree more. And I think it’s Gen Y? Or is it X? Really your guess is as good as mine :D

          “I am not sure you completely understand the attitude presented in the “mean mom” article, especially when she ends it with the paragraph I posted in point 5: “With all the time you spend being mean, don’t forget to praise and reward your children for their
          stellar behavior. And always, make sure they know you love them. Here are 10 things a mom should tell her kids every day.”

          ~ I’ve already been over this – above ^

          “I feel like you are (both) greatly
          exaggerating the “negative tone” in the original article. Granted,
          “don’t give them,” is a negative statement because of the word,
          “not,” But it’s actually a pretty darn good idea to not give children desserts every day, pull strings for them, or buy them the latest and greatest. Scientific research supports this, though I do not have the sources for that on hand right now. I will gladly present resources for the research if you wish. Just ask.”

          ~ I don’t need to ask thanks very much. I’m aware of the research. Where did you get the impression I wasn’t? And I think you are putting too much energy into taking issue with Jennifer’s response – what is wrong with reframing mostly good advice in a positive way? I object to the notion that the only way kids can form good habits is by being forced and denied.

          What’s better than flatly refusing to buy the latest and greatest? Turn of the TV. Insidious advertisers crawl inside kids heads and make them believe they can’t be happy if they don’t have the next big thing. Spend time with them create worthwhile memories so they understand from experience that some things
          are more important than material items. Is that specific enough?

          Exerting force always creates pushback – I don’t like being controlled, why should kids?

          “It doesn’t make sense to say I’m vague in using the word “vague.” Besides, it’s a continuation of the previous thought. What is needed in parenting today is straightforward and to the point
          tips, not softened language or vague ideas.”

          ~ Fine. I take your point here. But I object to the implication that the
          only ‘straightforward and to the point tips’ available are ‘force your kids to do this’ ‘make your kids do that’

          (It’s 3:00 AM over here now so I think I’ll leave it there – sorry about any format weirdness Disqus really doesn’t like me)

          1. Michael Runge

            I’m not responding to this. Sorry if that disappoints you, but you wrote 6 pages in response. That, along with point-by-point tearing down of a response doesn’t exactly invite dialogue, if you ask me.

            I don’t have the time to continue defending the points I’ve made. You are welcome to read them as you will. I’m fine with that. I think a lot of what you and I are saying comes down to semantics. It’s not necessarily that we believe different things, but rather that we put more weight into different areas. That can cause one to find “error” when there isn’t necessarily something wrong. Those are my thoughts. That’s all.

          2. Lizzy

            How would you have preferred I respond? Any less than point by point and you would have claimed I was being too vague. Read what I’ve written or don’t, I didn’t really expect a response least of all one made just to minimise my objection and assure me I’m being melodramatic. Very little of what you and I are saying is mere semantics, we’re talking about entirely different ways to relate to our children. But you believe what you will. This isn’t the first time I’ve been accused of writing too much in response to something well I would rather be comprehensive than insubstantial and I apologise if I put you out.

  13. Julie

    I love they way you look at each point in a positive light and that your blog is full of opinions on the best way to do things. The world is full of people with different philosophies and I greatly admire yours. It’s too bad you have been discouraged by negative comments, but I’m sure you’re already thinking about those you have influenced in a positive way and are now much better parents for it.
    Julie
    http://highhillhomeschool.blogspot.com

  14. Meli B.

    I tend to be the mean mommy. I read your article to see both sides and you know what? I agree with most of what you are saying. I think both views are working toward the same goals, you just have a more gentle way of putting it and looking at it. Bravo! Gave me something to chew on, mentally.

  15. Helga Loncosky

    I came from a home with tough love. You know what? It was perfect for me. I was also home schooled. But I was a strong willed kid and frankly, I would have walked all over someone like you. I look back on how wise my folks were with me and we have a deep bond as a family, and with my brothers as well. We all learned to do everything, worked hard, earned our stuff and took care of it. You didn’t treat things badly or break it because there simply wasn’t any money for more. I grew up on a farm but my parents also had a newspaper business. Long hours but learned an awful lot by an early age that allowed me to succeed far beyond some of my peers. I think the tact you take depends much upon the child; there are very gentle souls that need your type. And even though tough, I never felt that I couldn’t go to them about things and discuss things. And I do not inherently believe in the goodness of children overall. I have seen some really rotten kids, and the problem is that it seems to spread like bad weeds in a beautiful garden. Leading by example is the most important of all and that is right. If you are respectful to others etc, that should show in your child. My parents and brothers are some of my best friends today besides being family.

  16. LKD

    Alfie Kohn has a wonderful new book out on the topic of the “mean” parenting trend. He is really a warrior for children and social justice, I like him a lot. I heard him on the radio and bought his book, “The Myth of the Spoiled Child.” I think the book is terrific, although the title is misleading. It is not so much about “spoiling” (which I think of as excessive consumerism and something we all do need to be more mindful of, myself included) but “indulgence.” He talked on the radio about how conservative talking points have infiltrated otherwise progressive, liberal households and people are swallowing this myth about “grit” and what makes us “better people.” it’s fascinating, but also scary. I completely agree that empathy and indulgence are NOT the same thing. i do think there are times when children need to be told that certain types of behavior are not acceptable, especially in the early years, like hitting and that sort of thing. They are primal creatures, as are adults, and they will engage in behavior that is normal that we need to gently and compassionately steer them away from by giving them the tools they need emotionally to find an outlet for their feelings. But this idea that children are somehow different from adults is backward, in fact, what adults need desperately, at this point as much as children because our society is so broken in this way, is MORE compassion and empathy. Children are born social creatures who very much want to follow example and engage in social behavior. Our culture strips them of their dignity in so many ways and then people do much hand-wringing over “how kids behave.” But they have gotten it backward. Kids behave in a certain way, for the most part, because we have told them they are separate and less than. My favorite analogy is the one of the tourist in a foreign country, how would you treat a person who is an adult, same as you or me, who happened to be from another country and didn’t know our customs? Would you yell at or punish or insult a foreigner who didn’t know how to use a bus pass in your city? No. Anyway, I recommend the Kohn book!

  17. Momofperfection

    All you did was reword the same points and in the same exact ‘meaning’ but with different words. You knew this was tongue and cheek, and quite humorous, but yet you felt you just had to try and make it a big to do about it and rewriting garbage. It was meant for humor. Let it go! Let it go! Let it goooooo!!!!!

  1. The Scattered Life Collective | Spirit Uncaged

    [...] I’m not the meanest Mom in the world either [...]

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