9 Reasons I (Still) Refuse To Be The Meanest Mom

Someone recently asked me when I was going to stop writing about not being the “mean mom.”  My answer?  As long as people keep writing articles glorifying being mean, I’ll keep writing about the alternative.

This one, published by Scary Mommy, was the latest one to come across my desk, but there is no shortage of others.  Be the mean mom, they tell us, not the nice mom.  Not the cool mom.  Not the friend.  In reading this one for a second time, I see and understand that it was written in a sort of tongue-in-cheek, humorous style.  And please understand, it’s not that I don’t have a good sense of humor.  I do.  (Ask my dog.  He thinks I’m freaking hysterical.)  I just don’t happen to find humor in disparaging kids, and in treating them as less than …. which is exactly what articles like this do.

The other side deserves to be heard.  The other side needs to be heard.  Here then are the author’s 9 reasons for being the mean mom, and my response from the other side.

1. I’m not your friend.  Not even close.

I say:  I will always be your friend… the best friend you could ever ask for.  I’ve written about being friends with my kids again and again.  And I’ll continue to do so.  For me, it’s pretty simple.  Friends are going to come and go, for a variety of reasons.  But as parents, we have the unique opportunity to be the friend that’s always there.  The trusted rock that our kids can count on… not just now, but for the rest of their lives.  I will proudly, unabashedly, always be that friend for my kids.  In fact I strongly believe that it’s one of my most important jobs when it comes to being a mother.

2.  I’m not here to be cool.  I’m here to raise cool kids.

This is one thing we may partially agree on.  Anyone who ever accused me of trying to be cool wouldn’t get very far.  I’m pretty much a big dork.  I’m socially awkward, I trip over air, and I laugh way harder than I should at “That’s what she said” jokes.  But I’m perfectly me, and I encourage my kids to be their own best selves too.  It’s not a zero sum game, where I have to be “mean mom” in order for my kids to be raised right (or whatever version of “right” that society deems appropriate).  I do my best to be kind, and respectful, and a person with integrity.  And guess what?  My kids are kind, and respectful, and people with integrity.  Who cares about cool?

3.  Because nagging works. 

Lots of things “work”, especially in the short term.  But that doesn’t mean that anything that works is the best choice, or the kindest choice.  Being a mom should be about the relationship.  Nagging doesn’t tend to be a great thing for relationships, and rightly so.  No one likes to be nagged.  Bottom line:  if I wouldn’t like it said – or done – to me, I don’t want to say or do it to my kids.

4.  I married a cool dad.

I think this is meant to be a take on the antiquated good cop/bad cop paradigm, where one parent needs to be the soft one, and the other the “heavy.”  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  My kids have a cool mom and a cool dad (or, at least, uncool in equal measure).  We are different, to be sure, because we are vastly different people.  But good and bad?  Nice and mean?  Nope.  We’re partners; both on the same team.

5.  It just plain works.

Didn’t we already do this one?  Sure, it works.  Know what else works?  Being nice.

6.  It takes a village, except when the villagers are all too nice.

The author feels that a trip to the playground should carry with it a mandatory contract that reads, “If you see another kid being an asshole, don’t hesitate. Say something.”  Gah.  Again with the calling kids assholes.  So here’s the thing:  There seems to be a false dichotomy that states that there are exactly two ways for parenting (and by extension, society) to operate.  1) Parents are “mean”, children behave, and there is order and harmony in all the land.  Or 2) Parents are too nice (ie: pushovers) children run wild, and chaos and bedlam reign supreme.  But there are other options.  Yup, sometimes it really does take a village.  And yup, sometimes a trip to the playground does require intervention involving another child and/or another parent.  I have been there.  But I’ve never met a situation that couldn’t be at least a little more quickly diffused, a little more softened, a little more pleasant for all involved… by being nice.  I don’t care who you are, young or old.  God knows we could use a little more “nice.”

7.  Kids will suck the nice right out of you.  Let them. 

We’re not born with a finite amount of “nice.”  If we are treating our kids kindly from a genuine place of love and respect (and not, for example, from a misplaced sense of martyrdom or insecurity), we literally never run out of niceness.  No one can suck it out of us.  No one can take it away.  In fact, it’s one of those emotional muscles that actually increases the more we use it.  I’ve been a parent for over 20 years, and I still manage to be nice to my kids.  I think I’ll even be able to be nice to them tomorrow.  Crazy! (But true.)  Even crazier?  My kids are nice to me, too!

8.  I refuse to raise little manipulators.

Oof.  Listen, it’s not that I think kids are perfect (they’re human), and it’s not that I don’t think kids – past a certain age – can’t manipulate (again, they’re human).  It’s just that 1) being nice to your kids doesn’t turn them into manipulators; 2) being mean doesn’t preclude it – in fact I think it increases the odds exponentially; 3) children, like all of us, tend to behave as well as they are treated; and 4) calling kids manipulators (and brats and assholes etcera) is tired and uncool and contributing to the problem.  Not solving it.  Look at it this way:  if someone was assuming the worst about you and calling you a name, would you be more or less likely to act pleasantly toward that person in the future?

9.  Still want to be cool?  Just wait until you’re the grandmother.

Nope, it’s not about being cool.  Not even a little bit.  It’s not about being liked.  It’s not even about being nice.  It’s about something far simpler.  It’s about treating my kids the way I’d like to be treated.  At the end of the day, I wouldn’t like it very much if an important person in my life measured their relational success against how mean they were to me.

In fact, I’d actually appreciate the opposite.


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Filed under gentle parenting, mindful parenting, parenting, rant, respect

8 Responses to 9 Reasons I (Still) Refuse To Be The Meanest Mom

  1. Amy

    Thank you for this! I can’t agree more. I’m in the homeschooling community, where there is definitely more of the mean mom attitude vs friend attitude. I grew up with the mean mom who then wanted to be friends when I was an adult. Nope. Too much mean history. We had a proper formal relationship, but we’re definitely not friends. Why would I want to repeat history?

  2. Mya

    Bravo! I totally agree with you. I’ve been a mom for over 30 years, and yes, nice works!

  3. Pam

    I have been the mean”ish” mom and then I recognized how damaging, disrespectful, and detrimental it really was.

    When I chose to do shift my perspective I was able to repair the damage but it was not quick or easy. I value the friendship I have with each of my children who range from 27-5. Mean is not necessary, ever, and it is not good parenting.

  4. Nicole

    Yes to this! My mom was also the mean mom and the manipulative mom and a whole slew of other negatives that I am trying to avoid. Not to say that I am perfect and I slip up often. However I am trying so very hard to be a little nicer and yell less often. Because first hand I can tell you that my mom is not my friend and actually she isn’t even in my life because her constant “meaness” continued into adulthood and was damaging all that it touched. The silver lining is that it made me think “there has to be a better way”


    I really like the friend one, but I think it needs a clarification. As parents we are REAL friends. Friends who care, friends who help, friends who want the best. We are not besties who just appease or give everything they ever wanted

    • jen

      Absolutely! I think it’s interesting, because so many of the people who spout the “Be the parent, not the friend!” are using the word “friend” in the context of someone who would use peer pressure to encourage you to do something dangerous or unhealthy, someone who just wants you to like them, someone who would basically not act in your best interest. But none of those things are actions of a real friend! I had a fellow parent once ask me for advice once about her teen having friends over and drinking alcohol in her presence. She said something to the effect of, “Well, I wasn’t going ask them to stop,” and seemed very surprised that I “of all people” said that I would have no problem asking them to stop. Being friends with my kids means that I am their cheerleader, I am their supporter, I am their soft place to fall, I am someone who will give them honest advice, and call them out on their BS when they need it. It does NOT mean that I will condone illegal or unsafe activity for minors in my own house.

  6. Bridget Devine

    I completely agree. The mean mommy is best narrative does seem to be taking hold and it is quite disheartening. I have raised 4 children and have lost my patience and made other mistakes but was never mean to them. A friend e
    Recently sent me a meme to the effect that once I’m a grandmother, I can let the children get away with murder and then send them back to mom. It kind of hurt my feelings that she thought this is how I saw grandparenhood.

  7. Walker

    Going off topic (and this may be a bit late mentioning this), but have you heard about the Daddy O 5 controversy on youtube? I thought it would be rather… interesting for you to cover, since it does involve parenting. It’s about a family who pull “pranks” on their children by verbally and even emotionally abusing them in the name of “comedy”. One kid is particular, Cody, receives most of the torment. All the videos are deleted on the main channel, but they can be found all over Youtube. I must warn that it can be a little hard to watch if you are interested in covering it.