Who doesn’t look back on high school with a mixture of both fond memories, and ones that make us cringe? One morning in particular, I remember getting ready for school, hoping I could slip past my mom to the front door, where freedom awaited. I was only three feet away from the outside world when a loud, piercing voice stopped me in my tracks:
“Excuse me- where do you think you’re going young lady?” I paused.
“Wearing that? I don’t think so! Those aren’t even pants.” She chucked. “Did they have to paint those on?” All hope snatched away, I furrowed my brow and marched back to my room, knowing I had no choice but to exchange my super cute yoga pants for more “relaxed fit” attire. All I had left was to punish her for ruining my life.
“Mom,” I grumbled as I trudged through the door again, “you’re so mean.”
Especially during those rebellious years – I will never forget the many times I thought my mom was so mean! Looking back, of course, I now realize what a gift it actually was, and how badly every child needs a mean mom.
Now, just to clarify, by “mean,” I am in no way promoting abusive, dismissive, unkind or neglectful parenting. Rather, I am referring to healthy, loving boundaries. Moms should not be overly strict or hurtful, stifling their child’s creativity or discouraging their hearts. I am talking about the “meanness” of choosing tough love over taking the more comfortable route, where life is free of confrontation.
For example, your kids will feel you are “mean” when you have them write a thank you note, do their homework at the expense of their Friday night plans, or eat a healthy dinner before indulging on sweets. Mean is getting to know their friends, enforcing dinner times, bed times, and curfews. Mean moms don’t come up with excuses when loving boundaries cause their children discomfort – especially because most children are unable to see how boundaries are good for them.
Teaching them the valuable lesson of waiting and working hard for things will go a long way, to ultimately build up and strengthen a child’s character, giving them the opportunity to become a successful adult.
Do you feel that you could use a little more meanness as a mom? Here are a few tips that can help:
- Put them to work
*While we may have a plethora of excuses on this one, such as they don’t clean as well as you do, or that you might be robbing them of their childhood, keep in mind that you might actually be robbing them of a valuable lesson of a strong work ethic, by not enforcing regular household chores. This deficit will translate to their job someday, and a mom wants nothing more than to see her kids succeed at what they do – career included.
*Kids rise to our expectations. If you expect them to be lazy and apathetic, that’s what you’ll get. Remember to expect the best, and they will meet the challenge!
*Maintain consequences – i.e.: “no TV until your chores are done.” Be consistent when you make a plan, and stick to it!
*If they complain that it’s “too hard,” simply remind them they were made to do hard things.
- Let your kids fail
*Sadly, there are few winners and losers anymore in today’s circles. Rather, society’s soft message of “everyone is a winner” is doing more harm than good. Children need to learn how to overcome failure, not avoid it. Otherwise, they will be unable to do so as an adult, when it is too late to coach them through difficulties that arise.
* Studies show that children are more likely to succeed when parents and teachers reassure them that working hard — and failing — is a necessary part of how they learn something.
When was the last time you let your child fail, and suffer the consequences?
- Don’t let technology rule
*How do you know your child is addicted to something? By seeing how they respond when you ask them to put it away.
*Many moms agree that balancing technology and media is one of the biggest challenges in parenting. Studies show that the average child over age 8 spends an average of seven hours per day on media and technology. While lots of parents set rules limiting TV and computer time, they will still hand out smartphones to their kids, and think nothing of it. Mean moms don’t flinch when they hear excuses from safety reasons to “all the other kids have one.” Ask yourself if the benefits outweigh the downsides. There are many other alternatives, such as flip phones, that will keep your child just as safe, without the additional risks.
- Keep your word
*Remember, our goal as moms is to work ourselves out of a job. Giving chores and allowing room for failure is not mean. Following through on consequences for misbehavior is not mean – rather, it is one of the most loving things a mom can do for her child.