Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Being A Mean Mom

Someone asked me today if I could give her lessons on how to be a mean mom. Yeah, like anybody really wants lessons. But she insists she does (because she loves our children). Here are some thoughts:

I had the meanest mom in the world. Really. She holds the title undisputedly. My mom had/has an absolute true north setting on morality (right vs. wrong). So I had the best example ever.

The term "mean mom" is synonymous with "Mother who loves her children." That means that I am not afraid to not be their pal and just be their mother--a mother who says no, quite often; a mother who tries to explain why, even when the answer is just, "Because I said so!"; a mother who expects her children to learn, grow, participate, and be responsible for items and tasks.

The term "mom" is not synonymous with "maid." There are some things that you have to let go, and others that are important to stress. But children need to know from the time they are very small that being part of a family has responsibility attached to it.

Children need to be allowed to make their own choices as much as possible. Let them dress themselves, even when they look like they've dressed themselves. But give them the consequences. When Briana was little she would not allow me to comb her hair. So I cut the front part off so it wouldn't be in her face. She dies a little now each time she sees pictures of herself at that time with what she calls her mullet haircut. OK, it was kind of a mullet. She tries to blame me, but I feel no guilt. If she had let me comb her hair, this would be a non-issue. As they get older, of course, the choices become more difficult, and so do the consequences. But if they have learned how to make choices while they are still small choices, they do much better at the larger choices.

Children need to know what is expected of them. You cannot mandate every action of every day. They need to be taught what it means to do a task thoroughly and correctly. They need to know what you believe is appropriate behavior. And they need to know that you expect excellence from them. They also need to be told that they are excellent, even when (and maybe ESPECIALLY when) they aren't being so great. I can't count how many times I've said, "You are a good boy (or girl)." I want them to expect that they are good and that I know they are good. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Children need to know they are loved and valued. It's important to show your love. I also think it's very important to verbally express your love, every single day. Hitting or hurting a child NEVER shows your love. Ever. Ideally, these things should not ever be used as a form of discipline. "Discipline" is not synonymous with "hurt." I do believe in touch, however. Children should be lovingly and appropriately touched every single day.

Children should never be allowed to undermine one of their parents. The greatest gift you can ever give your child is your love and respect for his or her other parent. I believe this is true, even if you are no longer with the other parent. Part of good parenting is not undermining your children's parents. My allegiance is to Spencer, and our children know it. There have been times when I've had to speak to Spencer privately about something I felt he did badly or wrong. There have been even more times when he's had to do that to me. But NEVER in front of our children. If I was wrong, I want to be the one to rectify it with our children and ask their forgiveness. I want to give their dad the same courtesy. I believe this only strengthens their respect for us. It also lessens the burden that eventually comes to us all when we realize that our parents are not perfect (who knew?).

I believe every family should laugh as much as they possibly can. I'm not talking about mocking each other or other people. I'm just talking about finding the humor, the goodness, and the joy in every day. I wasn't so good at this when our children were very small. I'm very good at it now (which just goes to show that there is always time to learn). But I don't believe parents should laugh at every "cute" thing their child does, because naughty isn't cute!

I'm no expert, and our children aren't perfect. How could they be, with such an imperfect mother? But I find and have found joy in our children every single day. I pray that one day (in the not-too-distant future) I will be able to say that our beloved grandchildren have very mean parents!


Coles Fam said...

What wonderful advice. I needed this today, to remind me it's ok to be the "mean mom". It's probably not too bad, because they seem to like me still (sometimes I think they love me too). Your kids are great. There must be something to this "mean mom" thing.

Jess said...

Oh man! I want to print this and hang it on my bathroom mirror to read everyday! You are incredible and frighteningly close to perfect (so don't downplay yourself!) Thanks for the great thoughts from a super great mom!

Jessica said...

You've got everything down... Jax was very blessed to live with you for a school year. You're exactly what a mom should be!

Jacqueline said...

I'm going to be a "mean mom" because I had a great example for awhile (you). :)

I understand that being mean means you love your children. You're the best and thanks so much for that post. I love it!!!

Amy said...

I'm framing this - or maybe vinyl lettering it..... :)