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How (and why) to be the meanest mom in the world

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  • Sunset Orem, UT
    Jan. 3, 2015 9:23 p.m.

    I take issue with the millennial bashing. The author said, "The rising generation has been called the laziest, rudest, most entitled kids in history." To whom can we attribute this quote? Ebenezer Scrooge? It's ignorant and untrue.

    Each established generation complains about the upcoming one. My grandmother has plenty to say about the baby boomers--you know the folks who run our dysfunctional government and greedy corporations. The very same who benefited from the best education system this world has ever seen because the taxpayers subsidized most of it but now are slashing school funding to the detriment of young people who are struggling with astronomical student debt. On the other hand, with all respect to my beloved grandmother, the "Greatest Generation" isn't unclean either, seeing as how it caused a severe worldwide economic collapse and produced the most destructive war in human history. Our Founding Fathers built us this great nation on the whipped backs of slaves and the bones of an entire civilization.

    The point is that no generation can presume to set itself morally above another. Young people have many flaws, as does everyone, but they also promise so much for the world.

  • Sunset Orem, UT
    Jan. 3, 2015 9:02 p.m.

    It's unfortunate that so many commenters here and parents everywhere conflate meanness with discipline, which is a mistake the author makes. To be fair, I get that she uses "mean" in quotations, using it tongue-in-cheek, but words do matter and we need to strive for precision in our discourse.

    Discipline is not the same thing as abuse, or authoritarianism, or terrorism. Yes, parents need to set boundaries and enforce rules. They need to learn when to say yes AND when to say no, but they shouldn't reflexively say no. Children are not property and parents are not masters. Children should not have to deal with adult issues or responsibilities, but they should have some freedom and sense of self-ownership. Compassion and discipline are NOT mutually exclusive but work best in each other's presence. Parenting is a lot like leadership. Leadership works in two ways: through fear or through inspiration. Both methods produce results, but only inspiration can foster lifelong relationships. (Again, don't conflate operating through fear with maintaining high expectations and allowing consequences to follow bad behavior.)

  • @J.S Layton, UT
    Jan. 3, 2015 5:20 p.m.

    I love how Elder Bednar teaches parents and leaders to "get out of the way" of their children's learning experiences. They need to put their own agency to test without being lectured all the time. He always emphasizes that most parents are more concerned about talking than listening.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    Jan. 6, 2014 7:16 p.m.

    Gentlemomma,

    Don't misinterprete "firm" with "mean" or neglectful. And no one is advocating yelling or disregarding a child's needs.

    You are right, we cannot hold our children to a standard adults could not maintain. But do not confuse gentleness with permissiveness. As an elementary school teacher who teaches over 600 kids a year, and as a mom of 5 well-adjusted young adults and teens, the children who have parents that are firm but loving are by far better adjusted and confident than those whose parents run to meet their every need.

    The Lord is very firm with us too and sometimes, no matter what we think our needs may be, he does allow us to cry ourselves to sleep. It is not because he is mean or only concerned with his needs but because he knows we need to learn hard lessons sometimes and easing our way won't accomplish that. In recorded scripture the Lord was kind and gentle with those who followed him, but he was also firm and blunt with them. He did not mince words and he set a very high standard - perfection.

  • ameanmomof3successfulkids Amarillo, TX
    Dec. 10, 2013 1:31 p.m.

    I think this article is fantastic. It's good, sound advice that my parents gave me and that I've always employed with my kids. Now that they are older and exhibit the character traits that this advice helps to instill, people ask me for advice when they want to know how I "got my kids to be so..." I don't understand all the negative comments. Some of them even bordering on disturbing and absurd.
    Thanks to the author for putting out the same advice that so many of us parents have been trying to follow in our desire to raise unselfish, kind, well-mannered, and grateful children!

  • colliemom56 tulsa, OK
    Dec. 6, 2013 4:33 p.m.

    Two words for young parents -- Love and limits. Your child will appreciate your guidance one day when you have consistently used both in good supply. Spend time with your child. Don't put them in front of a monitor or tv. My son didn't have a tv in his bedroom until he purchased one his junior year of high school using money he'd earned himself.

  • colliemom56 tulsa, OK
    Dec. 6, 2013 4:30 p.m.

    Two words -- love and limits. do these and you will be a great parent and your child will value your guidance....someday!

  • Gentlemomma Newton, KS
    Dec. 6, 2013 12:30 p.m.

    The fight over bedtime may be that the child just isn't tired yet or maybe wants just a few extra moments with the parent. We can not train our child not to need us whether it's in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. Their needs are real and valid, including the simple need of a humans touch. A "trained" child may give up on their needs being met, but the need is still there, just not the trust. I'm sure glad the Lord doesn't put me to bed and let me cry myself to sleep so that He can have some "me" time. Our children will learn soon enough that the world is full of mean, unfair, and firm words. Why not give our children a kind, fair, and gentle foundation? In return we may just get a kinder, fairer, gentler world.

  • Gentlemomma Newton, KS
    Dec. 6, 2013 12:30 p.m.

    The "tantrum" over a cookie at the grocery store may be that the child has been out shopping all day with mom. The child is tired, can sense the stress from mom (because she's tired too), and is hungry. By yelling at this child to stop crying you aren't just being mean (I wouldn't want anybody to treat me this way) you are telling the child that you don't care what they have to say and that you don't care about the way they feel. Often children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet we as adults have them all the time! None of us are perfect, and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection then us as adults can attain.

  • Gentlemomma Newton, KS
    Dec. 6, 2013 12:30 p.m.

    This article makes me sad. So often parents believe they have a right to be totalitarian just because they are the parent. People dismiss that a child is just a tiny adult with feelings, emotions, and opinions. These type of parents rush their children, label their communication of emotion as a tantrum, and ignore their cries for help. If all parents would only take the time to try see the situation from their child's perspective

  • gittalopctbi Glendale, AZ
    Nov. 25, 2013 9:57 a.m.

    It is apparent that there are some people who just can't take a good article for what it's worth. Some of the comments about "abuse" and the words "mean," "make," and "mom" and all other things that some take offense at--I just roll my eyes.

  • JDILIBERTO COLLINGSWOOD, NJ
    Nov. 22, 2013 10:41 a.m.

    A wise man once told me Love=Doing what's RIGHT and BEST for someone else. This article should really be titled "How to Love your kids". I have fallen short many times...but am finding that many parents today when given a choice...choose friendship with their child over parenthood. Our kids are dying...literally. Something needs to change.

  • hatsnboots Peterborough, 00
    Nov. 22, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    Why are so many offended by the word "make"? They are your CHILDREN. YOU are a parent. Not their best friend, uncle, aunt, grandparent, etc. P-A-R-E-N-T. "Asking" them to do things insinuates that they have the power. "Telling" them makes it clear that you are a parent, and avoids the problems mentioned here. Like temper tantrums, refusing to eat supper, don't want to go to school. They understand that they can come to you, but they also understand that you are an authority figure, and not a peer to be manipulated. Children are not evil, nor are they driven by good. They are children and do not see the differences. The assumption made in that situation is that your children are children, that they WILL make mistakes, and that you are the correcter of their errors, and the praiser of their successes. This idea that children know everything and need to be left with adult decisions and responsibilities is just as abusive from where I sit as hitting them with a belt several times a day. Children need to be children, or they become joyless adults.

  • shainashay Canada, 00
    Nov. 22, 2013 9:32 a.m.

    I had "mean" parents in a house that was filled with rules, boundaries, curfews, expectations, and discipline. They were the parents who would show up at a party we snuck off to and drag us out. They disciplined us, took away privileges and were more than clear with what they expected and the consequences of direct disobedience. It was also a house filled with love, humor, laughter, understanding, honesty and joy. They cheered us on, confided in us, kept our confidences, told us they were proud of us, admitted their own mistakes and told us they loved us every day. They trusted us until we gave them a reason not to, and then once they expressed disappointment they gave us the opportunity to earn that trust back. They were not our "friends". I learned how to fail, how to succeed, and how to do both gracefully. I am ever thankful for the "mean" parents who raised me to be respectful, hard working, honest and compassionate. I can't thank them enough for the way that they raised me and you better believe I'm going to be striving to raise my kids the same way.

  • Erika Salem, Utah
    Nov. 20, 2013 10:14 a.m.

    At my house, I discovered that my kids don't see these things as mean when that's what they've always had. In fact, my teens frequently tell me they "won the parent lottery" because we have been very clear about our expectations before any questions arose. For example, cell phone issues were discussed around the dinner table as a general topic years ago, as we developed our own ideas about their priority in our family and what purposes they would serve. This was before our kids even had an interest in cell phones. They understand our choices and what factors influence them. They also understand that as our family's needs and circumstances change, our cell phone policy may change, and they can present their views without fear of reprisal.

    The main point is that discussion is ongoing, values are the things that don't change, and the policies only serve to support the values. When the whole family participates in that, meanness doesn't even enter the picture, and everyone is clear on what is acceptable and why.

  • mhilton Lancaster, CA
    Nov. 20, 2013 7:32 a.m.

    I loved my friendly competition with a neighbor as to who was going to win the "meanest mom of the year award." I always told my daughter,"If she didn't think I were 'mean' at least once a day, I wasn't doing my job as a parent." So, yes, when she called me mean, I would tell her, "thank you. that means I'm doing my job." It really irritated her at first, but she now understands why I was "mean." And, "mean" referred to her perception of me at a particular moment; not that I was really mean. We made her pay for stuff half way; she had a bedtime; etc. Parents are there to guide and teach their children to become productive citizens and responsible adults. The best thing for them is to be "mean." I LOVED this article! Finally, I feel validated!

  • suzyk#1 Mount Pleasant, UT
    Nov. 19, 2013 1:48 p.m.

    I remember telling my Mother that she was mean because I couldn't get my way with her and I'll never forget(even 62 years later) the sadness that came upon her beautiful face and I felt ashamed. I haven't thought about that for decades. She has passed on and her countenance, guidance and true love still remain very alive in my heart and my mind. She was incredible. I miss her.

  • cougarsare1 Las Vegas, NV
    Nov. 19, 2013 9:49 a.m.

    Kelsiroo - I believed the same thing when I was 23 years old. Life experience teaches you otherwise. Every child is different and the spirit of these "rules" is correct. Can you do it in a loving and compassionate way? I like to think so. But it is naive to believe that merely expecting greatness from your kids will produce greatness. Boundaries and consequences are necessary.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    Nov. 19, 2013 7:09 a.m.

    I somewhat disagree with #3 about not pulling strings. The Real World is full of people who do interfere and complain and persist at bugging everyone around them to get what they want... and guess what!?

    IT WORKS.

    Children need to learn that they are not just nice citizens, but that if they really want something they should locate the officials with the authority (like coaches, leaders and bosses) and make their wishes known. Sometimes that takes speaking up for what you want.

    You will never reach your full potential if at some point you don't leave the crowd of complacent team-players and try for positions of leadership. That's a tough thing to teach to kids, cuz most adults don't get it. We're conditioned to comply and in doing so we often compromise our happiness. Of course the flipside is that often people seeking what they want do attrocious things to get it. So clearly there's a balance, but asserting oneself in behalf of your child is important. It may even convey the message that you care about the child more than the activity.

  • noidont compton, CA
    Nov. 18, 2013 10:31 a.m.

    BioPowertrain
    ya im sure parents that beat there kids read articals about parenting smart guy...

  • SlopJ30 St Louis, MO
    Nov. 18, 2013 9:44 a.m.

    I've always promised myself I would never become one those curmudgeonly "Well, Back In My Day" kinds of dads, and for the most part I've stuck to it. The micro details of every generation's difficulties may change, but the ideas brought up in this article are not new. They would've applied to my parents raising me as well as they do to me raising my kids. Really, most of these things are common sense, at least to my wife and me.

    Objections to the specific wording of the ideas and the commenting denouncing "abusive" LDS households (a "LOT" of them, apparently) and "harshness and mean-spiritedness" are too strident by half. Obviously any disciplinary ideal can be taken too far, but no reader who has a baseline understanding of human nature is going to be influenced to move towards abuse by a column like this. You can't write for the benefit of the lowest common denominator ("Hey, parents . . abuse is bad!").

    Zona Zone's comment might be a little too "on the nose," but I was always more than a little skeptical of a group of people who were comfortable calling themselves "The Greatest Generation."

  • Zona Zone Mesa, AZ
    Nov. 15, 2013 8:08 p.m.

    I disagree with one thing. The worst generation in American history is not the generation currently being raised, but the Baby Boomer generation.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    Nov. 15, 2013 6:14 p.m.

    Oatmeal - that's funny!

    I actually made myself a certificate that said I was a member of the Mean Mom Club. The attitude of this author is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I doubt she is really "mean". She's playing with the idea that "firm" translates into "mean" sometimes in the eyes of kids. If you beat them to the punch you can steal some of their thunder and return them to their senses.

    My kids, now older, give it right back to me. They threaten if I turn into an ornery, demanding old person they will move back home with their many, loud children. I think maybe "the look" fades as we turn into grandparents......

  • Oatmeal Woods Cross, UT
    Nov. 15, 2013 3:28 p.m.

    @Danny Chipman,

    Bud, we can't make our kids do things, but we are light-weights. Moms CAN make their kid do certain things, because Moms have the power of "the look." It is "the look" that combines loving disapproval, disappointment and righteous indignation into a force that borders on nuclear fusion. One does not challenge "the look." It is a force that can only be overcome at the peril of one's soul.

    Husbands beware... My wife has the power of "the look." She used it on me once three years ago. My eyebrows are just now beginning to grow back.

  • Hans Delbruck Spokane, WA
    Nov. 15, 2013 1:24 p.m.

    kelsiroo:

    While I agree with what you're saying in principle, in practice sacrificing accountability for compassion risks venturing into the arbitrary. I've been in a career now for 24 years, have had several supervisors, and regardless of temperament and demeanor, the best were those who applied high but reasonable standards in a consistent manner. Parents, like bosses, are most effective when they communicate and uphold high standards for behavior and performance; no need to be mean or cruel. Disregarding such standards for whatever reason (either out of a desire to be liked, or a desire to be feared) does no one any favors, and in fact is more harmful than any perceived harshness in the process of firmly demanding accountability to consistent standards and expectations.

    Having raised a few kids and worked with several others, the best thing this rising generation can learn is to be accountable for their actions.

  • kelsiroo Tempe, AZ
    Nov. 14, 2013 11:58 p.m.

    “It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” -L.R. Knost

    I'm not trying to say that parents should not help their children to be fully functional members of society, but frankly, the world is currently being controlled by a generation that was raised by "mean people", and I'd be just fine if my generation turned out to lead the world in a more compassionate manner. I am a 23 year old with a master's degree who works in medical research and moved out of the house at 18. By most definitions I am a parental success story, and my parents never had to be mean to me.

    I grew up knowing that my parents had high expectations of me because they LOVED me and BELIEVED in me, not because they were the meanest parents in the world. Change your attitude towards your children and watch how their demeanor will follow.

  • BostonLDS Salt lake City, UT
    Nov. 13, 2013 3:22 p.m.

    I think she says "Mom" because she is writing it, and she is Mom. My parents "made" me do stuff all the time and I am grateful to them for it - because of it, I budget well, I make thoughtful decisions, and I consider myself a fairly good worker as well. All because my parents were strict and didn't take any nonsense! However, I have friends who's parents would fall under the "Cool" category and they are having a hard time adjusting to adult life. So even though I don't have kids yet, I plan to follow these as much as possible!

  • coreyc Orem, UT
    Nov. 13, 2013 11:52 a.m.

    One downfall to this article is that is says "Mom" instead of "Parent". To say that implies that only the Mom can do this. I as a Dad of 3 seem to be the rule enforcer and the "meanest Dad". The gender bias in this is poor. I understand that the title refers to the story, however without a joint parenting the rules given don't mean squat.

  • apenny BLANDING, UT
    Nov. 13, 2013 9:12 a.m.

    Obviously, we should raise our children to be responsible and all of that. But words such as "meanest" and "make" portray such a negative (and erroneous) view on parenthood and human nature in general. The attitude assumes children hate to do anything good and are evil little creatures that have to be forced into doing anything good for themselves. Why do so many popular family articles, with parents being praised as great, refuse to use tactics like gentle persuasion, kindness, love unfeigned? Assuming your children have a natural inclination to please their parents and do good things will go a long ways in raising great children and having a fun time while you're at it!

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Nov. 13, 2013 8:49 a.m.

    I agree with most of these ideas, however it seems that every generation thinks that the generation after them is going to ruin the world, it gets a bit old after a while. I look at the youth in my ward and see some amazing kids, I don't think it's as bleak as all of the doomsayers say.

  • BioPowertrain Detroit, MI
    Nov. 13, 2013 5:29 a.m.

    In all candor, I am very tired of such articles here at the world's leading news journal for families. The author (and the DN by publishing it) clearly assume every reader understands what she's getting at. And that's a big assumption to make.

    This is the perfect article for an abusive parent to use as rationale for their harshness and mean-spiritedness. And also as their excuse for dominating their children's personalities and disrespecting their basic human need for an sense of agency, which even the smallest children need to a degree.

    This type of abuse goes on unchecked in A LOT of LDS families. What if we talked about this for awhile? You know, not just throwing your readership an occasional "Sunday in-depth" on this difficult subject, as a salve to everyone's conscience, but a commitment to dialog on this terribly harmful and counterproductive reality?

    I think this would be directly in line with the expressly stated purpose of this publication.

  • oldcougar Orem, UT
    Nov. 12, 2013 5:17 p.m.

    Danny, I think that's what she meant by "make." I doubt she is advocating force or violence.

  • Danny Chipman Lehi, UT
    Nov. 12, 2013 2:48 p.m.

    Superb ideas, but with one minor problem. You use the word "make" (as in "force") a lot. You cannot MAKE anyone do anything, as undisciplined kids will quickly teach their parents. Rather, choices ought to be offered, both of which are acceptable to the parent. Let the kids choose, and follow through with the consequences. For example, if a kid is being rude and disgusting at the dinner table, offer a choice such as "would you like to mind your manners here or take your dinner to eat in the bathroom where we won't be grossed out by your behavior?" If the misbehavior persists, move the child to the bathroom. Both are acceptable choices, and the child will feel empowered with the right to choose.

    It is essential that parents know what is in their realm of control and what is not. A parent cannot force a child to fall asleep. Remain in the bedroom, not bothering the adults, yes, but not conk out at any set time. Children cannot be forced to work, but they can have priveleges suspended if they don't. Parents CAN control WHERE behavior is to take place, just not what the behavior is.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    Nov. 12, 2013 2:35 p.m.

    All ideas here are spot on!