Why I’m A Mean Mommy

I really try not to be a judgey parent, because I know how judged we already feel.

But sometimes it’s hard not to be.

For example, we were attending a pool party when another mom warned me about my daughter’s soon-to-be kindergarten teacher:

“Miss Virtue is old and rigid and just doesn’t understand my son Dougie’s needs. He’s a very high-energy boy.”

IMG_0575This wasn’t the first time I’d been warned about Miss Virtue, so I was beginning to worry. That is, until I later saw little Dougie in action…

The host was barbecuing burgers when the hostess opened up the pool. Every nearby kid stripped down to their bathing suits, their parents affixed floatation devices onto them, and suddenly, Elsa’s and Batmen were everywhere.

And that’s when little Dougie started fighting with with his mom. “You HAVE to wear your floaties,” she kept insisting.

All the other kids were jumping into the pool, squealing, as little Dougie chucked his floaties to the floor then stepped onto the pool ladder, rolling his eyes.

Oh no… he did NOT just do that.

Hearing those floaties thunk to the floor, I prepared to watch his parents open a can of whoop-ass. What was it going to be… a time-out? An embarrassing lecture in front of all the other kids?

“Well, okay. But… just stay in the shallow end. Don’t go in the deep end, Dougie.”

Dougie immediately started thrashing toward the deep end, of course, looking back every few seconds to make sure they saw him doing it.

Hoo boy… he’s had it now.

(His parents were probably just fumbling around for the can opener before yanking him straight out of that pool and teaching him what being The Only Kid Not Swimming feels like.) 

Except, no. They let it slide and later did nothing when Dougie kept badgering the hostess to let him into the pool after she’d closed it. She must’ve said “No Dougie, we’re not swimming anymore” twenty times, in an increasingly chilly tone, as his parents argued about whether someone should go watch him.

Look, maybe Dougie was having an unusually bad day, or maybe his parents just didn’t want to make a scene at someone else’s party. But I couldn’t help noticing the utter lack of consequences for Dougie’s actions, even when they became a safety hazard as well as an annoyance to everyone around him.

Plus, it had been the second time that month I’d watched someone let their kid get away with murder. The first was at a zombie-themed birthday party for a boy who likes to express himself…

A lot. Loudly.

His folks had gone to great lengths for three weeks to plan the party, making painted-eyeball doughnut holes, watermelons delicately carved to resemble brains, and grab-bags of zombie-fighting kits.

We hadn’t seen them for the past year and were hoping they’d been having an easier time with their son, who hadn’t been responding well to their lenient, validation-focused parenting style.

Well, our hopes were in vain, because when asked where the boy was starting kindergarten, the dad explained that the boy would be held back another year “because he needs more time to develop his social skills.”

And then, his explanation was actually punctuated by his son picking up a metal truck and smacking the little girl next to him square in the face with it.

After she ran away sobbing, dad told the boy that maybe he’d had enough time playing trucks for right now and I stood there praying that the boy wouldn’t attack one of my daughters like that because I didn’t want to have to choke some kid out in front of his dad.

(Alright, simmer down. I was probably totally kidding about choking out a kid.)

At any rate, I then suddenly realized there were half as many kids in attendance as there had been at his last birthday party. It wasn’t hard to see why. As the party continued, the boy screamed at everyone, didn’t thank anyone for their present, and tossed his grandmother’s gift aside with disgust as the woman looked genuinely hurt.

He went on to spit in his mother’s face and punch her repeatedly whenever slightly frustrated, which somehow upset her enough to complain about his behavior to other guests, after all of her hard work, yet never to him.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking about how much this was hurting him.

What do I mean by that? Well, his parents are good people who obviously love their kid. They genuinely believe that giving him complete freedom will help him develop into a creative, self-actualized adult. They make sacrifices each and every day by showing saintlike patience in the face of his ingratitude.

Except… the kid is lonely.

Because nobody likes him.

And that’s the part self-esteem-centered parenting theories often seem to forget: if you allow your kid to ignore every rule, disrespect others, and expect to be catered to without so much as a “thank you,” people won’t like having them around.

Yes, we have to give them reasonable leeway. You can’t always stop babies from screaming and toddlers WILL throw public tantrums on occasion, no matter what we do.   They’re still incredibly irrational and have limited communication skills right then.

But by the time they’re entering school, it’s not unreasonable to teach them basic manners. Like greeting people, respecting property, and following house rules when they are guests in someone’s home. It gets them invited back.

Which is also why I’m a really mean mommy:

I expect my girls to say “thank you” when they receive a gift, and remind them when they forget.

If they start bullying another kid, I yank them away from their activity and explain why it’s unacceptable until they either understand or have to stop playing.

I even make them wait to be excused from dinner, because right now it’s the only thing that keeps them from tearing around restaurants like screaming banshees whenever we go out to eat.

 

IMG_0645All of which, by some parenting standards, is downright fascist. My girls should be broken puddles of damaged self-esteem and unmet expectations by now.

Except they’re not. They’re happy kids with lots of friends.

They’re obviously not perfect and have their bad days too. We parents all struggle with knowing when we’re being too strict and when we’re letting our kids walk all over us, always stressing about which rules are reasonable and which consequences are fair. Most of all, we worry about hurting our kids.

But having consequences, in itself, won’t damage your children. Not as long as you also acknowledge when they’re being good, give them plenty of love and attention, and make sure your expectations are consistent.

And with that, I’m off my soap-box for the day. I won’t be judging Miss Virtue, not just yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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28 thoughts on “Why I’m A Mean Mommy”

  1. I get why you’re frustrated in seeing this – but seriously his parent need to get him checkout and properly. This kind of behaviour is extreme and I have seen my youngest go through very similar things and still goes through it now. When a child that young does that sort of thing then it important to try and narrow down what the issues are at least. It will be worth it for them! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely couldn’t hurt and maybe they will eventually have him examined. Right now, they seem convinced he’s a normal kid.

      It’s hard to say if something is wrong because I’ve never seen them attempt to set guidelines, never even heard a “No, you may NOT hit me” in response to his abuse. I can see the strain it’s taking on them– they seem so drained and stressed–and I feel bad for them.

      I can’t help wondering if the boy would respond to hearing a firm “no,” or having a time-out, or some kind of basic rule enforcement. But either way, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to have him checked out, just in case there’s something else going on.

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    1. Thank you! I was a little afraid to write this because of the potential backlash, but felt it needed to be said. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks like this 🙂

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    1. Aw, thank you. It’s still good to hear because we parents worry about whether we’re doing it right (as I’m sure you know).

      Mostly, I’m calm and sweet to my kids, but I do have expectations. My kids seem very happy, though, most of the time. I actually believe kids feel more secure when they understand what’s expected of them. Kids who are always throwing fits don’t seem very happy at all.

      Liked by 1 person

            1. Thanks, Patrick! 🙂

              I should probably have written a Mother’s Day post (this being a mommy blog and all) but I was busy having a nice day with the family. Hope yours was good too.

              Liked by 1 person

                  1. It took me a sec, but I got it! 🙂

                    I suppose I could’ve had a Mother’s Day themed posted all queued up to post on the right day. That’s probably what an organized person would’ve done, lol. But hey, there’s always next time 🙂

                    Liked by 1 person

  2. Uggh I would have been equally ready to choke the kid. I think our generation is too scared of hurting our kid’s feelings, of limiting them, of somehow constraining their personalities by telling them what the boundaries are. I come from an eastern culture where till a generation ago, you feared your parents almost as much as God. And while that is the opposite end of the spectrum, we shouldn’t be fearing our children and their tantrums or difficult personalities. Setting boundaries and teaching your kids respect prepares them to be functional human beings and likable neighbors. This is hit the nail on the head 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! Writing something like this can be surprisingly controversial and it’s good to hear input from someone who had different cultural influences.

      I absolutely agree that this generation is afraid to impose any boundaries or discipline. Maybe it’s because experts focus so much on what we shouldn’t be doing, but little on what we should. And while I agree that it’s great how parents are no longer supposed to whip and berate their kids, I feel like the pendulum has maybe swung too far in the other direction. I see too many kids that are never happy… even at Disneyland or at birthday parties.

      I know a guy whose son made them go to five different restaurants at Disneyland before he was happy with the food, for example. The kid was 8. That doesn’t seem like a happy kid to me.

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  3. i don’t know how many times I was told I was a cruel, heartless parent back in the day, for so many reasons. I didn’t allow my child to run in a restaurant. My girl could visit other people’s homes without breaking their glass vases. My daughter said please, thank you, and you’re welcome. An extreme example, but when last-minute babysitter cancellations occurred, my child could sit quietly for three hours in a college class, drawing pictures of the professor, which we gave to the teacher after class. Did I love hearing the admiration of waitresses, those whose homes we visited, and PhDs? Hell, no! I only wished the folks who called me mean were there!

    I must confess that majoring in French deserves a lot of credit. In France, life is HARD for little children. The idea is that children must be properly trained in order to earn the rights and privileges of older children, and, eventually, adults.

    In other words, the French eldest is probably in a café studying with friends while the next youngest is memorizing a poem in the study. In the meantime, the two youngest are peeling potatoes and setting the table.

    As the oldest child, thus appealed to me, not just because it was 180 degrees from how I grew up, but because I makes a lot of sense.

    Later travel to Europe revealed that French and Italian kids are FABULOUS! They are pol The, considerate, and smile all the time. They never annoyed and always showed consideration.

    Also, 30+ years of teaching high school honed a true talent. While I kept the ideas to myself, within a month of teaching a new class, I could pretty much tell who would succeed in college, in marriage, in a career, in life.

    How? Intelligence? Far from it!

    Those who greeted the teacher in the hallway, sat down upon entering class, and politely lefty chatty conversations once the teacher began class; those who asked questions about the topic besides “Is this going to be on the test?” Or, worse yet, “What test?” Those who asked for help when needed, did monotonous homework without complaint, those whose parents you met before report cards came out, those whose parents did not blame every disappointing achievement on teacher bias.

    The list is far longer, but you get the idea.

    Because, parents, the rest of the world is who your children must navigate. Not everyone will love your child. Rude children will be found annoying, at best. At times, strangers will hate them. It gets worse. A few times I’ve had to keep a young man after class for a motherly heart-to-heart. David, you’ll find your life will get better if you learn when to stop talking. Other guys will like you more and girlfriends will stick around. But that’s not what I fear most. I’m afraid that sometime you’ll sound off to the wrong biker in the wrong mood after he’s had one beer too many and they’ll find you the next morning in back of the parking lot, like my cousin Darrell. Poor Darrell never knew when to shut up.

    Kids who are allowed to act like untrained animals eventually live in the jungle where laws of survival are undiluted by notions of social niceties.

    Should my daughter ever visit the jungle, I wanted her there as an anthropologist, not as a resident.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Being able to sit quietly for several hours by age 3 is quite impressive. Neither of my daughters could manage that yet.

      Which may come down to different methods and also natural temperaments. My girls have always had tons of energy, for example, but are drastically better behaved than they were a year ago. Which is key, I believe… l think it’s important for parents to at least be attempting to impose reasonable guidelines and consequences that will eventually come to fruition.

      What I noticed in the cases I mentioned (and many others I’ve seen) is that the parents have few, if any, expectations for the child and aren’t giving them consequences. So while the child *may* have some disorder, it’s tough to determine when the child is indirectly being rewarded for acting out.

      And I can’t help but believe parents are too scared to discipline their child in many cases. All the self-esteem & attachment centered parenting theories make them worry about doing more harm than good, so they may be trying to play it safe. That, or they’re afraid of being called cruel & heartless by other parents, as you were.

      But I do feel this method is already backfiring. Not to sound horribly old fashioned, but many kids are asocial and despised by the adults around them… large swaths of society are foregoing the very idea of raising kids because they see countless examples of drained, overworked, resentful parents trying to manage kids without any limits and an endless sense of entitlement.

      There has to be a better middle ground. Perhaps more patience for parents who are doing their best, and also some leeway? I’d also love to see experts examine which discipline methods are effective instead of endlessly pointing out how every one will damage our children. I think parents are genuinely confused these days, and very likely to accept a medical diagnosis for what is sometimes just a failure to impose consequences in a society that condemns parents for attempting them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fabulous post Erin. I would gladly help out with the choking! It’s a sad reflection on our way of raising children that I always compliment children, and their parents, when I see good behaviour in restaurants, shops, parks etc., BUT do not get the chance to do it very often!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Peter! I think my proudest parenting moment was when our dentist sent us a letter complimenting our kids’ behavior during their visit. It was so reassuring because we parents are always hoping we’re not messing it up, lol.

      I think there’s a strong emphasis on keeping kids happy, which is good, but teaching them how to navigate social situations will make them happy in the long run. They end up being welcome in more places. I’d love to see this aspect of parenting emphasized more often because I think parents are genuinely afraid that making their children behave will be too traumatic for them!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I seriously wish there was a LOVE instead just a LIKE to check. I work with preschoolers and have done a lot of behavior stuff with my special education degree. Boundaries and consistent consequence create an environment where children thrive because they know what’s expected… and like you said have friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you! Parenting can be so overwhelming because there is so much conflicting advice out there and right now.

      I really believe many parents are terrified of creating any consequences or standards for their kids… I’ve seen it. I think the idea is that if it’s “normal” for a kid to act up, then it’s wrong to hold him accountable (or something along those lines).

      But that’s essentially our job, or else the kid won’t be prepared to function. I’ve done a ton of reading since becoming a parent myself and what seems most logical is implanting fair, reasonable, consistent standards with understood consequences for breaking them.

      We also can’t forget how much pride kids take in doing things *right* once they know what that means. Without expectations, we rob them of the self-esteem built from reaching them, if that makes sense.

      Good for your for working with a bunch of preschoolers! I love kids, but that’s still a challenging job ❤️

      Like

      1. (So, autocorrect just had a field day on my comment, changing “implement” to “implant” and such. How embarrassing! Must remember to check before posting…)

        Like

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