By: Vicki Bohling
My name is Vicki and I’m a mean mom. Not all the time, mind you, but I apparently have it “in me”.
When the title was first bestowed upon me by one of my kids, I was flabbergasted! After all, I’ve never considered myself a mean person – I’m a natural born harmony seeker and intentional mean spiritedness gives me a stomachache. But after the tenth or twelfth time of hearing it – usually after saying no to something that ALL THE OTHER KIDS were doing/wearing/watching – I decided to embrace my mean mom status. I started telling my kids that only the best moms are mean moms, that I went to a special academy for the credential, and I graduated with honors. (I’ll use any platform to put in a plug for educational pursuit.)
In fact —you look vaguely familiar. Weren’t you in one of my classes?
In that case, you must be doing a good job of parenting.
Being called “mean” means you’re doing a good job of setting limits for your kids—embrace it! And don’t let the seeds of doubt start to creep in like I did every other time my child called me “mean”. I would ask myself,
Have I set the bar too high? Should I be more firm or more flexible? Am I way different than other parents out there?
On those occasions there were a few pearls of wisdom that I turned to —to keep my confidence strong:
1. Build solidarity with other parents. Parenting in isolation is never a good thing. Air out any parenting doubts and dilemmas you are experiencing with other parents you admire, and listen back as they tell their stories. Philosophies and strategies will vary, but you’ll get a stronger sense of your own parenting compass through the process.
2. Stand firm on “pretty sure”. No parent has a completely clear road map all of the time – there are just too many factors at play when we’re raising kids. Once you are “pretty sure” you have laid out a rule that is reasonable and enforceable, present your best, most serene “I know what I’m doing” face and stand behind your words with confidence.
[Related article: The Only 6 Rules You’ll Ever Need for Confident Parenting]
3. Less explanation, more empathy. When you’re trying to help your children understand the need for rules, try to land somewhere between “just because I said so” and a 15-point list of reasons. Stand behind your expectation, but meet your child’s frustration over a rule with genuine acknowledgement and empathy. “I can tell it’s really hard for you to turn off your phone and feel like you’re missing something important with your friends, but it’s our job as good parents to protect your sleep.”
4. Work on your family brand. Clear, consistent rules help define who you are as a family and can equip you to deal with differences in other households. “I know Anna’s parents allow sleepovers on school nights, but that’s just not how we do it at our house.” Your kids may call you mean today, but they’ll thank you later. (Okay, maybe much later, but they will thank you.)
1. Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay, NavPress Publishing, 2006.
2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Scribner, 2012.