Main Idea: You’re not their friend. You’re their mom. Do the hard work of parenting.
When Hollie was little, I used to send kids home when they asked for food. They could have water and they had to drink it in the kitchen. Sometimes I made popcorn. But they had to eat it in the kitchen.
We leave cookies and candy on the bottom shelf of our pantry, easily accessible by Hollie and her pint-sized friends. But Hollie knew how much she was allowed to have. The others? Not so much. They were denied access to snacks and candy and would binge. I mean, BINGE the food if it was made available.
I told Hollie it was my intention to be the meanest mom in the neighborhood. Want a soda? Go home. Juice? Go home. Snack? Home. Home. Home. And I told Hollie that under no circumstances should she ask for or accept snacks anywhere else. If she was hungry, she should come home.
Is that the kind of mean we’re talking about? Or is it more like: Hollie wants to quit swim and I won’t let her.
When does “being mean” cross over from teaching manners and resilience to neglect and abuse? No one is suggesting that you should say ugly things, hurt your children, or deny them basic freedoms and comforts.
What we’re suggesting is that parenting requires a kind of distance. The kind that might mean your kids don’t always like you.
And it’s a good thing they don’t always like you. If they did, you’re doing it wrong.
Kids don’t like what’s good for them:
- Vegetables — how do you make your kids eat?
- Homework — how do you look over their school and study habits?
- Exercise — how do you ensure they’re getting enough?
- Outside time vs. screen time — how do you keep a healthy balance of each?
- Money — how do you teach them to earn and then spend (not the reverse)?
- Manners — how do you instruct them to be politely inquisitive and not nosey or naggy? Eat like clean, rational humans, not neanderthals?
What role does obedience play in these interactions?
How much free will are your children exercising at any given time?
How do we rationalize liberty and parenting?
Kids don’t know what’s best for them, they have limited experience. It’s our job, as parents, to leverage our own experience to direct theirs. And that can sometimes feel like bossing them around, being authoritarian, or hard work to maintain discipline and resist the temptation to be liked.