I got an email recently from a mom who is struggling with her pre-teen (let’s call the daughter Susie). Susie gets really upset when she doesn’t get her way and it always ends with her shouting, “You are a MEAN mom!”
Susie knows that those words cut into mother’s heart. Of course, that’s why she says it.
I tell you friends, the whole idea that a child would call their mother mean is so unimaginable to me. And that moms are allowing themselves to be manipulated by it just feeds the craziness.
Moms, this is what you need to remember…..
Your job is to teach your children, prepare them for adulthood and life on their own. You do this through talking/teaching, being an example and through discipline.
Discipline is a necessary part of life. We, as adults, are disciplined every day. If we act nasty to our neighbor it will cause trouble for us. If we spend money we don’t have we suffer the consequences of debt. When I eat too much chocolate cake my clothes don’t fit. Discipline. As adults we have the maturity to make those connections.
Our children need us to discipline them. They don’t know enough about how their body works or finances or responsibilities to make good decisions on their own. So we teach them. We create consequences. That’s all discipline is. You create consequences and gradually they learn and begin making wise choices for themselves.
We say, “You must eat your peas before you can have dessert.” That’s not being mean, it’s being healthy. Children won’t make healthy choices on their own, so we teach them. They still have a choice….they can choose not to eat the peas and have no dessert. If you let them eat dessert anyway, you are teaching them that there are no consequences. Don’t do that!
And don’t feel badly about it. Sure, it’s hard to see our children suffering (although most of their suffering is just over-dramatizing). But it is good for them. If you rescue them from the pain you are doing them a disservice.
I suspect Susie’s mom has done this over the years. She let her tender mother’s heart keep Susie from feeling any real pain so now Susie thinks she should never hurt. Then when Mom actually expects Susie to suffer a consequence it turns into a battle. Susie knows her mother is tender hearted, so she pulls out the big manipulation….calling her mom mean.
Is the stove mean when it burns you? Is the thorn mean when it sticks you? Of course not! That’s just the way life works. And you are not being mean by disciplining your children. You love them and you want them to have the best life possible. So you teach them how to endure hardship and make wise choices. You also teach them that calling you mean is never the solution to their problem.
My best advice is to be unaffected by their words. Don’t show a response, don’t give it any weight. If it doesn’t change anything they will learn to stop doing it. Just continue to be caring, but follow through with your discipline.
Mom tells Susie, “You can’t go to your friend’s birthday party because you didn’t do all of your homework. I told you last night that if it wasn’t finished you couldn’t go and you chose to watch TV instead. So now you will stay home and finish the work.”
Susie goes into hysterics. That’s not fair, everyone she knows is going, Mom is mean, blah-blah-blah. Mom’s response is, “I wish you could go, but it was your choice. Now get the homework done or you will also miss the football game tomorrow.” Moms stays cool and is unaffected by Susie’s drama. So Susie changes her game plan. Maybe she starts begging, maybe she starts crying, maybe she sulks….doesn’t matter. You can show care for her pain, but nothing she does will change the consequence.
Remember, she is making the choice to act that way. She is deciding to choose the consequence over doing the right thing. You aren’t making the choices at that point. Your choice was back when you laid out the consequences in the first place. If it seems too harsh when it’s happening, then next time lay out a lesser consequence, but follow through with this one.
To Susie’s mom: It’s not going to be easy, but you can do this. Keep your eyes on the prize….a wise, healthy, responsible daughter. When she calls you mean, let it roll off your back. When it hurts your feelings, don’t let it show. Think before you hand out consequences then let her make her choice. Pray for strength and remember how God loves you both.
(Ed note: I sometimes hear a mom say, “Yes, I’m glad to be a mean mom.” The word mean in this case is defined as cruel, malicious & spiteful. To proudly call yourself mean as proof that you discipline your children tears down the idea that you are doing a good thing. Being strong, confident and consistent is not mean; it is loving.)