So if you haven’t read the first part of this blog post and want to know why I’m a Mean Mom, please read here. I wrote briefly about investing in your children, the realities of being a new mom, and fact that some things are non-negotiable. While I’m not a certified expert in early childhood development, I do have four children under the age of 9, and they are pretty darned smart and well adjusted. I’m positive this didn’t happen by accident.
Fear Shouldn’t Make Decisions For You
In my observation, lots of the things that parents cave on are caved on out of fear. Parents fear tantrums so they cave in and give their child whatever makes them happy at the moment, which is not necessarily what’s best for them in the long run. As a Mean Mom, I don’t cave just to make my kids happy at that moment. It sets us all up for future failure. Sure, I have my moments of weakness when I’m in public and not ready to deal with a meltdown or when traveling to visit relatives, I’ll let them watch DVDs for most of the ride (but the ride has to be 3 hours or longer in order to even think about a DVD option), but it’s easier to make the tough choices now. The more times I cave, the more spoiled and expecting my kids become. So I nip it in the bud early on. I’d prefer an immediate meltdown to a whiney brat later on.
I recognize that as a mom you have to do what works. I try not to judge, I really do. By no means am I perfect. But seriously, when I see a 5-year-old child with a pacifier in her mouth, I want to walk up, yank it out, and slap that mom. Or when I see a toddler walking around with a bottle, same sentiments. In addition to the fact that both children are too old for their respective behaviors, does the parent not realize that they are actually setting the child up for failure? Health reasons aside. Children need to learn to self-soothe and usually will when given an opportunity to do so. Five-year-old children don’t need pacifiers, and it’s clear that the parent is acting out of fear that a tantrum will ensue if the pacifier is taken away. Rip the proverbial Band-Aid off and move on. You aren’t doing anyone any favors.
Don’t Be an Enabler
Throwing your hands up isn’t gong to benefit you or your child. Children need discipline, and they thrive on it. It may sound harsh, but don’t take the path of least resistance. Some kids are picky eaters by nature (or maybe by nurture), but that shouldn’t keep you from feeding them the same meal you are feeding everyone else in the family. Your child won’t starve himself. Eventually he will eat at least part of what is given to him, unless of course you train them to do otherwise. There is no short-order cook in this house. Never has been, and there wasn’t one where I grew up, either. The motto in our house is, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” My kids will actually say it to one another if they hear a sibling complaining over something unimportant (such as which color cup their milk is in). You don’t have to like what I’m serving, but you’re going to eat it or be hungry. A close girlfriend recently told me a story about what she used to say to her daughters when they were younger. She used to tell them, “The law says I have to feed you, but it doesn’t say I have to feed you what you want.” Exactly.
Say No, and Say It Again
Don’t be afraid to say no. In my experience, it’s actually easier to say no than to say yes. If I gave in and said yes every time one of my children asked me to buy them something or help them with something they were capable of on their own, I’d be broke and exhausted. By saying no, they actually learn to respect the answers they are given and gain confidence in their ability to perform simple tasks without me. We rarely have fits in our house over things that they are told “no” to because the kids know better. They’ve learned that mommy isn’t going to change her mind because she was asked 6 times—all that does is make her angry. Mean Moms Rule. Sure, I’ll say yes, but only when I believe it’s the right time to say yes, not because I’ve been asked or pestered to death.
Give Your Kids Choices
Choices are empowering to children. You don’t need to let them make all the decisions (I think I’ve covered that already), but they do need to make some decisions as part of healthy development and confidence building. I let my children make simple choices everyday and I pick my battles. Let them choose between A and B. Do you want carrots or tomatoes in your lunch? I have one child that wants to be in control of everything, all of the time. We’ve learned with her that we can avoid 95% of her tantrums by letting her make her own choices. Some things are non-negotiable (safety, etc.). But where we can, we let her choose. She picks out her own clothes (they rarely match, but she dressed herself). You want to take your toys in the car? Pick one and it stays in the car once you get to school. Little things that in the long run don’t matter to us but really do matter to her make her feel empowered—and she’s better behaved because of it.
Safety Within Reason
I can tell you that growing up we had baby gates, outlet plugs, and locks on cabinets, but that was about it for safety gadgets in the house. There was no padding around coffee tables, toilet locks, and every protective device you could think of. These days it’s safety to the nth degree. We don’t let kids think for themselves or learn from their mistakes. Now, I’m not suggesting that you should let your toddler play in the knife drawer or drink from the toilet bowl, but I am suggesting that as a society we have gone overboard on the shear quantity of safety apparatus options.
I bought a house with a fenced-in backyard for a reason—go outside and play! Do I let my kids play in the street? No. But I absolutely let them play in the backyard unattended. Yeah, I said it. Unattended. It’s fenced in, and I can assure you if the house didn’t have a fenced-in backyard when we bought the house, we would have installed a fence. If it’s a nice summer day, maybe the window is open, but I don’t need to stand there and watch them play. If they are fighting over the swing, they can figure it out themselves. Hovering doesn’t help them develop self-confidence and common sense. In 9 years of parenting, we have not yet had a trip to the emergency room for any random accidents.