Consequences Happen: World’s Meanest Mom, Moms on Strike, and what this says about us…

Posted January 23, 2008 by

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You’ve probably already heard the story about Jane Hambleton, the “World’s Meanest Mom.” She found a bottle of alcohol in her teen-age son’s car and took out an ad in her local paper that said “OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don’t love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet.”

Don’t you love it? This reminded me of the woman in Chicago who went on strike a year or so ago when her kids wouldn’t help around the house. She ended up picketing her own home (with her two-year-old) for a couple days, until her two older sons finally agreed to her demands.

The thing that interests me most about these stories? How these moms struck a chord with so many parents out there. After the media picked up their stories, people called and emailed—from all over North America, and in some cases from around the world—to congratulate them.

I think as parents we are finally starting to realize that while we love our kids beyond measure and would do anything for them, that doesn’t include giving them everything they want all the time, or letting them treat us badly or be disrespectful to others. Somewhere along the way, the lines between parents and children have gotten a little blurred—too many people (and I’m including myself here, because there are times when I really don’t want to be the “mean mom,” and give in to my son’s requests even when I know I shouldn’t) are trying to be their kids’ best friend, and have forgotten how to be their parent.

So what is it that has us glued to these stories? What are these parents doing that has made them heroes? I have a hunch that it’s the fact that we see something that we’d like to emulate here. I think we’re seeing a shift, not exactly back to the days when kids were seen and not heard, but at least to a place where parents are the ones in charge, who are lovingly guiding their children by sticking to their guns, and not simply trying to be their child’s best friend all the time.

I think it’s important to remember that giving consequences is really one of the most powerful tools that we have for teaching our kids how to be well-adjusted adults. I like how James Lehman explains it: “When you get a speeding ticket, it’s not a retribution for something you did wrong. It’s a consequence of your poor choices and decisions.” (For more from James Lehman about kids and consequences, go here.)

Now it’s your turn. We want to hear from you—tell us about a time when you laid down the law in an effective way—or a time when you wish you had!


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Jon (Edit) Report

    What always frustrates me and my wife is that the kids don’t seem to care about their punishments. It’s hard when you have five kids and one gets in trouble. Instead of following through with the punishment, you find him watching TV or playing on the computer with the rest of the kids. You can’t take it away from all just because one messed up. We constantly find the kid(s) being punished breaking the rules by either watching TV, playing video games or even worse, leaving the house without permission. I could go on and on about how they never seem to follow the rules. I frustrated us to no end and we seem like failures when our kids don’t seem to care or want to follow even the simplest of rules.

  2. Mom makes good on arrest promise (Edit) Report

    This happened many years ago in Indianapolis, In. when my eldest and most wise son (because I was stupid at the time) thought he could rage and tear clothing from his body in anger then flip me off and tell me to go to hell that he was going to his friends house anyway, whether I liked it or not! So my word to him was that as a responsible parent if I didn’t know where he was as he was an underage child (14) that when he returned home he would have three squares and a bed. I love you I told him as he stormed off still flying his bird. He arrived home about midnight and after I fed him a hot meal and got him to get a shower and change clothes (I made a call to follow up on the runaway report earlier in the evening) so when he came out the police took him in handcuffs and he got a couple of days to think about consequences. We have a great relationship now and he is the father of SIX children which I hope he loves as much as I love him (whatever it takes). LOL

  3. dawnmcav65 (Edit) Report

    I have had incidences where my 3 older children have taken items from a store at separate times. Each time, I took the child and the item back to the store and asked for the store manager. When the manager came out to speak with me, I told my child to tell the manager what they had done. They were very ashamed and apologized for taking something that didn’t belong to them. The manager told them if they were ever caught stealing from a store, they would go to jail. Each child cried at the thought of going to jail. None of them has ever stolen again and has told the tale to their younger sister and now she is afraid of stealing and going to jail.

    I honestly believe this is a very important lesson to teach children at a very early age. Stealing can become a very hard habit to break, so it is best to nip it in the bud before it is too late.

    I also believe it teaches kids they have to learn to earn what they want out of life and stealing will only bring severe consequences.

  4. carousel66 (Edit) Report

    I had recently tired of always picking up my 5 and 7 y/o socks. I happened to mention that to some older friends. They said that what they did with their kids was they would pick up the socks, but soon the kids ran out of socks to wear. So the kids had to buy back their socks for a nickel a piece and they were still dirty. I tried this with my kids and I have seen a lot less socks laying around lately.

  5. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    stuart’s mom: You know, I don’t think all is lost. What I think you can do is sit down with your son next time you see him (or even over the phone) and say, “I made a mistake returning your ipod early. I’m sorry about that because I think I did you a disservice. Next time, here’s what the consequences will be — and we are going to stick to them.” Don’t beat yourself up over this — even though we’re parents, we’re only human. 🙂 All we can do is try our best with our kids.

  6. stuart's mom (Edit) Report

    I learned that once you give a consequence it is important to follow through all the way. We were on our way to the airport after my son’s winter break from boarding
    school. He had just gotten high before we started our 2 hour drive to the airport.
    His dad made a firm statement about how disrespectful he was for doing that and
    acting as if there wouldn’t be a consequence to that behavior since he was on his
    way out. So when my son pretty much ignored the comments and responded with
    a question about his ipod, his dad took the ipod away and said when you get a clean
    urine check at school you may have the ipod back. We will send it. I was flying back
    with him and had a couple of days to spend with him and our extended family.
    His behavior for those few days was great and just before he was going off to
    the school, I gave the ipod back to him. My husband and I had talked (privately)
    about the possibility of doing that depending on how well he was doing. Our
    son immediately looked shocked and said wow Mom, now I know that you and
    dad don’t really mean what you say you’re going to do. I explained that we had
    decided that if he behaved well over the next few days that he would get to have
    the ipod to take back to school. As I was saying that I totally regretted my actions
    as I knew I had stolen my son’s opportunity to behave respectfully and to earn back
    his dignity. I knew he had sincerely felt ashamed for getting high and that he knew
    his behavior was way out of bounds and I spoiled his opportunity to gain back our
    respect. He’s been doing well at school since his return but every time I think about
    the incident I feel terrible and I could kick myself. Live and learn.

  7. Kelly Hebenstreit (Edit) Report

    My son stole a piece of candy from Casey’s one night about 3 years ago. My heart sank when I seen him pull a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from his pocket because I knew exactly where it came from. I asked him if he took it from the store. He said “yes.” I then asked him if daddy paid for it. He said “no.” It was at that moment I realized what I had to do. My husband and I got back in the car with our 5-year-old son and drove back into town. We live in a very small town, which made it very easy to find the cop that was on duty that night. My husband got out of the car and explained to the cop that our son had stolen something and that we wanted him to return it and apologize. The cop walked over to our car and opened the door to the backseat and asked our son to get out and talk to him. My son was terrified! He was crying very hard. I felt so bad. I started to think that maybe I had made too big a deal out of the situation. However, it was too late for that. The cop put my son in the squad car and drove him to casey’s. My husband and I followed, of course. I wanted to go into that store so badly and hold my son’s hand as he gave the peanut butter cup back and apologized to the lady behind the counter. But I knew that I couldn’t do that. I waited outside, watching for what seemed like hours. Finally, the two of them came out of the store. We thanked the cop after he said a few more words to our son about right and wrong. My son, Austin, is 8 years old now and probably remembers that night very well. He was scared and upset and very angry, but he learned an important lesson that night. Stealing is wrong. I feel that it’s important to add that that was not the first time my son had taken something that didn’t belong to him. I had to make him return toys to the preschool room several times before that incident. He even took a pocket knife from a friend after spending the night at his house. After stealing from a teacher and his best friend and then a store, I thought enough is enough. I’m not sure if what my husband and I did that night was the “right” thing to do. But I could not live with myself knowing that I could’ve helped my son to make good choices and chose not to. And just for the reccord…Austin hasn’t stolen since!

  8. Jody (Edit) Report

    Everyone will agree with me that laundry is not fun! Especially when you know you are washing clothes that have not been worn. My 11 year old daughter is notorious for trying on clothes, changing them and leaving them lay on her floor. When she eventually picks them up they don’t go back in the closet, they go directly in her hamper! After seeing this several times, I talked to her about it but saw no change. So I taught her to do laundry and I told her she can do her own from now on! She isn’t happy about it and will try to fight me on it but I don’t give in on this one! I am trying to teach responsiblity to her. Then on the other hand my 9 year old son wears his jeans 3-4 days in a row before I can peal them off of him….choose your battles, isn’t that what they say??? I think everyday should be Mothers Day!!!

  9. Kris (Edit) Report

    I have felt like banging my head against the wall numerous times. It seemed more fruitful than actually asking my two boys to put their dishes in the sink and their clothes in the laundry basket yet another time. I thought, maybe I am being too strict, they are only 3 and 4 years old!!
    I have to be one of the top mean mommies out there!
    Then I was at my parents house for Christmas, joined by my sister and her three kids (12,11 and 8 year old boys). Apparently breakfast in their family starts with, “I want cereal!” and, “MORE MILK!” This was followed by more complaints that they didn’t get enough juice, dishes left where they sat, and anywhere else around the house. It was like a cyclone followed them everywhere. No manners, no appreciation and A LOT of expectations.
    After that same breakfast, my three year old asked to be excused, and thanked me for making blueberry pancakes as he took his dish to the sink. Proud mom moment! (As I sat there glowing, I heard the crash of glass breaking in the sink. We use plastic. Grandma uses glass! But that is another story….) I think kids should be kids, get dirty, play a lot and make a lot of mistakes. But respect and appreciation can be taught from early on. If not from the beginning then when? At any rate, after that holiday, I decided my method was working just fine.

  10. Brooke Williams (Edit) Report

    When I saw the story about the woman selling her son’s car on the front page of the NEW YOrk Post, I was so glad to see they were siding with the mom, not the kid. I think our whole culture needs to take responsibility for not setting good boundaries and consequences for our children, instead of just laying the blame at mother’s feet.

    Mothers need more support, so we don’t have to be reduced to mean mommies.

  11. KarenNY (Edit) Report

    I love hearing about parents who follow through…I’m trying to get better about that myself. Here’s something that happened in our family recently: Over the holidays we went to an art museum with some friends. My five-year-old son, who has recently gotten into spitting, took it into his head to spit on the parquet floor. I took him to the side, explained what he had done wrong, gave him a tissue and made him clean up the spot on the floor and apologize to the museum guard. My son has talked about it since then, and even told me why he was wrong. It’s kind of freeing to actually realize that my husband and I are in charge and that it’s up to us to lay down the rules.



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