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!
About Elisabeth Wilkins
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.