Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm A Mean Mom

The other day I had a conversation with someone who was explaining to me that another mother was having a hard time with her child. After much frustration, she would just give in and give the child whatever he or she wanted. She said, "I just want to make my child happy."

My immediate response to this was, "You should never do that!" Immediately, we started laughing because of what I said. It sounded harsh and funny for me to even go there, but perhaps there is some truth to me saying this.

Now, I absolutely love to see my children happy. I can't wait for Santa Claus to swing by and to see their little faces as they open their presents. (We are having a Dora the Explorer Christmas - so much of what they are getting is Dora that they will probably not like Dora anymore!) And I love to watch twindada play with them and watch them giggle wildly as he gets on the floor with them and flies them through the air or they use him as a big play gym. I can't wait until this spring when we can go to the zoo and see all the baby animals. I know that will make them very happy and because of that, I will be very happy.

The type of "happy" that I don't like is when parents give in to their kids to the point where it is turning them into brats or putting them on a path to an unsafe or unhealthy life. I don't think that it is wise to always allow your child that extra cookie (for example) every time they ask for one. This type of indulgence is setting the child up for a) thinking they can have anything they want at anytime and b) creating unhealthy eating habits.

I am all for picking our battles. I know that as parents there are times when we just break and can't deal with the whining one more minute so sticking a cookie in the child's mouth is the best option at that moment. I get this. I have been there before and know that I will be there again...probably sooner than I would like.

However it's important to consider a question when it comes to parenting and it is this, "Who is running the show?" If a child makes one peep and every person over 5 feet tall jumps, then the answer is obvious. I have heard of parents who are almost afraid of their kids and don't want to see them cry or freak out. Just watch The Nanny on television. I sit there in amazement wondering how parents could let that child get that bad. I know that all families have struggles and kids go through stages where they are unruly and difficult to correct, but I also know that issues have to be dealt with and not ignored which seems to be the common thread for all of the families on this show.

Sweeping things under the rug and allowing a child to get away with anything won't make them happy for very long because they will get bored. If a child is always getting a cookie, then next time, they will know they can cry and get a candy bar or a car or whatever. Of course, it is okay to give our children things, but it needs to be justified or because we think they deserve it, not because they told us they want it and want it now. When we give a child something they don't deserve, not only do they not give anything in return, but they actually lack respect for their parents.

So, I am a mean mom, proudly speaking. My kids are quite young and already the testing of the waters has begun. Peanut asks me all day long for a cookie. She is very sweet about it and I could really indulge her and give her one each time she asks, but we wouldn't have any left for the rest of the week! So, instead, I tell her "no", but then at designated snack times, she is allowed the cookie she waited patiently for all day. Some parents are probably thinking, "Oh, c'mon! It is just a silly cookie! Give it to her!" Well, I say that withholding that silly cookie until it is time to enjoy it is far better and tastier than the 10 cookies she would possibly shovel into her mouth all day. And it is far better for me and twindada that she understands there are rules and we expect her to follow them.

It isn't a perfect science especially with very young children. They are by the very nature of being babies the most egocentric beings on this planet. They truly believe that the world revolves around them. No other child or adult comes close to importance in their eyes. That is why setting ground rules for what is tolerated and what is not is essential for a twin parent. I don't solely love Peanut. I also equally love Jelly Bean. What I do for one or don't do for one, I have to do for the other. I work really hard to be fair to the girls and treat them equally as this is an important part of my mission as a mother of twins. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fall short, but I keep a conscious effort to try.

Being a mean mom means loving my children enough to know the difference between the child that cries who needs something and the child that cries who wants something. I really don't let crying bother me too much. I have had many times over the past couple of months where one of my girls has flopped down on the floor for a good old fashion tantrum and I just walk over and make sure that toys are out of her way and she is safe and then I let her do what she has to do. I don't respond or even let her think she has an audience. In seconds, the tantrum is over and she goes back to normal play. No biggie. Life goes on. And she still didn't get what she wanted.

It's working now...will it work in the future? Hard telling...but one thing that I have learned over the past 22 months is stay consistent. If something is clearly not working, then of course I re-direct my efforts to better ways of dealing with the issue. I do consult moms that I respect and ask for advice, ask my doctor (she rocks) and then I remember who I am dealing with and tailor it around that personality type. However if I don't stay consistent enough, there is massive confusion. Children don't "magically" know the ground rules like you and I do. And we didn't "magically" know them when we were their age either. We were told what is expected of us and it became ingrained into our heads to the point that it is common knowledge for us, but to a little one this is whole new stuff. That is why children test and why when children are shown the boundaries respond better than those who are given a free-for-all.

So, again, I am a mean mom. I love my kids, I want them to be happy, but I won't compromise their development by giving into their every indulgence. When my girls are older and someone asks them to describe their mom, I would love to hear these 3 words - tough, fair and loving.

Tough - "Mom was strict sometimes, but she was reasonable, we respected her and know she did it for our advantage."

Fair - "We never had to worry that Mom loved someone more than the other. She gave her heart equally to us both."

Loving - "She loved us more than her own breath. She cuddled us, kissed us and made sure that we knew how special we were to her every day."

I love them enough to know that the proper placements of "Yes's" and "No's" will only help them to grow into healthy, well manner adults.

Isn't that what we are trying to do anyway?


Kim said...

Yes, amen, and right on! What a great post. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, but the basic principle is REWARDING negative behavior (giving in to a tantrum with a cookie) teaches a child to use that method again. At church. During prayer time.

Hajar said...

Great post! It's nice to find that other mom's have the same agenda as ourselves.

twinmama said...

Whew! I wasn't sure how people were going to respond to this post! I certainly never want to offend anyone. Thanks for being a supportive bunch!

Aly @ Lip Zip said...

Oh golly. We are so right there with you. Our big challenge right now is when little bit hears the kitchen cabinet open. He automatically thinks he's entitled to whatever he finds inside. If you close the cabinet before he gets there or close it right in front of him, the meltdown ensues. I just get on his level and have a little chat with him as I wipe the tears streaming down his face. I don't know if he gets it yet but I just speak to him softly but matter of fact that he doesn't just get what he wants when he wants. Now if I could just get him to give up that blasted pacifier!

glitzen said...

you sound like a great mom. its not easy being consistent, sometimes its SO tempting to take the easy (lazy) way out..but so much better for them in the long run, as you said, to teach them character. I always think about how others see my children..are they enjoyable to be around? Too demanding? Patient? I want them to be pleasant and kind to others, etc. Its hard work to be "mean" and its worth it.
So I truly applaud your post, and your mommyhood skills!

Helene said...

You are not a mean mom at all!! Your children are benefiting a great deal by your consistency!!

I really need to get on the ball because I tend to be overindulgent with my older twins because I'm so overwhelmed most of the time that I just give them what they want so I don't have to deal with the crying, tantrums, fighting. I know I'm setting them up for horrible problems later down the road so thank you for writing this and reminding me that NOW is the time for me to get a handle on things!

Great post!