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Mean Moms Rule (Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later)

This is an excerpt from Denise Schipani’s new book Mean Moms Rule, which will be released on April 1, 2012. Reprinted with permission

My name is Denise, and I’m a Mean Mom. I’ve chosen a lot of things in my life, such as what college to attend and what to study, the career that suited me best, the husband to be my partner in life, and I chose to have my children, two sons who are 9 and 7. Also, I’ve chosen to be the kind of mother I feel is best – a mean mom.

In my view, that’s the surest path to creating good kids and ultimately good adults. I say “mean” not because I’m an ice-cream-denying ogre (I’m not). I define my approach as “mean” because it’s not always an easy path to take.

It’s mean because it often bucks the prevailing parenting trend and involves the use of the dreaded “no” word. And it’s mean because it entails taking the long-view of parenting by placing more weight on future outcomes than on present-day happiness.

I carved up my philosophy into manifestos, a list of 10 principles:

1. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Many of today’s parents begin to see the kids as extensions or reflections of themselves. But parenting is a weird thing: it’s probably the most important thing you’ll do in your life that is not about you, at least not in the final analysis.

2. Hang on to yourself. If you submerge your pre-kid personality – goals, hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes – into parenting, you’ll go looking for that self later and find no one’s home. And to raise independent children, you have to model independence.

3. Start as you mean to go on. It’s about creating your own rules and principles, from the get-go. If you wing it with discipline and rules – especially if you change things up out of fear (of a tantrum, of being called “mean”), you’re just kicking the can down the road.

4. Don’t follow the parenting pack. Forge your path as a parent without succumbing to peer pressure. Kids need clarity, consistency, and the sense that you know what you’re doing.

5. Take (or take back) control. It can seem egalitarian and enlightened to let your kids decide they want s’mores for breakfast (occasionally it’s fun), but when they decide important things all the time, you’ve got a recipe for chaos.

6. Say no. Smile. Don’t apologize. Repeat as necessary. A few well-placed, well-timed “nos” are like spinach to kids. Tough to eat at first, but they grow up to love it, and are stronger for having swallowed it.

7. Teach them life skills. Cooking. Washing cars. Mowing lawns. Kids who can do things are smarter, more confident, and ultimately happier.

8. Slow it down. There’s value to slowing down the kind of entertainment kids consume (whatever happened to age-appropriateness?!), the fashions they wear (a major reason I’m glad I have boys!), or the tech they are treated to.

9. Fail your child, a little bit, every day. I’m talking about small failures – the fall off the swing, the disappointment of not having his best friend follow him to first grade – because it’s in those experiences that a child stretches, grows, finds new brain cells, new reserves of nerve and strength and self-reliance.

10. Prepare them for the world, not the world for them. It’s easy think it perfectly acceptable to argue your child into the “best” kindergarten class or, later, into a better grade. (But) wouldn’t it be better, in the long run, to make your child smart enough, flexible enough, capable enough, to handle the world with all its inevitable bumps?

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Comments (4)

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  1. 4. Don’t follow the parenting pack.
    I wish I’d known this rule, but when my kids became parents, I let them know that only THEY know what is best for their kids.

    Thanks for sharing info that’s useful to grandparents too.

  2. diffstandpoint says:

    not to be rude but you had boys not girls – i believe girls are different to raise, therefore have different guidelines

  3. Marusia says:

    “10. Prepare them for the world, not the world for them.” Better: Prepare them for the world, and they will be able to transform it into a better world.
    Interesting text!

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