Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mean Moms

Have you ever doubted yourself as a parent or educator? Children are often experts at employing the emotional guilt trip as a tool to get their own way.

When I was a young and gentle mother refusing to give way to a strong-willed Kindergartner at bedtime, these bone-chilling works were spoken to persuade me to recant a decision:

"You're the meanest Mommy in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!"

While the goal is never cruelty, love often necessitates boundaries which may appear unkind or unloving.

For example, in The Hedge of Thorns, written in by John Hatchard in 1819, a young boy is warned about going beyond the hedge of thorns along the border of the family property. The boy and his sister wander along the farm and play, reaching the boundary. As they approach, the boy looks up above, sees the birds, soaring free above the hedge and wonders why his caregivers forbid him to cross over to the other side of the hedge. Surely there must be something wonderful there, he thinks. He decides that the rules are surely too harsh and unreasonable and that he will take his younger sister over there to explore. Much to his horror, he almost plunges them both to their deaths down a steep ravine but miraculously escapes the danger with some help.

This valuable lesson about boundaries would benefit many in society today.

I remember when it was considered good parenting to be "buddies" with your child. I will concede, that it IS possible once the child is of age and contains the capability to reason more like an adult but there is always still a respect for the parental role and it is often detrimental to use this approach with a young child. It is desirable to have an open relationship to where a child feels safe enough to share important struggles with the one who can guide them to higher ground, however, what I've seen more often than not when the parent tries to reason with a young child, is a guilty, acquiescant parent.

I will talk more about guilt-free authority that is authoritative but not authoritarian, but for now, let's just say the term "Mean mom" might not be all that it appears to be. It's the "Mean Mom" who sets boundaries for bedtime, mealtimes, relationships, toys, playtime and many other aspects of life and the permissive mom/teacher who causes the most harm to their own environment and to their child.

And for those of you thinking about the relationship I have with the Kindergartner who called me a "Mean Mom,".... as an older teen, he now tells me when I'm being too lenient with his younger siblings.

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