Mean Parenting 101: You Make Your Kids Do What?

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Mean Parenting 101: You Make Your Kids Do What?Hello, I’m Erin and I have a problem. The first step is admission, so here we go. Deep breath. I am a mean parent. It’s true. Because I am drunk with parenting power, I always enforce kindness, respect and manners. These often get the mean card thrown at me, but the pure evil I am referring to here comes from a different place. It actually comes from a place of fun and excitement.

I regularly earn my mean badge by forcing my kids to do something they believe they are too scared to try. Gasp.

Most recently, we went to the beach for a quick before school trip. Both kids were terrified of the ocean. I mean, I get it. We had just wrapped up Shark Week (perhaps that was a bad parenting choice), but who doesn’t love Shark Week? I digress. The ocean was calling. The waves needed to be ridden. So, I whipped out my mean parenting skills (that I now excel in) and the three-year-old went first. Y’all, to say he was upset with me is an understatement. People were staring like I was about to toss him out to fend for himself. I had already lied and said the sharks from Shark Week were in a different ocean and still, he wanted no part of it?! Yet, all it took was me holding him tightly, bouncing in some waves and his belly laughs were a sweet sound I will never forget. The five-year-old followed suit and held onto me like a spider monkey, but within minutes she was also hooked. They played in the ocean constantly for the next four days. Good news! The “Judgy McJudgerson” looks were fewer the second time around. I guess people realized that I wasn’t actually feeding my children to the sharks; they probably watched Shark Week too.

Disclaimer #1: This photo was taken approximately three minutes into the water. My mean skills cannot be beat!

However, not all kids are the same.

I understand that some children may not respond to being forced or may even respond in a manner opposite of our intentions. There are some fears that are fears for a reason and we, as parents, need to hang up our mean badge, and respect those boundaries. As mamas though, we know our kids. We know where those lines fall and where we need to bust through them. Any time I force them to push these boundaries, I make absolute certain their trust in me remains intact. My daughter was bitten by a dog when she was two and her fear of dogs runs deep. I get it and respect that. We are intentional about working through her fear, but it is a slow transition because her fear is based on an experience and not the unknown.

Some fears need to be respected and others need to be challenged.

You see, I knew that my children would love the waves. There was no doubt they would love riding Dumbo at Disney. I knew my daughter could handle the water slide and my husband knew our son would revel in a slow four-wheeler ride. These are all fears we have challenged and yes, forced them to face. I feel like I would be failing as a parent if we didn’t face these reservations head-on. They are both cautious children and my mommy stress levels thank them daily for that, but I can’t stand by and watch them miss opportunities. At five and three years of age, they are presented chances for fun and excitement, but I can’t help but see this same trend leading into adulthood.

Disclaimer #2: These photos were taken after they pleaded to skip Dumbo. They clearly hated it. Skip Dumbo? Not on my watch!

When we do challenge a fear, whether we are successful or not, we always make a big deal and celebrate how brave they were. I don’t ever want them to be afraid to travel to a city they are longing to see or apply for a job where they will have to work hard in order to be successful. While these are not challenges they face today, I believe that knowing they were brave enough to hunt shells in the ocean (with sharks) and get on a ride that goes higher than they ever had before, will set their brave meter high.

We want to set them up to not only go through life, but to experience it along the way.

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Hello! Erin here! I was born and practically raised in Chattanooga, minus a few years as an Army brat. I graduated from Bryan College with a degree in Accounting/Business and currently work as corporate accountant. My husband, Michael and I live in Ooltewah and have been married 8 years. During this time, we have had some serious fun, hard discussions and added two pretty spectacular kids to the mix, Charlotte (5) and Jack (3). I love Jesus, books (so.many.books), coffee, coffee (not a duplicate) and TN Vols football! As a family, we love animals; farms, fishing, aquariums, zoos. If it’s got animals, we are there! Charlotte and I are travelers, but we are slowly getting the boys on board. We camp with friends and family (full disclosure: in a camper!), and I have been known to encourage dancing in the rain and splashing in mud. It’s good for the soul! Happy reading, friends!