The Book

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My name is Denise, and I’m a Mean Mom.

That’s the very first line of my book, Mean Moms Rule. Let me explain the “mean” for you, in case you were under the impression that I never hug my boys (I possibly do this too much, as evidenced by the fact that they routinely try to wiggle away from my embraces and especially my sloppy kisses, the urchins), or that I advocate for children to work in coal mines (it’s illegal! Plus, no coal mines in my area!). I say “mean” because my approach often bucks the prevailing parenting trend, which you could call helicopter-y or indulgent (I prefer my own technical term, “squishy”). It’s mean because it’s not easy. Because it’s focused on the end game, not the here-and-now (and anyone who has kids’ll tell you, they are all about the here and now).

I love my children in the natural, elemental, unspoken way that most mothers do. But just as love alone is not enough to sustain a lasting marriage, it’s also not enough to raise children into independent, competent adults – progeny to be proud of. You need a plan. And it’s been my plan, from day one, to be the kind of mother who keeps her eyes on the prize of parenthood, which is to say, the good kids.

From my own mother, the Original Mean Mom, I inherited a relentlessly practical nature. That plus my mile-wide stubborn streak make me ill-suited to be a loosey-goosey parent. I like schedules and order. I like to be in charge (but please note: in charge is not the same as autocratic. It’s just that someone needs to have her hands on the wheel). I don’t want to be my kids’ friends.

I’ve heard tell that my kids are good kids, which is satisfying to hear (then there are the times they’re decidedly not, but that’s another story). I can’t take all the credit for that, but credit isn’t what I’m after. I’m after growing my boys up to stand on their own two feet, to use their own fine minds, to not need me anymore (see? Mean). I’m after adding two more good men and good citizens and independent people to a world that, it looks like, needs them.

22 responses to “The Book”

  1. Sarah

    I’m so looking forward to reading your book! I confess, I am a mean mom to two boys (3 and 1). Most of my friends are the squishy kind of parents. So, I very often feel guilty about my no-nonsense approach, or I feel the need to defend it. I hope your book includes some gems to help me with my battle of the mommies. Congratulations on being published!
    ~Sarah

  2. Karen Le Billon

    I can’t wait to read this book! I had strict parents and am a firm parent with my two young daughters. They get lots of love, fun, and joy–but they do have to toe the line on a few things. It helps that I am married to a Frenchman, and have had the experience of living in France–where everyone is firm (and teachers will be really firm, even if parent’s aren’t!). I agree with you: we’re not doing any favors to our kids by being indulgent. However, I don’t think this is mean: I think it’s common-sense!

    Congratulations on the book, and look forward to reading it.

    Karen

  3. Kristina

    I don’t quite know how it happened, and I don’t know if I’m supposed to be sharing that I am currently in the process of reading this book (I picked it up from my local Barnes and Noble yesterday), but I’m already half-way finished! I love your concepts and before this book, I just about nearly slammed my head against the wall trying to find a parenting book that made actual sense to me! I am a stepmother with no biological children of my own, and by the time I met my youngster, she was out of diapers and into attitudes, so many of the anecdotal references in the book don’t necessarily apply, though I still can appreciate their lessons. There is definitely something is this book for everyone, and everyone can definitely learn a thing of two from being a Mean Mom! I look forward to wearing my new badge with honor!

    Kristina

  4. Amanda Titus

    I really think I need to read this book. I’m one of those squishy moms to which you are referring. And it is easier to give in. The birthday parties, treat bags, multiple holiday parties, taking vacation days from work to do my kids’ parties at school. None of these things are helping them or teaching them anything but to be entitled. What’s worse is that my husband is even more squishy than I am. I noticed a problem after my son’s speech class that he was given a choice of a ‘treat’ for doing a job well done…and he couldn’t pick. He wanted them both. Maybe your book can help me.

  5. Donna

    I am running out today to get this book! I am a mean mom and have been since my two boys (11 & 7) were old enough to sit in a highchair at restaurants (not allowed out of the chair, even if grandma was done with her meal. They had to stay in the chair until we paid the check). I get many complements on my two as we work hard on being well behaved (and it is hard!!). Our advice to any friend having a baby is simple…CONSISTENCY! I am a stickler about consistency. I am always being looked at as the “mean mom” in my family because I refuse to give in to what we think is wrong. My kids get alot but they MUST behave and do as they are told to get rewards. I know someday they will thank me as my mom was a “meanie” too and I thank her all the time.

  6. JenJen

    I am not a mean mom and wanted to give a rebuttal to your statements about how being a mean mom is better for your kids in the long run. Kids do live for the here and now, and that is a good thing, not something to be trained out of them. You don’t have to set your kids up to expect that you buy everything they want for them, though. They are not born wanting things they don’t need, adults are the ones who train them to do that.
    I like some of the advice of Naomi Aldort on this:
    http://mothering.com/green-living/excessive-buying
    http://www.mothering.com/green-living/nurturing-childrens-talents

    1. D

      JenJen, I strongly suggest you READ at least some of this excellent book. I’m pretty granola and very anti-stuff, and it makes SO very much sense, and is SO much more long-term love than here-and-now. I disagree that living for the here-and-now is a viable long term plan for raising your kids and put forth that a LOT of the current problems would have been solved long ago if we as a global population would grow up and mature past that short view of things. The kids need structure and guidance, and this book is awesome.

  7. Aimee

    It’s so hard to say no to your kids that someone had to write a book about it. Really? And because I’ve said no many, many times I’m a mean mom. No, I’m a mom who isn’t raising spoiled rotten children who will have tantrums for the rest of their lives, when they don’t get everything they want.

    So we live in a time where the one percent takes its children to camp in a helicopter. Anyone who raises their kids that way is going to have kids with a sense of entitlement a mile wide. I don’t mean entitlement as in programs – I mean as in I’m better than you are.

    Saying no, should be normal, not room for applause.
    We have to teach our kids values because society isn’t doing it. Isn’t that just good parenting?

  8. Stephanie

    WOO HOO!

    I have been a “mean mom” for just over 17 years now, and I have to tell you that I hate 99.9% of the tweens, teens and young adults that are out there in society right now. As a whole, they are a rude, obnoxious, self-centered bunch with “entitlement” issues. And their parents usually aren’t any better.

    My philosophy, with nearly 7 billion people on this planet, we just can’t afford to be this way.

    Nature DOES NOT operate this way. There HAS to be balance. Feast or Famine. Haves and have nots. Winners and losers. Success and failure. Those cut out for college and those who are not. It’s high time for a dose of reality, not just in parenting, but in general.

    “No” is not a dirty word. Compassion and understanding do not have to mean weak, spoiled or narsasistic.

    Nothing makes me prouder than when people tell me how nice it is to meet such a polite, witty and grounded young man. I may be a “mean mom” but, I must be doing something right!

  9. Dreama

    I’m the mean Mom of 21 yo twin girls (Juniors in college) & an 18 yo (HS Senior) boy. Ask anyone who knows us…saying no to today’s societal rules for raising kids & following Biblical TRUTHS has turned out well..so far, so good.

  10. Toni Ehrlich

    Cudos to you and to everyone who reads your book and pays attention! I was one of those “Mean Moms” too. I had rules and bedtimes and chores and my boys were required to think for themselves. Punishment was given when the rules were clearly broken (that old there are consequences for your actions lesson) and since my children are grown and in their mid 30’s now I am told the worst part of punishment was the part when we sat and discussed why they were going to be punished. My Sons are now happy, healthy, well adjusted, productive members of society. The eldest has a beautiful wife and 2 brilliant children. The youngest was a soldier and is now living his dream as a writer, director and actor with his own splendid production company in S. Cal.
    I tell you all this so you will understand, being the mean mom gets real results. I used to hear all about what wonderful young men they were, so well mannered, and now I hear things like your sons are such great guys, wonderful people, great Husband, awesome Father and great friend.
    So Ladies Stick to your plan, be the Mean Mom, it pays in such joyful ways for so many!

  11. David Wolfe

    I agree with the premise of your book HOWEVER as a single dad of 2 lovely children I feel it is important to be careful not to fall into the trap that one parenting plan fits all children. My son seems to thrive on a “soft” plan that would follow the “love and logic” style of parenting. He helps set his own rules. My daughter has a little thicker skin and does not do as well as with the “mean mom” (in my case “mean dad”) construct. I am sure most of you would agree that each and every child has his/her own personality and thus we as parents fly by the seat of our pants on each and every one of our children since no two of them are exactly alike! It is okay to treat them differently however and when asked why the bedtime is not the same as the other sibling I say because they are not their sibling and daddy has to try to figure out what the best bedtime is for each of his special children.

    Signed,

    please forgive me if I sound like I know what I am talking about. Perhaps grand parents should be the people weighing it to this and they has a better vantage to give an honest appraisal of what worked well and what did not.

    1. Denise Schipani

      David, thanks. That’s an excellent comment and insight. Kids DO need to be parented differently depending on their needs and personalities. I see it with my own two. The basic rules and our basic stance as parents remains the same, but we go about it differently with each son. My grandmother (who was very wise and who I miss all the time) told me this many years ago, well before I had children: Your kids will tell you how they need to be parented. I guess the trick is tuning in! But I still feel that an overall philosophy is best. For example, if I am firm in what I’ll say no to (such as, no kiddo, you’re not getting an iPad) then that’s that. You know what I mean? Thanks for reading!

      Denise

  12. Molly Santa Croce

    Thank you Denise! I plan on reading this book ASAP. As a Mom of four, ages 18, 17, 12, and 6, I can tell you that your plan works!! MY plan was always: Stay out of as much as I can and let them learn via life experiences and their own mistakes. I have not been as good as I could have as far as chores, but what I have done, is made sure they understand that they are responsible for themselves and should not automatically count on me to solve their problems, whether it be with friends, teachers, transportation issues, finances, etc. My teens are very independent individuals. My son will be attending a college quite far from home and I have no worries that he will adjust very well. My 17 year old daughter recently negotiated a very serious health crisis and came through stronger than ever. My kids are NOT perfect, but I do NOT worry about their future. It is so frustrating to not have alot of support for this kind of child rearing!! You have my vote, and I will be looking forward to reading your book!

  13. Sarah

    I am so looking forward to reading this book! I am a firm believer in structure and clear rules! I have 17 month old twin girls- all I want for them is to be happy, healthy, high functioning adults some day!

  14. Rachel

    Awesome. I’m probably less of a schedule type – but I am so into the idea of not being your kids’ friends and instead focusing on raising good citizens. Have you read “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel? I think you’d like it. Excited to read your book.

    I am really shocked at the whole current movement of indulging your kids, making them happy at any given moment (but overall miserable), and creating these entitled monsters, all stemming from what? — Guilt at not being around enough? Wanting to be “cool”? What is it? Why can’t parents discipline or say no anymore?

    Also, really like the idea of teaching kids to serve. Need to start volunteering with my 4 y/o soon. Haven’t found any opportunities yet that welcome kids that age -so I’ll have to start my own.

  15. Sandra Simon

    I just want to say thank you for your book. One reason is to reasure myself that I was doing the right thing and for helping my husband see that it is ok to “BE” the parent not there friend. I have a 7 and 5 year old boy also a 14 and 10 yr old step sons. The attitudes in this house were out of control. I would also like to thank you for giving my a reason to take the time to “MYSELF” and read your book. That alone taught my kids that I have to take time for me. I make them fold clothes and put them away, make there beds and clean there toys up. I have always told them there is a place for everything and everything in its place. Kitchens are for cooking, dinning room for dinning, living room for entertaining and gathering, bed room for sleep and toy room for toys. There are no toys in there room. I allow only a few books (I know you like to hear that) that they read if they can’t sleep. This has worked very well with us. It also helps that when they are looking for a special toy they know where it is because they put it away where it belong. Again thanks for the book, the advise, and the time to myself.

  16. Cassi Powell

    I can’t wait to read this. I have been a “mean mom” from the beginning. I want to raise happy, independent, respectful children who turn into happy, independent, respectful adults. One early event sticks out in my memory, maybe because it was our first public “mean mom” moment. We were at a restaurant (my husband, myself and our 2 boys- then ages 2 & 3). Our older son decided to throw a tantrum (over something I can not recall). After reminding him about how we behave at a restaurant, giving him the opportunity to make a better choice, I removed him and he and I spent 20 minutes in the car waiting for the others to finish. We never had a problem with poor behavior while out to eat again.

  17. susie

    I SOOOO need this book. I am a “mean” step-mom (mom is not around at all) Dad has my back, we make sure we are consistent, but grandma does her best to undermine our efforts. If we say no, Nana will say yes. Not sure if the book will help me deal with that but it helps to know there are other “mean” moms out there!

  18. Andrea @ EC Simplified

    I’ve been referring your book to all of my readers who are having a difficult time disciplining their children after a few years of doing attachment parenting. Every single one of them has devoured and adored your book…such honest words and so inclusive of all parenting styles. Thanks so much for writing it!!!!

  19. lewis

    im not a mean mom and tend to give in to my kids antics because of the guilt that i leave them at the daycare all week. My mom was a home-maker and was always around. My older child started K and I saw something that totally disturbed me – she was being bullied – i googled, searched and finally came across your blog. I am trying to figure out a way to make her stronger and not cave into pressure to be accepted. I read a few of your blog articles and I hope your book will help me. Thanks

  20. Ana B

    I read the book in less than a week! I loved it! Now I know I am not alone. I sometimes felt guilty about my ways of raising my kids, but now I know I am right.
    I believe in chores for everyone in the house, I stand for teamwork when doing the chores.
    I have a 10 year old girl and 6 year old twins and the have mastered the laundry, car washing, leaf raking, dishwasher, etc.
    My 3 kids clean after themselves most of the time.. the others they get an earful!
    The book was a reminder that we need to keep up with the good work!

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