How to Be a Parent and Not a Servant

  • Dear Kid Whisperer,I have three boys, aged 8, 12, and 16 who are all quite disrespectful and very unappreciative of me. It’s very hurtful. I am a stay at home mom and I think of myself as being great at my job. I cook them hot meals, do their laundry, clean their rooms, drive them everywhere, and help them with their homework. I take care of the house so that they can concentrate on their studies. They don’t say “thank you”, and they treat me like a servant. I’m tired of it. What do I do? –Marjorie, Lancaster, Pennsylvania Marjorie,

    Oh, boy. If you think the way your kids treat you is hurtful, just wait until you read my answer to your question. I’m sorry in advance.

    A long time ago, back in my bartending days in Chicago, I met a woman named Paula. She was a friend of a friend. I thought of her at the time as “older”, she was probably around the same age that I am now (42 years young) had never married, and very quickly I got the feeling that she had dated a lot of men and had endured a bit of a rough time in relationships. With this experience seemed to have come wisdom, and the one and only night that I ever hung out with her she said something that I never will forget:

    “Good” moms produce horrible boyfriends.

    It sounds like you are what Paula would describe as a “good” mom as she did that night with sarcastic air quotes. While of course, I applaud your efforts to live up to your standard of what a good mother is, and while some of your hard work is good for your kids (a hot meal never hurt anyone) I am going to say that much of your work to be a “good” mother is hurting your boys and is likely to make them horrible boyfriends.

    By doing everything for them, you are showing them that someone else is in charge of fulfilling all of their wants and needs. You are teaching them that it is someone else’s job to take care of them. It is very likely that your boys will be expecting this from the women in their lives. Woe be unto your sons if they also see their teachers, professors, and bosses as people who are required to take care of them. Unfortunately, they probably will.

    Why are your sons treating you like their servant? Because you are their servant. Look at your own description of what you do for your kids. That’s what a servant does.

    If your kids can physically do something, they should be doing it. I don’t care if your 8-year old is getting his Ph. D in quantum physics from Oxford: he still has the time to clean his own room.

    Kids appreciate what they work for and achieve. They have a very hard time appreciating what they have already been given. You are giving them everything and then asking for appreciation. It won’t work.

    This is how I would start shifting their paradigm about who is in charge of their lives, their happiness, and their underwear:

    Kid Whisperer: Oh, drat. I think I have given all of you the false impression that I have been put on his earth to make you perfectly comfortable at all times. This is probably why you all treat me like I am your butler. This is my fault. From now on I will be requiring you to take care of yourselves. I will be treating you like small men instead of large babies. This will be a significantly more exciting and more difficult way for you all to live, and it will be significantly easier for me. Also, we will be doing some training sessions on how to treat me. Once you are experts at treating me with respect, you will be able to move on with your lives. I wish you the best, and we are going to get started right away.

    Good luck. You training your kids to be positive members of society will benefit them and the rest of us, so thank you in advance!