How to Stop Being a Pushover and Start Parenting

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have three children: 6, 8, and 14 years old. I know I am a pushover, and they know it too. The other moms in my friend group are pretty similar, and they are relaxed in their parenting styles. The difference seems to be that their kids are mostly well-behaved and mine aren’t. We get together at each other’s homes, and two of my kids are particularly poorly behaved.  I can see in their eyes and in their behavior that me talking to them doesn’t work. The other parents are starting to get annoyed and judgmental. I am just an agreeable person who doesn’t like conflict, even with my kids. What do I do now? -Kelly, Las Vegas, Nevada


You are going to have to pull up your big girl pants and do some parenting.

“I’m cute and agreeable and I just want my precious children to like me best” is a common mantra of moms who raise people who no one wants to be around.

Also, because it’s not adorable enough for you to hold your kids accountable through consequences, your kids are likely to not understand cause and effect. This puts them in mortal danger: their bad choices do not result in consequences now, so you are tricking them into thinking that their bad choices will not have consequences in the future. This is less than optimal for when your kids are making decisions about with who to be friends with, driving, drinking alcohol, or using drugs.

In short, cute parenting can kill your kids.

So, enough already. Here’s how I would start handling things differently if I were you while at a friend’s house. Let’s say that other kids, your husband, and other parents are present.

Cute Parent #1: Your son and daughter got into my cabinets and were throwing food around the kitchen, even after I told them not to. Is everything OK at home?

Kid #1 and Kid #2:  We sure were! Woohoo! The world is ours!

Kid Whisperer: Ugh. Well, looks like you guys don’t know how to be out of our house. We’re leaving. Husband, if Kid #3 uses any behaviors that make it look like he also doesn’t know how to be out of our house, he can come and participate in the How to be a Human in Public training session that will be happening at our house as soon as we get home.

Husband: (whispered) This is kind of embarrassing.

Kid Whisperer: I don’t know what to tell you.

Cute Parent #1: Maybe we should just have a long-winded conversation about respect, responsibility, and not throwing food?

Kid Whisperer: No, thanks.

Kid #2: Are you being serious right now?

Kid Whisperer: Ugh. You can decide whether or not I’m serious as we leave. Husband will get your things and bring them home later.

Kid #1: But why do we have to leave? I have so much more damage to do and so many people to annoy.

Kid Whisperer: Ugh. I don’t argue.

Kid #1: But this is not the outcome that I want.

Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?

Kid Whisperer leaves with Kid #1 and Kid #2. Kid #2 notes Kid Whisperer’s level of seriousness (high).

Your kids are going to freak out if you do this. Going from “Cute Mommy” to “Serious Mommy” will not be fun for anyone. However, your kids getting in car accidents, getting addicted to drugs, or getting in a car with a drunk driver would be significantly less fun for your family and for the world.