Child discipline is a touchy subject. Those in teaching or childcare professions know that when they must approach certain parents about their child's rebellious, ill-mannered or disrespectful behavior, there is bound to be a backlash.
It might be denial: "My sweet little angel would NEVER do that. It must have been something you did to bring this out of her" or "That other child must have provoked her for her to smack him like that."
It might be an I-do-it-better-than-you-can attitude: "He NEVER behaves that way under MY roof!"
There's the let-someone-else-deal-with-it attitude: "Why didn't you beat his little butt!"
And then there's the hands-off mentality: "Don't you dare lay a hand on my child! And don't raise your voice to her either!"
I say all of this to shed light on the fact that hearing from someone else that your child has been behaving like a hellion raises the hackles of many moms. Many moms unknowingly stick their head in the sand instead of recognizing this as a red flag. What I've realized over time is that many moms have trouble disciplining their children because they don't want to be the "mean mom."
Think back to some of your friends' parents when you were growing up or simply look at some of the parents of a few of your children's friends. A few of them represent the concept of a "mean mom." You know the type the mom who always says no, never seems to smile, always taking away, always barking orders, rarely showing love, always telling their children you can't eat that, go there or do this. No one wants to be the mean mom. Everybody wants to be the "cool mom," and many moms associate discipline with meanness.
The mentality of not wanting to be the "mean mom" can result from deep-seeded problems in a mother's past. Perhaps your own mother was the primary disciplinarian in your household growing up and did not balance her sternness with love; women who had this kind of childhood often make a commitment to do the exact opposite with their own children, not realizing the scales are still tipped in an unhealthy way. Single moms who are starved for love, for lack of a better phrase, and have not learned to love themselves often have an irrational fear that if they discipline their children, their children will grow to hate them, just like the spouse or significant other who left them once upon a time.
My own mother fell into this trap. She seldom disciplined me or my older brother in our young years. Now that I'm an adult and I consult my mother for advice on parenthood, we've had conversations on why she was so hands-off when it came to discipline. After two failed marriages to deadbeat dads and a determination to avoid relationships to focus on her children, she came to depend on my brother and me to fill a hole of love in her heart. If discipline caused us to love her less, she thought, why should she do it? By the time my brother and I entered adolescence, my mom had found peace through spirituality, forgave herself for her past decisions, and learned to love herself and surround herself with a loving support group. She began disciplining us, realizing later that doing so was an act of love, rather than an act of meanness that would drive us away from her.
I end this post with the following tips for moms who are afraid of turning into a mean mom through disciplining their children
• Discipline can, and often should be, individually tailored to each of your children. For example, spanking a child as discipline for bullying or hitting in school may send a mixed message. Spanking a child for lying, however, may be appropriate, if it fits into your values system. Time out may work for one child, while removing privileges or assigning extra chores may work for another.
• Remember that discipline IS a form of love, and don't be afraid to explain this to your children after you've corrected them for their behavior.
Alisa Gilbert is a freelance writer who writes on the topic of bachelors degree .