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How To Ruin Your Kids’ Summer in One Easy Step

If you asked my kids yesterday afternoon, they’d say I’m a mean mom. Their evidence?

  • I made them all fold laundry when they got home from their last day of school. Oh the humanity.
    clean unfolded laundry
  • I informed them that they will be doing so all summer, in fact.
  • I made the youngest turn off the Power Rangers after just one episode.
  • They have to earn time on the Wii or watching movies by reading and getting their chores done.
  • Each child has a bin in their room and they have to fill it up with stuff to move out of the room.

As I thought about my parenting yesterday, as they cried and moaned how their day was ruined by folding clothes, I realized that I have actually been a mean mom.

  • I haven’t taught them how to do laundry or fold clothes, and I haven’t been consistent about making them put their clothes away. That’s mean. They need these skills.
  • I haven’t taught them how to do dishes or cook (I don’t count the toaster). Do I plan to have them live on their own one day? Yes, so why haven’t I prepared them?
  • I’ve let the screen time (Wii, computer, and movies) get way out of hand. It’s mean to allow my laziness to inform my better judgment.
  • We haven’t purged in months. See above.
  • I have failed to require them to put things away after they get them out. Uh, yeah. See above again.

I’m turning over a new leaf. This summer is the perfect time to do it. My plan is simple. I’m going to teach them how to do laundry, clean bathrooms, wash dishes, load and empty the dishwasher, and vacuum. We’re going to purge, donating toys and clothes, pitching trash, and storing things so we can rotate the toys. By getting more stuff out of the bedrooms, the room will be easier to get clean and keep clean. We’re going to read together. It’s going to be awful great.

Are you a mean parent? Are you the healthy kind or the sick kind of mean? Do you have any great suggestions for how to make all this fun, and ultimately successful?


Life: unmasked buttonOn Wednesdays, I host a link-up for anyone willing to take off their “everything is fine” mask and write naked. You can keep it simple and just share a photo, you can get artistic and write a poem or create something, or you can go deep. The goal is to be real.

The instructions are simple: include a link back to this post in your post (you can use this short link: http://wp.me/p2n5xv-xf ). Copy the direct link to your post into the linky below. Then visit a couple others and let them know you stopped by! (I’ll do my best to visit a few of you too, but with all this laundry and purging we’re doing, it’ll be hit or miss.)


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  1. I try to be the healthy kind of mean(the I’m prepping for the real world type). Sadly, I’ve encountered many parents who don’t agree with us. Childhood should be all fun and games and unicorns–and my kids do have fun. But I think we do them a disservice if everything is fun and no work. Life’s not like that(I wish it were).

    • Exactly. If our kids never realize that life involves hard work and doing things we don’t want to do, what on earth will they do when life hits them upside the head? I don’t want to raise a bunch of entitled brats.

  2. I’m making my son read this so he knows I’m not the only horrible mother out there. We’ve just started cooking together, real cooking. Since my husband is taking night classes, my son is responsible (13 years old) for one meal each week and it can’t be pancakes (b/c that’s my meal). Thanks for sharing this.

    • I’m planning to do that too. I am going to have each kid choose a dinner, make a shopping list, go with me to the store, and prepare the meal. I think they’ll enjoy that, honestly.

  3. I love this. We’re going to get our newborn off and running with the system. I could use some help folding the laundry… Ha!

  4. Not a mom, but I think trying to make it fun is a losing battle. I mean, I don’t like having to do laundry or dishes and I doubt you do either. Maybe you can tell them that chores are part of learning to be a grown up, and tie the completion of the chores to getting some “grown up” privileges like a later bed time?

    • Good point. I have to do things I don’t want to do ALL DAY LONG. I like the idea of tying them in to privileges — that makes sense with the “part of growing up” bit. I’ll have to think on that.

  5. Yes. Exactly. I have plans to do the same things. Hope I can actually pull it off!

  6. I guess I should say that I hope WE (you, me and our kids) will all surprise ourselves. Pleasantly of course!

    Also, CRACKERS!

    “I’ve let the screen time (Wii, computer, and movies) get way out of hand. It’s mean to allow my laziness to inform my better judgment.”

    Did you HAVE to say that?

    • Amen to that — I really hope that the initial resistance will melt into resignation. If not, I’m going to need a LOT of moral support to stick it out!

      And yeah, I am smacking myself upside the head over the screen time issue.

  7. Oh goodness yes! I need a mean mom in my life too! and I will happily read and fold my clothes to earn netflix time. You are awesome!! I need a good after-work program to get Melanie doing a couple chores a night…sadly, cooking dinner and dishes don’t count as chores, because it doesn’t get me ahead. But sometimes that is all I accomplish after work. ooooooh and motivation to clear out stuff! I am sooooooooooooooo IN! My friend Karen Eiler reminded me: don’t look at the value or the usefulness of the items, go for LIGHTNESS!! Lightness my friend. Lightness! Better than Katniss!

    • Lightness — what a great concept!

      Tell you what — you make me put my stuff away, and I’ll make you. 🙂

  8. As far as making it fun goes, KatR is partly right. It’s a losing battle in that they will get old enough to realize chores aren’t fun (my daughter is 4 and she’s already learning this). Some things remain fun, and I encourage that (for instance she loves to help me cook/bake). Other things (picking up toys) she hates, but she still has to do them. Last night, we pretended she was a robot picking up toys, and that worked well. Other nights, she goes to timeout or goes to bed early and has toys taken away because she refuses to pick them up. And sometimes, she picks them up without complaining and without the need for pretending she’s a robot.

    I guess it’s a losing battle, but one I’m still willing to fight, if that makes any sense. I work all day, so combining work and play allows me to use the limited time I have with my daughters more efficiently.

    • I am so good at overlooking the clutter and focusing on getting them to bed on time that I’ve never even tried to get my kids to pick up before bed. So hats off to you for starting that early. And you’re right, making it fun can’t be the primary goal. If it happens along the way, fabulous. But we all have to do things we don’t want to do. I’ve already got my speech ready for when someone complains “it isn’t fair that I have to work” too. 🙂

  9. I you are doing it with them, they will probably end up having more fun than they thought. And yeah, it is great to know some of the basics before you are on your own. 🙂

  10. This mean and horrible mum made sure that all her kids could cook, wash dishes and do their own laundry before leaving home and the one child who thought I was the meanest, last week asked me how to get a child who wasn’t eating to eat at the dinner table. I guess he sees the point now that his girlfriend’s daughter is playing up for them. He even made a point of thanking me for the advice I gave. So stick with it Joy, they will appreciate it eventually, especially when they leave home and they are surrounded by folks who haven’t got a clue and they realise what the point of all that training was for.

  11. At times, I’ve honestly swung to each extreme – too soft or too hard, and sometimes within minutes of either extent. I wouldn’t call the tough end “sick mean,” but I know I’ve been more harsh at times than my daughter deserves.
    But she does have me wrapped around her finger more times than not, so I tend to go marshmallow when a firmer approach is warranted.
    We know that she is a gift – we waited through a period of infertility for her – and she displays traits of leadership and intellect we know can’t be squandered, but rather forged.
    So we’re try to balance fun and relaxation with keeping track of reading and journaling expectations as well as camps and VBSes to keep other aspects of her life sharp.
    And we think we’ll add in more of those household chores you’ve mentioned just for good measure.

  12. yep. i’m mean. my boys do their own laundry – even baseball pants. and we’re making them hang them on a line this summer to save money. and they take care of animals and a garden. and they can fix themselves a few meals. meanest mom on the planet:)

  13. Good for you! I arrived at university never having used the washing machine due to my parents’ kindness, and unable to cook. Your children will thank you for these lessons one day!

  14. Awesome! We are on the same page. Mine was dusting the base boards yesterday for the first time. Then, she folded towels. Later, she unloaded the dishwasher. Her taking over a night of cooking is next! Whoop!

  15. Looks good, though I hope somewhere in the schedule is outside time ~ time to exercise their bodies and their imaginations; time to do nothing but think and wonder.

    • Oh yes. Outdoor time is a must. We have some great neighbors who love playing outdoors too, which helps a lot.

  16. I may secretly be a big huge jerk…because this, this made me smile. ; )

  17. Every time I hear “mean mom” I think of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing the “Bitch is the New Black” bit. “Bitches get shit done.” You know what? Mean moms get stuff DONE. Stay strong.

  18. I am the product of a “mean parent” I suppose. I grew up in Mexico with a different culture, so I was used to having maids, they did everything for us. Getting married was a BIG eye opener (especially married to a pastor) and even now 9 years later with 3 kids I struggle, big time.

    I need to teach the kids to do chores, but first, I need to learn to do it myself (and maybe we can all lear together)

    • Learning together is an excellent idea. I have to learn things — it will show your kids that adults need to learn too, and if you can all laugh together when it doesn’t quite work, even better.

      I do wish we could have a maid though. 🙂

  19. Christy says:

    Now you have quit preaching and started meddling. I am trying to swing from the bad mean mom to the good mean mom, too. And of course, what happens the day aftr school ends? The vomit monster visits. So we’ve been delayed, but are also working on laundry, bedrooms, dishes, bathroom cleaning. I am running out of space for garage sale items- we might just have to do two of them- the horror! And earning screen time is a great idea. My kids have been monsters to each other the last few days, and I think it is mostly from lack of exercise.

    • Earning screen time has been a life-saver and sanity saver for me. I need to put a cap on it though, I can totally see my son reading four hours to try to earn four hours on the Wii! Good for you for collecting for a yard sale — I don’t have it in me to try that.

  20. I’m so glad you’re being mean 🙂 I make my boys work constantly, and to hear them you’d think I had a thriving child labor sweatshop running here. Every time they complain I just see it as evidence they haven’t done enough. Ha!

    • I did that today too — when one complained, I added another task. I think I may have finally figured out how to deal with complaining. And the bickering — I told them today that when they fight with each other, I’m going to put them to work. YES!

  21. It is good to start young! 🙂 My youngest is now ten with my boys being teenagers. I am one of the mean moms as well. I hear about it all the time how their friends don’t have to do anything. Seriously some of them have maids!! I tell them all the time that isn’t happening here! The one little piece of advice to pass along…make sure it’s done fairly. Start a chart or something to help keep track. Because otherwise you’ll get the whinning about brother doesn’t do this…or this is harder…or I always have to do this. Or yours might be young enough where they all can help with the same job, but I hear all the time that I did dishes yesterday it’s ____’s job today. Always something! Good Luck!

  22. Congrats on joining the “mean mom club” where we are trying to train our kids for REAL LIFE! Looks like you are well on your way 🙂

    I’ve decided the screen-time thing is an on-going battle which will never really be “won.” We have fought that battle for decades with our kids (7 kids, my oldest is 28, youngest is 10) with success an ebb-and-flow sort of thing. It would certainly be easier to just give up on it…but “easier” is definitely not necessarily “better” for our kids. Keep fighting for what you believe to be right!

  23. Ha! Too funny.
    To me that means your a good mom! 🙂

    But–I also just posted our “summer responsibilities charts” today (aka chore charts).
    Giving them gifts that will keep on giving (especially when they get married someday).
    I often think…doing this for our boys’ futue wives…they WILL know how to do laundry and clean a bathroom (Lord willing).
    My husband’s mom she did a great job of sending him into life with life-skills…so thankful for the time she invested (because we all know that teaching-training-for-tasks takes longer than just doing it ourselves…for the first while at least).

  24. Kids love summers and it is their time to spend time freely and have fun always.. But I guess this can really be effective.. Great post for us!

  25. Michelle @ Changed By The Maker says:

    I totally love your post! I try to be the “healthy mean!” My kids do have regular chores (though I suspect they could be doing more….).

    The only way I can keep them accountable is with a schedule of chores, by days. I’ve broken down jobs like cleaning the bathroom and the living room into smaller tasks — one day clean the toilet, one day sweep the bathroom floor, one day, clean the mirrors and vanity. Eventually the whole bathroom gets clean; I only have to monitor 1 chore a day, so I can make sure it’s done well; it’s written down, so they know what they need to do each day and I don’t have to remind them!

    The summer is the perfect time, you’re right! I want to have my 9yo making at least 1 dinner per week, and washing his own laundry by the time school starts in the fall! In a short 9 years he’ll be on his own! He has so much more to learn!

    Thanks for hosting!

  26. I just spoke to my husband about this tonight, and actually we are going to pray and fast. It’s not just this – it’s everything, feeling so far from God, no faith for the people I teach the Bible to, doing things by obligation and not by faith so that I am not someone you want to be around. But we need to start teaching our kids and not getting lost in the Internet, and here I am, not sure if I am ready to change. What a mess.


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