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9 ways to be the meanest mom (in a good way)

According to my kids, I have once again been elected as president of the Mean Mom Club.

Fellow members, you know who you are. You wield that secret club card called Limits and Responsibility. For the uninitiated, here is the nine-step requirement for membership in the Mean Mom Club:

1. A mean mom sets limits, lots of them. Her children do not have free reign of their electronic devices. The kitchen does not have a revolving-door policy. There are established rules for media, bedtime and a host of other things. Mom and Dad are (gasp!) in charge.

2. A mean mom makes her kids work. They know how to set the table and load the dishes and grate the cheese for dinner. Kids do their own laundry and hang it up when it is clean. A mean mom expects beds to be made and clothes to be put away. She teaches her kids how to scrub a toilet and mow the lawn. A mean mom understands that a family that stays together works together.

3. A mean mom doesn’t pick up the slack. There are no apologies to the teacher when her child doesn’t finish his homework, or cops out on a big assignment. A zero is a zero — no excuses. A mean mom expects her child to learn from a few hard knocks, knowing that a hard knock at a young age is a lot softer than a hard knock as an adult.

4. A mean mom expects her kids to do hard things, whether that is in school, on the playing field or at the piano. She says things like, “Abraham Lincoln built a log cabin at the age of 6, so surely you can do this.” She teaches her children that hard work pays off.

5. A mean mom expects her kids to exhibit good manners. She expects them to look adults in the eye and greet them with a proper “hello.” Kids use “please” and “thank you.” They call adults by their last name, and not their first. If they have the privilege of eating out, a mean mom demands that her kids act appropriately. She teaches her children deference to their elders and reminds them that kids do not, indeed, rule the world.

6. A mean mom does not give handouts. Gifts and treats are not rewards for being cute; they are rewards for hard work, for a goal accomplished. She does not buy toys on every trip to Target. She pushes right past the gum in the checkout aisle. She ignores pleas for the latest Lego Friends set, reminding her children that all things are earned.

7. A mean mom is comfortable with her child’s discomfort. She allows for stumbles and falls. She does not try to fix every problem. She does not mediate friendships or cajole teachers into bumping up grades. She allows for tears of frustration and disappointment.

8. A mean mom does not care what is popular or socially acceptable. She has a long-term vision of what she wants for her family and for her children. She understands that her membership in the club can mean a lot more work upfront, but with greater reward down the road.

9. A mean mom can do all of the above in a very, very kind way. The true secret is that a mean mom does not have to be mean at all, but she has to be firm. She has to know that she carries the card of a club that wields the future generation, and she will stand her ground. She knows and stands by her ultimate goal: to raise hard-working, responsible, unselfish kids, who are, above all, nice.

Tiffany Gee Lewis lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is the mother of four boys. She blogs at Her email is