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Chapter 4 of the Mean Parent Handbook: How to ruin your kid’s life forever

I am just sick this morning.


Not EWWW-sick like I was last week during that nasty bout of stomach flu, but absolutely 100% heartsick this morning.

Why, you might ask yourself.

Because I had to be a freaking parent this morning!  And it sucks. And I hate it. And I resent my kid right now for MAKING me have to be a parent this morning.

Not just a parent, but the MEAN parent, the one with the make-you-cry punishment that will not only ruin his day, but could very well ruin.his.life.forever.and.ever.and.ever.

To fill you in on the backstory, last week Nathaniel got busted when his progress report came home.  My son is smart.  Now, I know that all parents seek to highlight the positives about their kids (the little punk leaves his socks all over the house and has started to have that pre-teen funk smell marinating around him), however, Nathaniel is one of those wicked smart kids that anything learn-y just seems to come very natural to him.  The kid doesn’t have to study to make straight A’s, he doesn’t have to work at it to do well…and thus, has become incredibly lazy and just takes for granted that he doesn’t have to put out any effort to continue excelling.

And mom calls bullshit on it.

So, last week when I got a gander at the progress report, it showed that he had a C- in his Bible class.  (Private Christian school, remember?) A, A, A, A, A, C-.


Then I looked at what the grades actually were.

5 test scores: A

5 homework scores: F

I lost my mind, people.

My kid apprently feels that doing the homework is a complete waste of his time because he still got A’s on the tests, so obviously he can learn the material without having to do all the tedious writing exercises and, just to be clear, can use that time to chat around the class.

Ok, let me stop right here for a second and tell you how hard it is to argue with that logic (not the chatting part, but the useless busy-time homework that has no impact on his learning, but whatever, it’s the assignment and you WILL. DO. IT.)

THIS? Is all Peter’s doing.  I had to study for every grade I ever got….I HAD to work to pass.  Peter, not so much. Obnoxiously fact.  (So, the tendency to scatter socks all over the house is not the only annoying gene he passed down to Nathaniel) It comes easy to them so the working part seems superfluous.

But, the mean parent handbook says that I have to force my kid to actually DO his homework, whether it has any bearing on his grade-getting ability or not. End of story. Forever and ever. Amen.

*I did not mean to quote a Randy Travis song, it just sort of rolled out*

His punishment was loss of his cell phone. Not grounding, permanent loss.

Grounding has proven to be an epic FAIL with this kid because, by all that is wrong and unjust in the world, this boy is patient.  He can endure as long as he knows there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If he KNOWS he can get it back, then he can just wait it out. He will quietly, and without complaint, persevere thoughout his sentence and then gleefully pick up as if it never happened.

So, last week he lost his brand new, shiny Christmas present cell phone.  He was upset.

I, then laid down the groundwork for any future mishaps: If he got another F in a homework assignment for simply failing to complete it, he would then lose his Gameboy…PERMANENTLY.  We would physically give it to someone else.

It scared the bejezers out of him because he loves that DS, bordering on obsession.  It is his greatest joy and most prized possession.  He is a gamer at heart (Daddy’s genes at work AGAIN) and when he’s not actively playing, he’s thinking about playing or planning out what he’ll do next time he plays or counting down the minutes until he can play again.

It’s a constant struggle to balance what he should be doing with his desire to play.

With this in mind, I beat him over the head with the threat of permanent loss.

HA! I put the fear of Nintendo in his heart.


This morning.

A week later.

F on an assignment.  He forgot to do another class’s assignment, so he had to use his in-class time to complete THAT work, so he didn’t turn in the homework he was supposed to be doing during that time and NOW? Another F.

I am required to pony up on my threat.

I’m staring at it right now, sitting on my desk, his Gameboy. That he handed over with tears and a gut-wrenching expression and the demeanor of a mother abandoning her child on the doorstep of an orphanage.  Goodbye, my sweet love, I will never forget you.

Mah heart!

And everything inside me rushed to say, I’m sorry you screwed up, let’s have another chance and try harder this time.

But holyfreakingmoly, it’s only been a week since his last punishment and I KNOW it’s not going to get any better with another chance (because THIS is about the eleventy-millionth second chance) and then I’ll just be angry because he didn’t follow through on his promise to do better and eventually, I WILL have to make good on my threatened punishment.

Here, I sit, feeling like the world’s worst mother because I don’t want to have to enforce this one.  I hate being the bad guy and knowing that my kid’s at school right now, hoping I’ll get hit by a bus or doing the “I hope I die cause then she’ll feel bad because she treated me mean” mantra.

I’m wishing I’d threatened something less severe, but I also know that THIS will get through to him.  I’m wishing the last punishment had impacted him in a way that shook his 11 year-old brain into awareness that I’m dead serious about this.

Right now, I’m wishing I wasn’t a mean parent and this wasn’t part of my job.

Cause it SUCKS for us both.


IPod Touch – giveaway – STILL!

70 Comments on “Chapter 4 of the Mean Parent Handbook: How to ruin your kid’s life forever”

  1. #1 Elinor
    on Mar 1st, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    @SusieQ, Homework is for “home”. “Home” is where the parents are. Therefore, parents’ responsibility. Too many parents want the teachers to do the entire job of educating their children, especially permissive parents.

  2. #2 Elinor
    on Mar 1st, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    After reading all the posts and replies about whether or not the punishment fits the crime, or how to deal with the guilt about the punishment, I have come to the conclusion that none of you would know what to do if your children didn’t have all these “toys” that you could take away in the event they didn’t follow the rules. Perhaps if they weren’t given so many “things” the leverage on the punishment would change.

  3. #3 jennifer
    on Mar 1st, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I completely get that it hurts you more! I hate being the mean parent. As parents, we have to follow through on the punishments or the kids think we are idiots. Just think of the show “The Nanny” 🙂 As an MSW, I’ve taught parenting courses and one of my favorite tips is adjust the length of the punishment to the child’s age. I remember wanting my ears pierced when I was nine and my parents telling me that I had to wait until I was 16. They may as well have asked me to wait until I was 95, that is what it felt like. Anyway, forever is kind of harsh in my eyes but look on the bright side- there will likely be a new and improved portable gaming system soon. You told Nathaniel his DS was gone. But that does not mean that he can’t get something else- say the latest handheld for Christmas. That way you have followed through on your word and you don’t have to keep the mean parent title 🙂 Anissa, you are an awesome Mom – You’re kids are lucky to have you. Ignore the angry woman who writes crap on your site.

  4. #4 SusieQ
    on Mar 1st, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    I think the philosophy of homework being the “parents responsibility” really depends on your kids age. For little guys and elementary school ages I’d agree with you. When your kids get to middle school (11-12 years) which is where my youngest is now, and then move into high school preparing for college, as parents we need to help our kids learn to deal with increasing responsibility and have occasional real life consequences. I think that our parent roles need to change for them to learn that.

    One of the best things we can do to improve education and our school system is to be an involved parent and be in touch with the kids teachers and what’s going on in the classroom. Collaboration for a solution is what I had
    in mind.

  5. #5 Marie
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Aw, Anissa you did the right thing. If grades are important to you, and he knows that, then you are right to enforce it. And you know what – if the Gameboy is that much of an obsession, perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing to lose it. I have to say I’m not a fan of kids and their obsession with games. I had a Nintendo when I was 13, I loved it, but I didn’t get obsessed with it. I swear, there’s secret addictive messages being put into games these days!!!

    The important thing is you stay strong. If he whinges, or turns on the charm, and gets it back, then he will quickly learn you won’t stick to your word. Like you said, he knows he can wait. That said, if you take EVERYTHING important away from him, just be careful he doesn’t get the mentality of “I got nothing to lose anyway so why try.” He still needs something to work towards. It’s a tough balance. I mind two boys 10 and 11 who have become mercanaries. They will not do ANYTHING unless there is some kind of reward waiting for them, and if they’ve been punished they won’t do a thing. Once they said to me “Why should we do anything? You already took TV away, so what’s the point?” Grrrrrrr…….

  6. #6 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:36 am

    @Niki a.k.a. Mommielicious,

    do you not understand I am sitting in front of my computer when I read these things? It’s not nice to make me nearly spit-spray a mouthful of coffee on my keyboard.

    But for this? I love you forever!

  7. #7 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:37 am

    @just mom,

    THANK you for understanding! And half of forever? Ok, I can live with that. I only feel half as bad. LOL

  8. #8 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:39 am


    You made some great points. I also think you’re right about the age thing as well…it’s more about teaching him responsibility with his obligations than even just the homework.

    I’ve talked to his teachers now and I get daily updates if there’s any dramatic change in his grades and a call or email if he doesn’t turn in homework. But I also want him to be driven to do this for himself, not just me and his teacher, ya know what I mean?

    Maybe I ask too much. *sigh*

  9. #9 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:42 am

    @April D in Dallas,

    You didn’t wear me out at all! You made some great suggestions. I wrote this just to whine and complain a little and have gotten some awesome feedback from you guys. I LOVE it when you share, not only your own experiences, but what you did or would do in the same situation. Sometimes I only see things from one perspective and it helps to have more minds at work.
    Thank you!

  10. #10 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:42 am

    @threeundertwo@Lit and Laundry,

    There is comfort in knowing I’m not the only one.

    But REALLY? Could you not give me some hope that it was going to get better?

  11. #11 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:43 am


    Maybe next time I could just send him over to live with you for a while? Maybe?

  12. #12 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:45 am

    @Jerri Ann,

    WOW, thanks so much for taking the time to leave me so much information. Parenting is a double-full-time job and I sure appreciate having everyone’s feedback and suggestions. *hugs*

  13. #13 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:46 am


    Thanks, doll! Although I don’t regret the punishment, frankly, it was appropriate, I do hate that he’s hurting because of it. I think I’ll be taking the suggestions of so many of you guys and finding a way for him to “earn” it back..whether through jobs or just finally committing himself to the things required of him.

    YOU’z the awesome!

  14. #14 AnissaM
    on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 3:48 am


    One thing I stressed to him was how much more fun he was to be around when his nose isn’t stuck in a game. We got in the van and had this great conversation during a time when I’d normally be listening to music and he’d be playing a game. I think it’s really good for both of us…all of us…to steal these moments to reconnect.

    And I’m working up an immunity to his charm..I think.

  15. #15 April D in Dallas
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Anissa, this is basically in response to comment #32…for some reason this one bothered me.
    **Not exactly…and you may have missed the fact that it really has nothing to do with “toys” at all…but with having to make a decision that makes your child, your heart, your life, sad to the core. I think all that most of us want is to know that our children, at whatever stage of development they are in, are emotionally equipped to deal with the consequences of their actions…the consequences that we as parents hand out, because it is our God given responsibility to teach lessons. The sadness we feel as a mom is much easier to deal with on many levels if we know for a fact that the child truly “gets it” and does not just feel bullied, or isolated, or that you just pulled rank because you can. All of this transends “toys” or any tangible items taken away. It is about balance and about love and wanting our children to feel that love is often about making a choice to do what is right, not just what feels good…and this rationale can apply to many stages in life. I would venture a guess that even parents that can not financially provide the “toys” you site, deal everyday with these same dilemmas. Children are NOT miniature adults, but they ARE people…who will use the tools given to them , good or bad, to cope with life.

  16. #16 April D in Dallas
    on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I can not believe that I left off one of my favorite statements that I used to say to my son, and at 22 he still has it bouncing around in his head…”If you are going to use the time that you should have been working, to play…then you will be using your playtime to work”
    Thank you for writing such a wonderful, insightful blog. I do not know why I never posted before…I guess I was one of those “lurkers”? Your kids are too cute, and appear to be so very happy…it is not just the smiles in pics…you can see it in their eyes.

  17. #17 SusieQ
    on Mar 4th, 2009 at 1:02 am

    @April D in Dallas,

    I love that saying…can I borrow it? At this very moment my 12 yr. old is catching up on her “Saturday chores” because she wants me to RSVP for a B’day sleep over this weekend. She knows its in her interest to get her laundry put away, throw out her trash, straighten her desk and make her bed first!

  18. #18 April D in Dallas
    on Mar 4th, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Smart girl!!! and Yes you may borrow my snippet of wisdom (hahaha)…hope your daughter enjoys it as much as my son always did!!!!

  19. #19 SusieQ
    on Mar 4th, 2009 at 10:11 pm


    Sounds like you’ve got a great handle on the situation. I’m sure from reading your other comments that he knows you’re doing this BECAUSE you care, and that’s the best message of all. That altruistic motive will come in time, if you can make it through puberty! (God help us both)

  20. #20 AnissaM
    on Mar 4th, 2009 at 10:29 pm


    I am not proud, I will sedate us both if I have to! We’ll wake up when he’s 25 and all will be fine.