Mrs. Joanne Kraft: I may look around the house during the week and go, “You know, my shower needs to be cleaned.” Or “Boy, the baseboards sure are dusty.” I want to lock that one away in the back of my he[ad], you know, for later.
So, when the kids bicker and fight, “Hey, you know what? Dust the baseboards.” “Oh, wait, you stole your sister’s whatever. Go make her bed for a week.” So, I use chores and that benefits my household—
Jim Daly: Yeah.
Joanne: –’cause things get done.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Those are insights from Joanne Kraft about the importance of setting some boundaries with your children and you’ll hear more from her on today’s “Focus on the Family.” Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim: John, yesterday we had a great conversation about how you can raise hard-working, God-loving kids–now everybody’s ears just perked up right there—by setting boundaries and being consistent and sticking to them. Unfortunately, that might get you a label called “mean mom” (Chuckling) or “mean dad.” And being a parent, it’s hard work, but you can do it with God’s help.
And you know what? Focus on the Family, we are here for you. We have so many great resources. You know, next year we’ll be celebrating 40 years of ministry and in that time, we have built up an arsenal for you to turn to with counseling and tools like our guest’s book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. It is full of wonderful ideas and funny examples of where you’re probably comin’ up short. We all do as parents and sometimes you get frustrated and sometimes you’ve become the marshmallow mom and we’re gonna talk a little bit about that today.
John: And just so we can set the record straight, Joanne meant for the title to be a “mean mom” as perceived by a child who gets told, “No, you can’t do that.” And as you said, Jim, setting boundaries and enforcing them.
Jim: A mean good mom.
Joanne: I love that, a mean good mom.
John: And Joanne is a writer, a speaker and she and her husband have four children.
Jim: Joanne, welcome back.
Joanne: Oh, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you.
Jim: Hey, it was good last time, but we have new folks listening in today, so I did want to recap with a bit of the marshmallow mom, because I thought that was so fun and describes it has to be 80 or 90 percent of these good nurturing moms that want to do mothering so well, that sometimes they go the opposite direction and they’re so soft and tender, their kids get spoiled and then, maybe a little out of control. But tell us more about the marshmallow mom.
Joanne: A marshmallow mom’s like I have shared, their love leads them.
Joanne: Love leads their heart.
Jim: That sounds like a good thing.
Joanne: Yeah, that sounds like a book title. Loves leads them and love is where the actions just pour out of. I mean, the moms nurture those kids and love them to the detriment of healthy adulthood, for lack of a better term, you know.
Jim: And it’s a good thing.You and your husband, you met when he was a police officer. He’s now an attorney and you were the 911 dispatcher. It sounds like a match made in heaven.
Joanne: Yeah. (Laughter) Yeah, my kids like to say, you know, have said before, “Dad, you’re the Old Testament; mom, you’re the New Testament.” So, I struggle with the marshmallow mom attributes absolutely.
Jim: That’s an interesting way to think about that. Boy, that’s a good pop quiz for a couple. Which are you, John? Are you the Old Testament or the New Testament?
John: It depends on the day and the child. (Laughter)
Jim: Well, it’s all the Good Book, so we gotta make sure we’re not leaning too far in one direction.
Jim: But you know, again, if you missed it last time, we talked about some wonderful things, how to keep your marriage strong when your parenting is consuming you as a mom. Also just those great attributes of a mom who intends to do the right thing, but sometimes does the wrong thing. And if you missed it, get the CD or download and I know it will help you in your parenting skills.
Joanne, let’s pick up where we left off last time. One of the things that is so common in homes, I’m tellin’ you what, comin’ into work today, I was droppin’ the boys off and they were bickering about something. I think Troy had used Trent’s bag and he was all upset. I think Troy had dumped out the content of the bag on Trent’s (Laughter) bed, because Trent had used Troy’s bag the day before and didn’t return it. So, Troy didn’t have a bag and he found a way to deal with it, which is to steal Trent’s.
John: He fixed the problem, but—
John: –it wasn’t fixed.
Jim: –but now we’re drivin’ to school and you know what’s goin’ on.
Jim: Trent’s goin’, “Why’d you steal my bag?” “I didn’t steal your bag. You stole mine and I just stole yours, ’cause you stole mine.”
Joanne: Yeah, he just explained every car on the way to school (Laughter) in all of America.
Jim: Okay, so, the bickering starts and I’m saying, “Guys, guys, come on. It’s just two bags.”
Jim: What are we gonna do? How do we work this out?
Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you, I don’t know what it is about kids and you do see those families where the kids get along. And you look and you think, why do my kids act like alley cats (Laughter) and want to scratch each other’s eyes out, when these kids like love? Well, the truth is, that’s a lie. Their kids fight, too, I promise you those kids fight and argue.
Jim: There’s no perfect home?
Joanne: Well, none that I’ve ever came across. (Laughter) But I’ll tell you, we just moved into a new home. My two kids, who are teenagers, so I’m not gonna give a lot of hopes to moms with little ones, but they’re teenagers and all of a sudden, I hear them start to fight. And then I hear a crash and they come down the stairs and I’m thinking, oh, Lord, help me. And they had gotten in a fight over who was gonna put toilet paper in the bathroom.
Jim: Now are these your two boys or your two girls.
Joanne: A girl and a boy.
Jim: Okay, the girl-boy fight.
Joanne: So, lookit. It’s not even gender, yeah, trust me (Laughter); girls can give it just as good. So, they get in a fight. Well come to find out, they got pushy with each other in this tiny bathroom and broke the cupboard door, like the—
Jim: Oh, right.
Joanne: –vanity door. They thought there were like Van Halen after party people or something; I don’t know. (Laughter) But they’re not in a hotel. So (Laughter), I was livid. But I’ll tell you what works for me with bickering kids. What works for me is being prepared.
Jim: What does that mean? How do you be prepared for that?
Joanne: Okay, what I mean by that is, the reason that we scream and shout, because I am definitely that person (Laughter), super passionate family.
Joanne: So, shouting comes natural to me, but shouting, I remember a lady saying, “Well, shouting means you’ve lost control” and that’s true. So, I think, okay. So, I now just consciously, now this is after years of parenting, trust me, but I call it, this is gonna sound terrible, but I call it my “serial killer voice.” (Laughter)
Jim: It does sound terrible.
Joanne: And I’m telling you, every woman study that I have come over to the house, they love this, but I just bring it down an octave and I just looked at them and I calmly talk, which I think frightens them more. I just look and talk. And what I’ve prepared is this. “I may look around the house during the week.” And go, “You know, my shower needs to be cleaned.” Or “Boy, the baseboards sure are dusty.” I want to lock that one away in the back of my he[ad], you know, for later.
So, when the kids bicker and fight, “Hey, you know what? Dust the baseboards.” “Oh, wait, you stole your sister’s whatever. Go make her bed for a week.” So, I use chores and that benefits my household—
Joanne: –’cause things get done.
Jim: And they actually do it.
Joanne: They actually do it.
Jim: Yeah. Now the end of the story in the car for me was, you know, my voice was elevated.
John: Yeah, how did you settle it?
Jim: I went the other direction, elevated my voice and Trent calmly said, “You know, dad, when you talk like that, it doesn’t make me understand it any better.” (Laughter) So, I’m thinkin, okay, this guy’s too logical. What do I do with this guy?
John: So, you left them there and drove off so you could come to Focus on the Family (Laughter) and be a family advocate.
Jim: Well, sure, you know.
John: There’s a lot of guilt associated with that.
Jim: Not at all. I mean, that’s the great point. There are no perfect families and these are things that everybody, whether you’re a writer, author, you’re dealing with it, too.
Joanne: Absolutely and I want to tell moms, I mean, it isn’t just the fact of your kids hate each other. That’s not the truth. Your kids are gonna grow up and love each other, I promise. And whenever I have disciplined my kids when they’ve fought, all of a sudden, I’m the bad guy and I like that (Laughter), ’cause now they’re friends. So, it works.
Jim: That sounds oxymoronic.
John: They have a common enemy.
Joanne: They have a common enemy, yes.
Jim: You like being the bad guy.
Joanne: Yeah, it’s like Winston Churchill and FDR.
Jim: (Laughing) That’s one way to look at it. I don’t know if my boys will see it that way, but we’re gonna try.
Jim: Hey another key area is technology. Here at Focus on the Family, we hear from so many parents who are struggling with how much technology to give and how much leash is too much? How much is too little? Talk about a mean mom and how she needs to rule technology.
Joanne: I’m gonna tell you this. When I wrote The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids, I was not gonna go out with this message alone. And so, I enlisted the help of 200 other moms who spoke their life’s breath into this book. So, their quotes are in there, as well. When I asked them about technology, it was the No. 1 thing that conversations just went off the charts.
Joanne: They wanted to know what to do to protect their kids. They wanted to know all those kinds of things. A couple things that I would say to moms. First off, don’t roll with culture. Just because everyone has one—
Joanne: –just because an 8-year-old has a smartphone, doesn’t mean your child needs a smartphone.
Jim: That’s a good starting point.
Joanne: And in our home as far as a mean mom theory goes, we don’t pay for our kids’ phones. Our kids have to pay for their own. So, that meant that phones didn’t come on the scene till later in high school. One thing that I did that was just a shock to me and lot of other moms, we are fantastic about and there’s a lot of great parents out there that put boundaries, that put the laptop in the family room.
But you know what we’re not doing? We’re not paying attention to the smartphone. So, we’re handing our children the Swiss Army knife of technology and the statistics are terrible—8-year-olds seeing pornography. Or handing them basically the laptop in the family room and letting ’em go off and go on their way.
Jim: Opening the door.
Jim: Hey, I’ll tell you the way we fix that. We got flip phones. (Laughter) All they can do is phone and text.
Joanne: Oh, that’s fantas[tic]. You know what? Grace is in high school and somebody mistook her phone for a TV remote.
Jim: Yeah (Laughing)
Joanne: And that’s a good thing. It builds character.
Jim: Yeah and it does, ’cause (Laughter) they’re actually a little embarrassed by them and I think that is good.
Joanne: Absolutely, it’s okay.
Jim: Talk about TV usage. That can be a big one, too. We got rid of cable years ago, so we just do antenna, which means we get the four major stations. But that still has enough bad stuff on it, that you gotta monitor it. But talk about TV and an approach in that area.
Joanne: Well, statistics say that over 70 percent of people eat in front of the television.
Jim: That’s horrible.
Joanne: It’s what we do.
Jim: Sorry, if that wounds somebody, but don’t do it.
Joanne: But it is what we [do].
Jim: That’s one of the great things Jean and I have done. Man, we sit around the table, no television and we talk for like an hour with the kids. It’s a lot of fun. Dinner for us at home is really fun. It’s where we do a lot of our laughing and just get rid of that TV at that time.
Joanne: Well, if you were to ask my kids, what was one of the meanest things we ever did to them, they would’ve said years ago, we got rid of the television. And it’s funny, because you don’t realize just how much junk comes into your home. You wouldn’t allow some stranger to come in and start spewing weird stuff and ideas–
Jim: That’s a great point.
Joanne: –half dressed, come in and sit and hang out with your kids. So, that’s what we’re doin’ when we turn on a TV. But I’ll tell you, I didn’t do it for some like purposeful, oh, we’re getting rid of the TV. I had moved the furniture and my husband didn’t have time to put it back together, you know, hook it back up.
And my 21-year-old was then 15 and he came back in and my husband said, “Hey, I’m gonna hook back up the television.” And my son, David happened to be in there and he said, “Well, it’s been kinda nice without it.” And I thought, “Okay, I’m the one pushin’ this crack on my kids.”
Jim: (Laughing) Interesting.
Joanne: It’s me. I’m the one pushing this bad habit on my kids. So, I told my husband, I said, “Let’s see how long we can go.” And I’m telling you, about two months after that, we went away to a B&B on our anniversary. It was the first time we ever went away where we asked for a television in the room. I was like, yes! And then it was like hand-to-hand combat for the remote. And when we (Laughter) put on the TV, I told my husband, I said, “Oh, my goodness.” I go, “We got out just in time. Look what’s on.” He goes, “Joanne, it was always like this. You just had been desensitized now.”
Joanne: And so, I think it’s not just our kids. Let me just speak to people who are married. That television, when you walk into a home and that thing is right there, it’s easy. You put it on. If I had a box of Ho-Ho’s on the coffee table all day long (Laughter), I’m gonna eat the Ho-Ho’s. So, we–
Jim: Well, I definitely would. (Laughter)
Joanne: –so, we keep our TV away. Our TV is up in a different room and it actually takes us to walk up the stairs. What are we gonna watch? And we watch TV as a family for the most part and that is huge in communication.
Jim: It is. That online viewing with your kids, not television now, not your cell phones, but when you talk about just online, the laptop or the desk top in your house, how do you monitor that with your kids? Can you go too far in monitoring? Or is it age-appropriate? Or what do you do to build that trust factor and yet, like Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.”
Joanne: You sound like my husband now.
Jim: Yeah (Laughing).
Joanne: You’d be surprised as a police dispatcher, how many 911 calls came in about technology.
Joanne: Oh, it is fascinating.
Jim: How to hook it up or what?
Joanne: Yeah, I wish. No. (Laughter) I mean, I had parents calling saying, “Hey, my teenage daughter is using Facebook inappropriately.”
Joanne: “And we don’t know what to do.” I mean –
Jim: They would call 911 for that?
Joanne: –911 gives you anonymity.
Joanne: You know, it gives you that ability to talk to somebody. Maybe you’re afraid. Maybe you feel like you’re failing as a parent.
Jim: It’s almost like a counseling call.
Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you. That’s one of the reasons this book came to be is, because I took so many of those calls. And so, I think with parents, like that kind of thing I would tell a parent with a teenager, one, I have a social media contract on my website for free. You go over things before you give your children the keys to technology and you talk about things. And if those boundaries are broken, the consequence is the technology’s done. Now what I tell the parents is, for one, you always have the passwords of your kids’ technology.
Joanne: That’s just what you do. It’s just part of the responsibility of technology. Well, the other thing I say to parents if they don’t get their passwords, turn off your Wi-Fi. You have more power in your home than you realize. It’s just that we don’t want to be overburdened, you know.
Joanne: But sometimes it’s sacrifice and it takes that.
John: Joanne mentioned a social media contract. We’ll have a link over to that and her book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids . You can find those and other helps at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Joanne, discipline is kinda the bane of every parent I think. And we vacillate between being too soft, being too rigid. And kids get lost in that sea of vacillation, I think. You know, they don’t know what to expect when it’s movin’ from one thing to the other. You addressed that in your book, the discipline side of it. Talk about the do’s and don’t’s of good mean mom discipline.
Joanne: Well, I think one of the things I have to remind myself of is discipline means to teach. Discipline means to educate. Discipline means to help mold a child and shape them in a way that will help them.
And so, it’s not a terrible, awful, evil thing. It really is an opportunity. So, you know, a lot of times we want our children to be on fire for Jesus, but we don’t want them to walk through the fire to get there. We don’t want them to make mistakes, but those mistakes are what help them.
Jim: What are the do’s and don’t’s of discipline?
Joanne: Well, I think a lot of the tools that work best with kids are, you know, the time-outs, the giving grace where grace can make a difference. I think a lot of times as parents, as Christian parents, sometimes the grace is like over the top. We’ll use that as an excuse. And grace is a powerful gift from God. I mean, it’s something that should be used sparingly sometimes, you know.
Jim: Well, I was gonna say, it’s dangerous to even ask this, but as a parent, can you give too much grace?
Joanne: You know, it’s funny, because I know some people would say, “Never.” You know, you never give too much grace. But you have to remember you’re trying to teach them. If that were the case, there’d be no consequence at all. And that can’t be the case, because that wouldn’t be molding and educating, ’cause it’s always constant grace.
I think with children there [are] time-outs, obviously age appropriate. A four-minute time-out isn’t gonna work on your 14-year-old. But with a 14-year-old, you know them better than anyone and so, you know
Spanking, it’s funny, as a young mom, I was just so scared to ever [spank]. I was spanked and my parents did it in a biblical way. It was the last tool in the tool box. With my own children, three of four didn’t get spanked. My one got spanked. So, that’s the last one, but there [are] different things you can do with your kids.
One of my kids, the restriction that I gave her was for reading, because I knew that would work. Go into her room, at 17 she didn’t give a rip. She was happy going to her bedroom all day. You know, but saying, “Hey, I don’t want you to read today; you’re not reading,” that I think is wisdom.
Jim: Yeah, did it work?
Joanne: And I asked for it and God gave (Chuckling) it to me. So, I mean, you know your children. For her it did.
Jim: Wow, that’s interesting.
Joanne: It wouldn’t have worked on my children who didn’t like to read.
Jim: Yeah. I have one of each—a reader and a non-reader. So, it wouldn’t work with one and it would with the other.
Joanne: You know your kids and you love them a million times more than you discipline, but you have to discipline.
Jim: You know, Joanne, the other area is that blended family. We touch on that subject from time to time here at Focus. There are uniquenesses there and we’re not here to talk about how a family gets into that situation. It could be death of a spouse and a remarriage, that kind of thing. But talk about the dynamic of the blended family for the stepmom or the stepdad—
Jim: –and how to handle and manage some of these discipline issues when it comes to the blended family.
Joanne: Well, I think before a blended family can get to the discipline phase, before a stepmom or stepdad can lay out all the things they see wrong with the, you know—
Joanne: –with, you know, what their husband or wife are doing, there has to be relationship. You know, rules without relationship lead to rebellion and that’s the fact. But I think with a stepfamily, here’s what I think is important. My husband adopted our oldest two, so God started creating things new in our home. I know in a lot of blended families that’s not the case.
Jim: How old were your children when you married your husband?
Joanne: I want to say 6 and 8 or 5 and 8. They—
Jim: So, they were young.
Joanne: –were young, but still old enough to know that they’re in our wedding pictures.
Joanne: So, our family became a family then. Now a lot of families still have shared families. They go one place this time of year, the other place. But one of the things we did as a family is, we never spoke to the kids and said, “Hey, this is my step or this is my biological.” You’d be amazed at how many women’s conferences I speak at and women feel the need to identify with me. This is my adopted child from China and then this is my son from my husband.
Joanne: And I hate that, because God never says, you know, “You’re my Gentile child.” God says, “You’re my child.” There’s no delineation between the two. He loves you as His kid. And while I understand that there are some families that might bristle and go, “Well, I’m not his mom and he’d be offended if I asked him to call me ‘mom.’” Don’t ask him to call you mom, but you can call him “my son.” You can say, you know, “This is my son” when you introduce him.
Now if he gets highly offended, that’s another thing. But when he starts hearing the value you have and how much you love him, that’s huge. That’s when God starts makin’ all things new.
Jim: And has that gone pretty well for you and your kids and your husband?
Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you what’s funny is, my daughter, Meghan was a teenager and a lady came into the coffee shop she was working at and said, “Hey, I didn’t know Samuel was your half-brother.” And Meghan came home and she goes, “How the heck do you have half a brother?” (Laughter) And I said, “That is so true.”
And so, in our family, it’s funny, we don’t think of it. It’s not that it isn’t a part of our lives, ’cause I have a huge heart for mixed families, you know, and blended families. But I think if you start looking at your family as this is the family God gave me and you put a stake in the sand, you know, and you say, “This is it. This is a family.” And you love them, even if you have to share them, God starts making it new and that’s what the kids remember.
Jim: You know, in the last few minutes, I want to kinda drill in on entitlement. We’ve kind of skirted around it a bit, but that entitlement is a real issue in our culture, especially here in the U.S., but Western Culture generally, because we’ve been blessed with so many goodies, so much stuff, so much materialism that it’s easy to overindulge. It’s easy for kids growing up in this world today to feel a sense of entitlement. How does a mean mom, in a good way, eradicate that sense of entitlement and—
Jim: –teach them bigger values?
Joanne:–uh-hm, that’s a good question. Well, entitlement, I think anybody who has teenagers, that parent is like cheering right now, going, “Yes, talk about entitlement.”
Jim: (Chuckling) Yeah.
Joanne: Well, entitlement is really and that’s a chapter in my book; it really is a byproduct of respect and responsibility.
Joanne: So, if a child understands respect and responsibility, also two chapters in the book, when you learn to respect somebody, basically you’re saying, “I am not thinking of myself better as you,” you know. And respect comes with tools like teaching manners or whatever. Where responsibility is that hard work ethic and that starts with chores or whatever.
Entitlement is when a child thinks they have a right to something that they have no right to. And a right always comes at the expense of someone else. Do you have a right to your technology? No, that’s not a need; that’s a want.
You know, the child may think I have a right to a college education. No, that’s not a need. That is a want and you can help work for that.
Joanne: So, all those things kinda build to that thought and a couple of my kids leaned that way more than a couple others.
Jim: So true.
Joanne: And it’s just kinda something we have to pay attention to, but your kids need to have some skin in the game. And what I mean by that is, you have to have practical ways to do it. So, like when our kids go school shopping, for example, we have a budget for their shoes. Now my youngest son for some reason has some very good taste. (Laughter) And the budget does not cover his shoes or the clothes he wants to wear. So, he has to come up with the rest.
Jim: And he knows it.
Joanne: And he knows it.
Jim: And he does it.
Joanne: And he does it, but there’s nothing wrong if a parent hasn’t been doing that from the beginning to sit down with the child, communicate and say, “Hey, guess what? This is now the budget. This is what’s gonna work and if you want something more, you have to make the difference.
When your kids have skin in the game, it really kinda diffuses entitlement a little bit. The problem is, you have a lot of culture and parents giving their kids cars, having you know, doing their kids’ nails and hair and limos for junior high graduation. I’m like, what comes next? Like do they shoot you out of a cannon for high school–
Joanne: –I mean, into a car?
Jim: –yeah and you’re makin’ some great points, but why do we default as parents and as Christian parents, not realizing that a little desert experience is exactly what our kids need? Why do we try to protect them from going through the Sinai, as the Lord chose His people and He had them go through some suffering in order to learn the benefits of a relationship with Him. Why do we try to protect them from the tough stuff?
Joanne: Well, think some of it is, we don’t want them to be wounded. The other thing, we want to make things easier on them, than [it] was on us. But the other thing I think is, it’s peer pressure. We see that everybody in our eyes, it’s not just our kids that are saying everybody gets a new car or everybody gets to go be in, you know, travelling soccer. As those parents hear all our friend saying, “Well, your daughter has a beautiful voice. Why isn’t she in voice lesson? Oh, you must be a bad parent.”
Jim: Or the Pinterest birthday party–
Joanne: Or the Pinterest–
Jim: –just to raise a few.
Joanne: — birthday party, absolutely. So, as adults, I think once we are educated and we see it, I think we do better. I just have hope we do.
Jim: Looking back, what’s one thing as we wrap up , that you would want to communicate to our listeners, to the moms who maybe feel either like they’re marshmallows, as we’ve talked about or they are mean moms, but they’re abusive and maybe more controlling, where do they find that healthy mean mom place where they’re solid on boundaries? What’s the last word that you give?
Joanne: Yeah, this always makes me cry, but it would be their legacy. (Emotional) (Clearing throat) Sorry. My mom passed away about 16 years ago and you know, I don’t think moms understand the legacy, the reach they have into future generations. I don’t think they understand that and my mom, when she passed away, she wasn’t a foreign dignitary. She wasn’t a woman with a 1,000 letters of educational, you kno