"OK, it's time to do jobs," I call out.
Moans echo down the hall from my three sons' bedrooms.
"Oh, they are going to fight you on this, but stick to the plan," my mom voice tells me.
Doing chores is not a favorite activity in our home. In fact, my children regularly whine, "None of our friends have to do chores."
"Yes, children, thank you for reminding me, again," I respond. "However, they are not my children, and you are."
"You're the meanest mom!"
When my children were young, I dreaded the battles and took offense at the title of "meanest mom." However, over time, a shift happened. Deep down, I knew having "mean mom" skills was important for their success and well-being.
Here are five tips that could get you awarded the "meanest mom" or "meanest dad" title:
Completing chores teaches children to work hard at jobs they might not enjoy. Chores teach children responsibility and gratitude for the home and household items you have provided them.
"Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance," according to University of Minnesota research.
Doing jobs imprints the message that their contribution matters, and they are part of a family team. Having children complete regular household jobs without pay helps them take pride in their work instead of expecting an external reward.
Children need rest. Although they might resist, getting adequate sleep is vital. Research shows sleep is important for the brain, immune system and emotional regulation. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found inconsistent bedtimes cause sleep deprivation, disrupt body rhythms and undermine brain maturation and the ability to regulate certain behaviors.
Children who have enough sleep can deal with the ups and down of life more calmly. The most effective way to ensure enough sleep is to have a bedtime routine and stick to it the best you can.
From the time children are six, they can set an alarm clock and be in charge of getting themselves up. Children might be excited with a new gadget at first but lose enthusiasm after a few weeks. Keep at it. You are teaching your children time management skills and personal responsibility. Compliment the new skills your children are learning and how independent they are becoming.
Everyone makes mistakes. People of all ages accidentally say or do things that harm others. When your child makes a mistake, don't blow it out of proportion. Simply point out the harm caused and model how to repair the relationship. Don't shame or embarrass your child, who may feel hurt and become defensive.
"Apologizing helps your child accept responsibility for a wrong and provides a tool to make things right again," according to askdrsears.com. "It helps the child dig himself out of a hole. It clears the air, helps heal the relationship, and gives it a new beginning."
After your child apologizes, point out how good it feels to smooth things over and be accountable for one's own actions.
Children drop backpacks, take off socks in random rooms, spill milk and leave shoes scattered about. Instead of constantly picking up after them or blowing up about the messes, teach your children how to take care of their things. This helps children learn personal responsibility. It takes time and practice, but children can learn how to clean up after themselves. A friend of mine shared an insightful solution: After dinner, the entire family chips in and cleans up for the day.
Although your children might balk at doing jobs, going to bed on time, getting up on their own, apologizing or picking up after themselves, they will thank you when they are older.
Last week my 17-year-old son received a special recognition at his new job for being a hard working employee who willingly learns new tasks, does the dirty jobs when needed, leaves his phone in his pocket, shows up on time and has a good attitude. The smile bursting across his face told me being a "mean mom" had been worth it.
Pick one area to focus on over the next few weeks. Teach your children the new skill, and then let them practice. Compliment their efforts as they improve. If your children call you a "mean mom" or "mean dad," consider it a compliment, give them a hug, and then pat yourself on the back.