Are You a Marshmallow Mom?

Blog Post by Joanne Kraft from The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids

My son Samuel perfected what we called his “boo-boo lip” in kindergarten. Later, he discovered another look: “the smolder.” It wasn’t long before Samuel’s infamous “smabooboo” was born — a cross between a boo-boo face and a smoldering gaze — and I surrender every time.

As moms, our love for our children is almost superhuman — unconditional and unending. Yet sometimes this powerhouse of love and affection overwhelms our parenting. Our wisdom and good judgment melt in the face of our children’s desires, and we become marshmallow moms.

This isn’t something to be proud of. Yes, marshmallows moms are sweet. Who doesn’t love sugar? But being overly soft and sweet in our parenting can be detrimental to our kids.

What is a marshmallow mom?

A marshmallow mom is a total pushover. She takes the shape of the parent her child wants her to be, enabling unhealthy habits and overlooking bad manners. Though well meaning, marshmallow moms inadvertently encourage entitlement, disrespect, laziness, and selfishness in their kids.

Tying a child’s shoes for far too long, letting rudeness and disrespect slide or giving a teenager a relaxing summer off instead of encouraging that first job seem like kind and tender approaches, but this flavor of parenting is no good for our kids. We need to start asking ourselves, Are we helping our children in the long run?

Engaging the moment

Samuel was 7 years old when he called out “hey” to get the attention of a waitress. We corrected him and asked him to use polite words, but minutes later, Samuel suffered manners-amnesia and hailed our waitress once again with a loud “HEY!”

My inner marshmallow mom was briefly tempted to let the incident slide, to just enjoy a peaceful dinner with my family. But picturing Samuel as a young adult speaking to a waiter, clerk or airline attendant this way spurred me to action.

I explained, “Samuel, this young woman is working harder tonight than you’ve worked all your life. It’s hurtful and disrespectful to get her attention that way. You’re going to apologize to her for yelling, and for the rest of the meal if you want to engage any adult — including us — in conversation, you need to start with ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me.’ ”

For the rest of that meal, Samuel had the opportunity to practice manners. We appreciated his formality — which included some dramatic flair — yet it was the beginning of a lesson that stuck. Today Samuel speaks very respectfully to adults, especially when out in public.

Teachable moments come along when we least expect them. It is our ongoing response to these moments that squash our propensity for marshmallow parenting. Do we avoid conflict and let peace and convenience rule the moment? Or do we engage our children with wisdom and the recognition that the seeds we plant in our young children become the harvest we gather when they are young adults?

Blog Post by Joanne Kraft from The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids

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