FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Mean Moms Make Them Work

with Joanne Kraft | October 21, 2015
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Feel like your kids need something productive to do? Then you just might be a mean mom! Joanne Kraft, author of "The Mean Mom's Guide to Raising Great Kids," talks about the benefits of having the kids help out at home. Not only do chores teach good work habits, Joanne explains, but they also teach kids how to serve others.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Feel like your kids need something productive to do? Then you just might be a mean mom! Joanne Kraft, author of "The Mean Mom's Guide to Raising Great Kids," talks about the benefits of having the kids help out at home. Not only do chores teach good work habits, Joanne explains, but they also teach kids how to serve others.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Joanne Kraft, author of “The Mean Moms Guide to Raising Great Kids,” talks about the benefits of having the kids help out at home.

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Mean Moms Make Them Work

With Joanne Kraft
October 21, 2015
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Bob: If you make your kids do chores, and if you withhold privileges unless they get the chores done, they probably think you’re a mean mom. Joanne Kraft says, “You’re not.” 

Joanne: Chores are just a segue into adulthood. Chores don’t just teach good work habits / chores teach servanthood. You know, if you want to raise a leader, you teach your child that there is no job beneath them. If you want to raise a child to be an adult that people respect, there’s nothing they can’t do, work-wise, around the house.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If you’ve been getting a little soft, as a mom / a little lax, we’re going to see if we can motivate you to be a little meaner today. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.



So, with Barbara—was Barbara a mean mom? 

Dennis: Oh, yes. [Laughter]  She had me helping her—

Bob: Yes? 

Dennis: —be a reinforced mean mom. She held—

Bob: Who was meaner? 

Dennis: —high standards.

Bob: Who was meaner at the house—you or Barbara?  Who was the marshmallow, and who was the meanie? 

Dennis: I’ll tell you what she would say.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: She would say that she was the mean mom, and I was the party daddy.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: I would come home from work, and I was the fun daddy. She struggled, at points—kind of resenting it—because there she was—from 7:30/8:00 in the morning until 5:00/5:30/6:00 at night, most days during the week, holding up the troops—

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: —and taking them through the daily routine. Here, I’d walk through the door: “Here’s the hero!”

Bob: “Here’s Daddy!” 

Dennis: “He’s got all kinds of fun ideas taking place.”  Let’s ask our guest what her kids would say. Joanne Kraft joins us again on FamilyLife Today.



Welcome back. Were you the recognized mean mom, and was Paul the party daddy? 

Joanne: You know, it’s strange—in our family, I was the marshmallow mom; and my husband was the mean mom / he was the mean—but he’s also the fun guy.

Dennis: Well, Joanne has written a book called The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. I just want to talk about some issues that just take the courage away from moms and dads. Here’s what I want to talk about: I want to talk about chores, the busyness of children and of parents. I want to talk about sibling rivalry, and I want to discuss manners—that fossilized, prehistoric concept of respecting other human beings.

So, let’s go, first of all, to the subject of chores—speaking of moms being the ones who call kids to toe the line.

Joanne: You’re probably talking about my chapter, “Mean Mom’s Make Them Work.”  That’s an invaluable lesson.



It’s hard for me to understand, sometimes, when I meet somebody that says, “Hey, I am exhausted at parenting.”  I do understand—it’s an exhausting job. What I don’t understand is: “You have teenaged kids at home,”—that I don’t understand because I don’t think it’s wrong or evil—it’s not mean at all to make your kids work around the house. That’s not mean at all. As a matter of fact, we don’t only just make our kids work, we make any kids that are caught in our trap in our house work. [Laughter]

We had an incredible, young man visit us a couple of weeks ago. He stayed for a week—and he’s a teenager—great kid! Every morning, guess what?  We’re cleaning. We’re cleaning up the house. I like to tell my kids: “You know what?  You give me 90 minutes; I’ll give you 8 hours. You want to go out and play with your friends? Just give me 90 minutes of your time.” 

It’ll take as long as or as short as you allow it to take; but you can make it fun. I put music on. Our family is competitive / we love to compete: “Can you clean this up in two songs but clean it well?”  They get the bathrooms or—you know? 


Dennis: There are a lot of good reasons why kids need to learn the responsibility of doing chores.

Joanne: Chores are just a segue into adulthood. Chores don’t just teach good work habits / chores teach servanthood. If you want to raise a leader, you teach your child that there is no job beneath them. It’s bigger than just helping around the house, and it’s those little things that matter.

Bob: It is bigger than helping around the house because you’ve got an acre lot that you live on in Nashville; right? 

Joanne: Yes.

Bob: Out in the country a little bit? 

Joanne: Yes.

Bob: And who cuts the grass? 

Joanne: [Laughter] Well, my husband has a riding lawn mower. So, now, we fight over it; but before that—we just got that recently. So that acre you’re talking about—our kids had to take turns with a push mower on an acre lot.

Dennis: A push—you’re not talking about a motorized—

Joanne: Well, it was motorized, Dennis—but we’re Americans—so it was hard. [Laughter] 

Bob: On an acre?  You’re talking an acre of—



—with a 20-[foot] deck—I mean, that’s a long job! 

Joanne: At the time, three of our kids were living at home with us. Our oldest had moved out. Our number two son—our oldest, at the time—he was in college. Our youngest two kids got together, and they told their brother: “Hey, you know what?  You don’t have to do the lawn. I know you’re studying.”  So, they took it upon themselves—which those moments are golden for a parent; you know? 

Bob: Yes; right.

Dennis: What would you say to the parent who can’t get their kids to do chores?  I mean, I’ll tell you—I got mugged with our boys about taking the garbage can up to the top of the street and pushing it up there. I mean, they did their best to control me. I never did it; but I had a friend whose son did that to him. So, the friend took the garbage can and put it in his room.

Bob: In the kid’s room? 

Dennis: In the kid’s room for a week.

Joanne: Wow! 

Dennis: He lived with the stench of the garbage—

Joanne: I like him.

Dennis: —that’s a great idea; isn’t it? 

Joanne: Well, I did put a garbage sack on one of my son’s beds once—not the whole garbage can—but I did.



I actually took a picture because that’s what you do these days; but—

Dennis: Evidence.

Joanne: Yes.

Dennis: It’s evidence for a lawsuit later.

Joanne: Yes. You have to work alongside them for one. I mean, you can’t sit on the couch and bark orders—there is no respect in that. You have to show them and model how it’s done. But you know what?  To those parents, I’d say: “You know what?  Just try a little harder. If you’re consistent and continue to encourage them, it does matter.” 

There is a family that lives near our house—I interviewed her for the book. She was part of The Strictest—it was show on CMT, I think—called The Strictest Families in America—or—…Parents in America. The show was—the people would have kids / wayward kids come stay with them. She talks about chores—this is a farm family—this is an incredible family, where I live. She said: “You just do chores, as a family. There’s not a choice—you just work / you do those things. You don’t have a sedentary life.”  It’s something you really get used to because I think most of us want to go turn on the TV—you know—walk in the house.


Bob: So, you’ve been a single parent mom. If you were talking to a mom—who is a single parent, and she’s got a 16-year-old son, who is now bigger than she is, who just says, “I’m not going to do that,”—what would you tell her? 

Joanne: Mostly, those moms say to me, “I don’t have any power anymore.” I’d say, “You hold more cards than you think.”  As far as discipline—which, in the Bible, discipline means correction / you’re teaching them.

Dennis: That’s right.

Joanne: You’re teaching a child—that’s discipline. It’s a disciple of adulthood. I would say, “Well, if that’s the case, then, I would have to make life uncomfortable for him as well.”  You don’t want to get to that point, but you do. That means you take away any technology. I’ve had parents ask: “What do I do?  They are on Facebook®.”  Well, maybe, you have to turn off the Internet in your house. Being a parent means you sacrifice, and it is hard work.

Bob: And when the child says: “If you do that, I’m just going to go stay with Bill. I’m moving out of here. I’m going to go be on my own.”  They start to threaten the relationship—they say, “I hate you,”—I mean, you know the games that the kids will play.


Joanne: Well, I’ll tell you this—having a police background—if they threaten that the police are going to get involved, I promise you the police want you to parent. So, those threats fall on deaf ears because you’ll have a big blow up.

Our oldest son got like that his senior year. We had that moment, and he was under age. We had that meeting of the minds and said, “Hey, this is how it goes,”—you know?  He was frustrated with us. We said, “Well, if you don’t like it….”  And he went to his friend’s house. We eventually went back—we went and picked him up because—“You know what? You’re not an adult. We’re still liable for you.” So, we brought him home. I’ll tell you—it really is a perseverance thing because, now, he is doing so great. I think, as parents, a lot of times we think: “This is it. It’s not going to get any better. They are always going to be like this.”  That’s a lie—that’s not true.

Dennis: And teenagers bluff. They’ll bluff you.

Joanne: Yes.

Dennis: And what you, as a parent, need to be is the parent.

Joanne: That’s right.

Dennis: And what I told our kids—Barbara did as well:



“If you like the freedom / the growing freedom you get, as a teenager, you’re going to enjoy more of it if you’re responsible around the house to carry your fair share of the responsibilities; but if you don’t carry the responsibilities—I’m sorry—you’re not getting more freedom.” 

Joanne: Absolutely.

Dennis: And sometimes, that stings them. Let’s talk about something else that’s kind of a lost art today—manners. How did you teach your children manners and which ones were important for your family? 

Joanne: I love this chapter on modeling honor because it’s teaching your kids respect. Manners are just kind of like the elementary lesson to teaching respect to your children. I was raised by somebody in the military. So, respect was something that I learned at a very young age. I watched my father model this—whether it was thanking a solider or somebody in uniform, whether it was buying him lunch or dinner, saying, “Thank you for your service.”  Those things stick with kids, and I watched my dad do that with police officers.

You know I like to say that:



“Respect flies a flag, and honor sheds a tear.”  Honor blossoms from respect. Actually, there is a Scripture that I love about this—it’s Proverbs 15:33—it’s: “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.”  So, the fear of the Lord is that respect—that’s that holy respect that we have. Then, the instruction is us teaching our kids the respect—and that could be anything from picking up plates at somebody’s house. Maybe, you cleared the table for your company or the people you are staying with. When we go to somebody’s house, my kids get up to help.

It blows my mind—and even in the church—I don’t understand this, and forgive me, but—when you have a big potluck at church, and all of a sudden, older women / elderly women are cleaning up because that’s all they’ve ever done. Well, why aren’t the youth groups enlisted to be taught servanthood?  You know, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples before He was crucified.



Why don’t we start teaching that servanthood and say, “Kids, this is what we do”? 

Bob: This really works out best if you start really early because the five-year-olds don’t push back on manners—you can make a game out of manners with kids. It’s when you’ve been lax about this—now, they are 13, and you say: “You say, ‘Yes, sir.’  You say, ‘No, sir.’”  They go, “Why?” 

Joanne: Yes. It could just be a monthly visit to your soup kitchen because see—here’s the thing—when you start having your kids come alongside you, when you’re serving, people notice that. Adults love to see kids / respectful kids serving. They’ll start to feed into your kids, and that encourages your children because someone else will say: “You know what?  Thank you, son.”  That’s big because it’s no longer you pushing it.

Dennis: I remember—when we had children that were growing up and beginning to be old enough to appreciate manners, especially at the table, Barbara became convicted that—about the only place we ever went out to eat was a fast-food restaurant like Chick-fil-A® or Wendy’s® or McDonald’s®.


She goes, “You know, we just need to take a week and learn the manners around the table—where you put the knife, and the fork, and the spoon, and how you place the napkin in your lap, and how the men help the ladies be seated.”  And she said, “After we’ve learned the lessons, we’ll go out to a restaurant that is considerably nicer than a fast-food restaurant.” 

The kids got into that, and we had a good time doing that. They learned some things, I think, about what you just talked about—about servanthood. That’s the core of manners—it says: “My life for your life. I want to pull the chair back and honor you / helping you be seated, as a woman, because God made you in His image. As a man, I’m supposed to serve you.”  That’s something your kids need to catch from you, as an adult.

Joanne: Just because you write books about these things doesn’t mean that your family is perfect, by any sense of the imagination. We were out at dinner. Our son, Samuel—he was younger, and he was still in the learning manners phase.



The waitress was going by him—and he was probably about seven, at the time—and he yelled, “Hey!” He wanted the ketchup: “Hey!  Hey!”  I said: “Son, you don’t yell, ‘Hey.’  You say, ‘Excuse me’ or ‘Pardon me.’” 

A few minutes later: “Hey!” again to this poor waitress, who is working so incredibly hard. I said: “Samuel, okay, here is the deal for the rest of the dinner. You now need to—anytime you want to talk with your siblings or us, you need to say, ‘Excuse me,’ or ‘Pardon me.’  We’re going to practice this.” 

Well, his siblings had a blast trying to draw him into conversation—I’ll tell you that. But it’s just being ready, at the time. It’s not shaming your child, but it is, right at the moment, saying: “Hey, let’s address this. How can we teach you this?” 

Bob: And I just have to tell people—when we walked in, and said, “Hi,” to you, right before we sat down to do these radio interviews, you said, “Hello, Mr. Lepine.” I thought, “Oh, I’m not that much older than…”—well, okay, maybe. Anyway—

Dennis: She also addressed me as “Sir.”



I was going to say, “Can you train Bob?”  [Laughter]  I mean, it’s not happened in—

Bob: I’m beyond—

Dennis: —almost 23 years. It’s—yes.

Bob: This is just a part of your character to show respect. It’s something that was trained into you, and it’s just how you understand life is supposed to work.

Joanne: We tell our kids: “You can never be too polite. You can never be too polite.”  Or when our kids are arguing, “Try to out-nice the other one.”  No one is ever going to get mad—and if somebody does get mad that you call them “Sir,” or “Ma’am,” or “Thank you,” or “Mrs.” or “Mr.” or use their name—there are still teachers I have today—I’m pushing 50—I wouldn’t call by their first name.

Bob: Sure.

Joanne: It doesn’t feel right.

Dennis: Okay, let’s talk about the flipside of being nice. Let’s discuss sibling rivalry. You had four children. Sometimes, nice dissolves into competition to children getting back at each other—hurting one another. You have any real core lessons that you learned that you want to pass onto other mean moms about resolving sibling rivalry?



Joanne: “Sibling Rivalry” was a fun chapter to write—not because kids’ arguing is fun, at all; but it also allowed me to research even more what makes them tick. When you’re busy, you are not thinking about this kind of stuff—the psychology of why your kids are arguing—but it kind of speaks in terms of: “You know, it might be that they are competitive. It might be that there’s a new baby. Guess what?  Big brother/big sister is possessive. They are basically fighting with the younger child. That’s their way of saying, ‘I’m the big man on campus.’”  So, it’s easier to understand those reasons.

The other thing that I need to remember—with my own kids—and I have to share this story: My youngest two—who, at the time, were probably 13 and 15, at the time—we’d just moved into our new home. They were fighting / they were arguing. We had just built this home. My husband was away on a trip. All of a sudden, I hear a crash.

Well, our two youngest were acting like they were at a Van Halen after-party in the hotel room—[Laughter]—



—except they do not know how to play instruments. They had busted one of the doors in the bathroom because they pushed each other, arguing about who was going to put the toilet paper roll on the toilet paper that day. When they came down the stairs—I’ll tell you—it really is a lesson on: “Do you respond, or do you react?  Which do you do?”  They were probably frightened because I heard the crash. I could—I did pray this time, “Dear Lord, help me not to kill them before they walk down the stairs.”  When they came downstairs, I was prepared. They looked at me, and shared what happened, and sat down. That is when I used chores. See, all of these chapters kind of intermingle—I used chores—that was their hard work.

Dennis: I remember, as our boys used to wrestle in their bedroom up above the kitchen, there was a light that was right in the middle of our kitchen that used to dance—just kind of bounced a little bit like a mild earthquake. You just wondered,



“At what point will there be a blood-curdling scream?” 

Bob: “What point does that roof give way—

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: —“and they come into the kitchen?” 

Dennis: Exactly. You wonder—you know—the thuds, as they got bigger, and became teenagers, and got stronger, and—

Bob: And they cracked a door too; didn’t they? 

Dennis: Oh, my goodness!  Well, there is a door that still doesn’t work in our house. I have a screw that I tried to find a way to get it back into the door sill so—because they literally ripped the door off the hinges. Now, these are boys/young men. I don’t remember how we punished or what we taught in the midst of that. There is a bunch of this that is just unsavory—I mean, it’s just—

Joanne: But it speaks to parents. And I think the thing is—it is transparency. You know what?  Just because you may not do it well today, God’s mercy is new tomorrow; and you have another chance. I’m hoping that this book encourages parents that there is more time; you know?  If you wake up the next day, you’ve got time.

Dennis: It’s back to what you talked about around manners: “Teach your children to respect the other person as made in the image of God.”


Bob: Well, I think one of the fundamental jobs of parenting is: “Your kids are born self-focused/self-centered—it’s all about them.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: “You’ve got to teach them how to be others-centered rather than being self-centered. That’s the overarching journey. First of all, you’ve got to teach them to love, honor, respect God. It’s the Great Commandment: ‘Love God, love others.’ That’s not how they are naturally. It’s a part of the job, as parents, to get them there.” 

Dennis: Exactly. One last quick hit—I want you to speak to mean moms about busyness. It seems, to me, moms today / families today are at red line as never before. We were busy because we had six kids; but it seems like there are multiple sports, multiple activities for multiple children. That spells, really, just a pressure-packed schedule that doesn’t allow for really in-depth relationships.

Joanne: Not at all. That was my first book, Just Too Busy: Taking your Family on a Radical Sabbatical.



So, I do understand that—even I have remedial lessons in this over and over again.

I love what Beth Moore says about this—she says: “No one can do a thousand things to the glory of God. In our vain attempt to do so, we stand to forfeit a precious thing.”  It is a reminder that we do need to slow down; you know?  God’s Word says it—“Be still and know that I am God.”  He made it a commandment—on the Sabbath, we are to rest.

I heard a woman say once—and I love this—she said, “Joanne, why do think God rested on the seventh day?”  I was really trying to think of the right answer. I wanted to be right, and I couldn’t think of the answer. I thought, “Well, it’s not because He sleeps because the Lord doesn’t sleep or slumber.”  She said, “God rested on the seventh day because, on the sixth day, he created man. On the seventh, He wanted to spend time with him.”  I thought: “That’s it! I want to spend time with my family. I want to spend time with the Lord. I want this time to count.” So, busyness—it just is a stealer—



—John 10:10: “The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy; but Jesus came to give us life abundant.”  That includes time. He says He can redeem our time.

How I think it happens is this—there are time-stealers in our day. First off, our time is stolen. What I mean by that is we give it up, without even thinking. We think we have to do this, that, or the other thing. Or it is peer pressure—our friends are doing it—so how could we—“Surely, we can’t tell our kids not to do this. They’ve got to be in the school play this year because Suzy’s kids are in the school play.” 

Well, time-stealers—and if you don’t know where your time-stealer is, and you want to know where your time-stealer is—where would somebody put a sticky note if they needed to get a hold of you in an emergency?  I had a mom come up to me once. She said, “Joanne, I asked my kids this question.”  She said: “They answered, ‘Mom, if I needed to get a hold of you in an emergency, I’d put a sticky note on the kitchen counter. If I needed to get a hold of Dad in case of an emergency, I’d put it on the toilet seat.’” 

Now, I’ll tell you—



—that did make me laugh; but I thought: “You know what?  If you want to know where that time-stealer is, where would that go?”  So, the enemy comes to steal, to kill—once time is stolen, the joy is gone. I heard a quote that I loved: “Joy is the flag that flies from the castle of my heart, proclaiming, ‘The King is in residence here.’”  I love that.

Dennis: I like that too.

Joanne: Steals our time / kills our joy. The kill shot really is the destruction of our relationships. It starts with busyness—it’s a silent killer. We don’t take it seriously. I know I didn’t, and I want to do that. I want to be able to say, “Hey, no,” to some things.

Dennis: I think every mom listening—and for that matter, every dad/grandparent—really started out the journey, wanting to be good, if not great, at being a parent. The nature of life is to wear you out and wear you down. What you’ve done, Joanne, is—I think you’ve kind of lifted moms and dads out of the rut of the routine and have given them some courage to raise the next generation—



—which we need, as never before, today. And I just want to express my appreciation to you for that and want to encourage you to keep writing and keep growing.

Bob: Well, and let’s hope that, as a result of the conversation we’ve had this week, there is a whole bunch of new, freshly-energized mean moms, who will get in the battle and love their kids with a kind of tough, tenacious “I’m not quitting, and I’m not giving up on you,”-kind of love.

I want to encourage listeners to get a copy of Joanne’s book, called The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. You can order it from us, online, at Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can follow the link to order a copy of Joanne’s book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. Or call, toll-free, to order—1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329.



That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” 

And Joanne, I know you had something else you wanted to say before we’re done here? 

Joanne: Well, I just find it no coincidence that I’m here today. This week, actually—it will be 15 years since my mom went to heaven. I guess what I want to do is encourage moms because, when my mom passed away, her funeral—it was packed full of people. [Emotion in voice] There were so many people there that the fire department showed up and turned people away. I want to encourage moms because my mom wasn’t a foreign dignitary, and my mom wasn’t a political figurehead. She didn’t have a ton of degrees after her name. My mom was a woman who loved, and she was a mom. That’s what she was—she was a mom.

And when that pastor got up and said—



—after the four of us had spoken about my mom and my dad got up—he said, “And her children rise up and call her blessed; and her husband also, and he praises her…at the gates [Proverbs 31:28-31]”  I remember thinking, “That’s what I want my legacy to be.”  So, one day, when my mom and I meet again in heaven, I know she’s going to ask me: “Joey, what did you do with the life God gave you?”  And I’m going to say, “Mom, I was a mom.” 

And I want to encourage moms: “Never ever ever think your job is little or unimportant because it is the most incredible, God-honoring ministry out there.” 

Dennis: Indeed.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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