Mean Moms Unite!
About the Guest
Are you a mean mom? Author and mother of four Joanne Kraft gives a courageous call to moms not to shirk their duty, but to be the kind of mom their kids need. The kind of "mean" she refers to isn't about abuse, but about setting appropriate boundaries and loving your kids enough to discipline them.
Are you a mean mom? Author and mother of four Joanne Kraft gives a courageous call to moms not to shirk their duty, but to be the kind of mom their kids need.
Mean Moms Unite!
Bob: Are you a mean mom? Joanne Kraft says, “There is the wrong kind of mean mom, but there is also a good kind of mean mom.”
Joanne: A girlfriend was cutting my hair at the time. I said, “Was your mom mean?” She goes: “You know, my mom was mean—she wanted to know who my friends were, where I was going to be, what time I would be home. She made me do well in school. She really kind of stayed on me, and I thought she was the meanest ever.” Then, she stopped. She looked at me—and I’m not kidding—there was a little twinkle in her eye. She goes: “You know what, though? She should have been meaner.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk about being a mean mom today but being the right kind of mean mom. Joanne Kraft is with us. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Thanks for joining us. I’m a little—a little afraid today.
Dennis: Are you? Are you?
Bob: Yes, a little concerned about—
Dennis: I don’t think our guest is packing heat!
Bob: Well, she’s packing something because she’s a mean mom!
Dennis: She is a mean mom. In fact, you have written a book for mean moms. In fact, I was rereading Proverbs 31 here. It says—
Bob: Is there anything about mean moms in it?
Dennis: Well, it says, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her [Proverbs 31:28]”—“mean.”
Bob: That’s not what it says. It says they “call her blessed.”
Dennis: And “her husband, also, [and] he praises her…” [Proverbs 31:28]
Well, we are joined today by Joanne Kraft, who is a native of California, but moved to Nashville, Tennessee, along with her husband Paul. They have four children, and she has written a book called The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Joanne: Oh, thanks for having me.
This is so fun.
Dennis: We’ve got to go with kind of a hardcore question for you—given your background. You worked in the police department as a dispatcher; right?
Joanne: Yes, sir.
Dennis: I’ve got to ask you: “What’s the wildest or craziest phone call that you received as a police dispatcher?”
Bob: You were on the other end of the 911 calls; right?
Bob: I know you got a lot of tragedy / a lot of stuff that is heartbreaking,—
Bob: —but you had to have some pretty crazy calls too.
Joanne: Absolutely. There—I mean, you have to figure—you take any dispatcher / 911 dispatcher—takes thousands of calls; but there are those that do make you laugh later. Sometimes, it might just be somebody calling because they want a ride. They think you are the cab. You know—to a police officer—they want you to come and pick them up for a ride. There’s a—
Dennis: Be a safe way to go!
Joanne: That definitely is for some people, I guess. [Laughter] But those are kind of bizarre, but I don’t think the public understands how many parents dial 911 for parenting advice.
When technology really hit the scene, we had parents calling, saying: “Hey, my daughter has a Facebook® account. We know she’s not using it appropriately, but she won’t give us her password. So, what do we do? Can you…” I’m thinking, “Well, is she using it for criminal activity?” “Well, no.” “Well, we don’t have jurisdiction over Facebook.”
Bob: So, there’s a real reason why you wound up writing The Mean Mom’s Guide. It’s like: “Quit calling 911. Here is what you do when this kind of stuff happens.”
Joanne: Oh, absolutely. You know, I don’t think any author says, “I want to be a mean mom writer.” It happened naturally. I worked for a police department—I’ve worked for a couple police departments—but the last one I worked at—when those parents would call 911—because I think they felt there was some anonymity there, once they got you on the phone. It was incredible how my dispatcher girlfriends would start to kind of save both calls for me. So, when I came into work, they’d let me take them because they enjoyed listening to my answers.
Joanne: It was entertaining. It was straight and truthful, and I just had a gift of being able to share the truth without ever being written up for it. [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, a lot of books begin with great stories. Yours has a lot of great stories it begins with, but yours ends with an incredible story of a mean mom who found alcohol in her son’s car.
Joanne: Yes, that is a wonderful story. That—I believe her name was Jane—
Dennis: That’s correct.
Joanne: —and she’s almost legendary to want-to-be mean moms. She did—she put an ad in the paper about her own son who—she had told him, “You can have this car but have it responsibly.” Well, she found alcohol. So, she sold his car—she sold his car—
Joanne: I would have to read that.
Dennis: —the advertisement she took out in the ad section.
Bob: Like a want ad?
Dennis: It is a want ad—yes.
Joanne: Well, yes. She actually is—if there is like a leader or like a president of a mean moms’ club, it would have to be Jane Hamilton.
She dubs herself: “The Meanest Mom on the Planet.” She found alcohol in her son’s car; and then, she decided to sell the car. Here’s what the ad read—it says: “Olds 1999 Intrigue: Totally uncool parents, who obviously don’t love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom, who ‘needs to get a life,’ found booze under the front seat. $3,700 or best offer. Call the Meanest Mom on the Planet.” [Laughter]
Dennis: And the response of the audience was fascinating.
Joanne: Well, that’s the thing! When I heard about her, I started to kind of research: “Did she exist?” She does. “What about the response?” Well, the articles that I’ve read, that I could validate, were that she received so many congratulations: “Way to go, Mom.” She didn’t remember receiving one negative response—not one!
Bob: Parents want the kind of courage that she shows, but they are scared to death to demonstrate that kind of courage.
Dennis: Well, Bob, as I was reading the book, I was thinking, “This is really a book about a courageous call to moms to hold forth the office of being a mom and to do their duty in the face of fear,” because there is not a mom alive who doesn’t question the boundaries that she sets for her kids, especially when her kids begin to assault her, telling her she’s the only mother on the planet who still believes these things are wrong and that all of their other friends totally get to go do this.
Dennis: But you’re all about giving courage to moms.
Joanne: I hope so. That’s my prayer for this book. It’s a book that has enough humor in it / enough true stories—transparent stories—that, if a mother-in-law gives it to her daughter-in-law, she’ll be invited back to dinner for Christmas. [Laughter] That’s a good thing; you know?
Bob: When you talk about a mom being mean—I mean, we’re laughing about it—there are moms that we’d look at and go, “It’s the wrong kind of mean.”
There are moms who are harsh, who are abusive, and who are angry moms. You’re not talking about that kind of mean.
Joanne: Absolutely not. I make that very clear in the first couple of pages of my book. When this book started to be written, I was bouncing the idea off some friends. One of the girlfriends said: “You know, I’m just not a mean mom. I was raised by an incredibly mean mom.” There is truth in that because some parents have a genetic mean streak, and those aren’t the parents I’m talking about.
The mean mom I’m talking about—that’s the title that a four-year-old or a fourteen-year-old gives you—but when they’re forty / when they have adult perspective, they realize: “You know what? She wasn’t mean after all.” I share a story in there about a friend of mine who—my girlfriend was cutting my hair at the time. I said, “Gina, was your mom mean?” She goes: “You know, my mom was mean—she wanted to know who my friends were, where I was going to be, what time I would be home. She made me do well in school. She really kind of stayed on me. I thought she was the meanest ever.” Then, she stopped. She looked at me—and I’m not kidding—there was a little twinkle in her eye.
She goes: “You know what, though? She should have been meaner.” [Laughter] I thought: “Wow! How many parents kind of regale one another with mean mom stories?” I know I did, as a kid. I just think, “You know, we need to resurrect that mean mom.”
Dennis: Yes, your mom wouldn’t let you wear something out of the house?
Joanne: No, sir. Okay, stretch pants were on the scene. I’m going to give my—this is like going back to the big-hair ‘80s—but no, stretch pants were pretty skin-tight; right?—back then. Oh, no. I thought I was going to get away with it, but she called for reinforcement—my father. I did not make it out of the front of the door.
Dennis: There was a blockade.
Bob: Do you remember the event? I mean, can you—where were you going?—or what was going on? Do you remember?
Joanne: I was going to go out with friends. Everybody has them; you know? Of course, my mom started that: “No daughter of mine”—you know, the bane of every child’s existence—“is going to leave this house. George!”—and called my dad. [Laughter] I’ll tell you—
Dennis: He’s a military guy. So, you were in trouble.
Joanne: Yes, sir. He is former Marine—so, I was his first recruit.
But 30 years later, I was in church with my teenage son—my cool teenage son. I will never forget—I was looking—I happened to be looking up in the worship. The girl—sweet thing—but it looked like she had discovered my pants from 1985. [Laughter] I’m not kidding—right on queue—my son looked at me and said, “You know, Mom, she really shouldn’t be wearing those pants.” I thought: “Oh, my parents knew what they were doing.” You know they did.
Dennis: So, what’s the meanest thing you have ever done to your kids? I mean, if you wrote the book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids—if I could call your kids right now, what would they say?
Joanne: I would have to say getting rid of the television. We got rid of it. I have to tell you—it just happened because we were moving the furniture around. We went without a television for many, many years; and we don’t have televisions in their rooms. They would think that is mean, you know, that we don’t have / we don’t allow—
Joanne: —technology to rule the day.
I find it very disrespectful, especially with grandparents, to have technology kind of bully its way onto the scene. So, my kids don’t bring technology with them when we are visiting people or people are visiting us—it’s not a right. I think those kinds of things—I’m not sure they’d be able to pick just one, Dennis. [Laughter]
Bob: Would they say you are a strict mom?
Joanne: Actually, they say that I am the New Testament / my husband is the Old Testament—so that I don’t know what that says about him. I don’t think they would say I am strict because I love ten times as much as I ever have to say, “No,” to things. I love passionately.
In the first chapter of my book, I explain what a mean mom is. A mean mom, though she does keep her word when it’s hard—a mean mom loves passionately. She asks forgiveness when she’s wrong. A mean mom doesn’t let her fears overrule her kids’ futures. A mean mom has control of those things because of Jesus, and that’s why—because we can lean on Him.
Dennis: I like what you say in that first chapter as well.
You said, “A mean mom can tread water longer than her child can make it rain.” [Laughter] No, I really like that because you just think some children kind of get up in the morning and they are going to rain—they are going to find a way to drown you.
I just think motherhood—especially in this culture, as never before—we have to come alongside moms—and by the way, if there is a dad listening right now, this broadcast is for you—to help give your wife courage: to stand with her, to cheer her on, to take her in the moments of self-doubt, and doubt about the boundaries, and about all the rules and regulations of running a household that have to be in place today. If you don’t, the kids are going to rule the roost.
Joanne: That’s right. I’m hoping that gives moms courage. Also, to come alongside their husband because I can tell you—there were times where I thought: “You know, my husband—maybe, this was—
—he shouldn’t have had this hard line here. Maybe…”—but you know what? I’ll tell you—the majority of the time—and I’m not going to let my husband listen to this part of the interview—the majority of the time he was right. Instead of us being a united front, and being partners in this parenting operation, I was fighting against him. That’s not okay. There is no good / there is no blessing that comes of that when, now, we’re being torn in two.
Bob: In front of the kids, you were disagreeing?
Joanne: I would say we really tried, when the kids were younger, not to do that; but when your kids become teenagers, and things are quick and fast, and you’re getting old and tired, we weren’t as good about it sometimes. As soon as your child knows there is a chink in the armor, hey—
Dennis: Well, and you had a blended family.
Dennis: I mean, that’s a new ballgame, in and of itself, where your husband is not the biological father, even though he adopted your children and made them his own.
Bob: Did he ever get the “You’re not my dad,” line thrown at him?
Joanne: You know what? He didn’t get that. I will tell you—
—maybe, it is because he adopted them and because they were pretty young when he adopted them—but in our family, as far as blended families go, I have a hard time with saying, “stepchild” and “half-brother.”
My daughter, Meghan, was working one time in high school. This woman came in—because people don’t know that part of our story—we just—we don’t hide it / we just feel we’re a family. She came in and said, “Oh, I didn’t know Samuel was your half-brother!” Meghan was mortified. She said, “He’s my”—and Meghan is our oldest—she goes, “He’s my brother.” “We don’t have—how do you have half a brother?”—she said that to me, “Mom, how do you have half a brother?”
I thought: “You know what? That is so true because, with the Lord, does God ever say, ‘Oh, hey; but you’re a Gentile child of Mine’?’” No, He doesn’t say that. He says, “You’re My child.” So, I have a hard time because we [others] feel the need to share that. Some things we need to only share with our doctor; you know? We don’t need to share that with people. I can’t tell you how many women, at conferences, do that with me—they share that.
Dennis: You have a lot of descriptions for moms—
—not just mean moms—but you have a “marshmallow mom.” You have a “Delia Doestoomuch,” an “Emma Emptythreats,” and a “Penny Putthekidsfirst-Everytime” mom. Go over a couple of those with our listeners, and especially the marshmallow mom, because I think there are a lot of moms who will identify with this description.
Bob: Actually, too, you’ve got the marshmallow mom and the “mini-marshmallow mom”; right?
Joanne: Yes. We have the “jumbo-sized marshmallow mom.” [Laughter] Okay, so, here we go—let’s see. So I believe we are all recovering marshmallow moms. Moms are natural nurturers. Moms naturally want to come and wipe away every tear from their child. Their love, I believe, is superhuman / it’s unconditional. And marshmallow moms are where we begin, but we need to be—more of us need to be in rehab. A jumbo-sized marshmallow mom is fueled by love, co-dependence, and a big dash of mom-guilt—
—that’s what, I believe, a marshmallow mom is. Most of us moms fall in that camp because most moms, I think, are good about keeping boundaries. A lot of us are pretty good about that; but we have certain areas where we are not.
I define quite a few marshmallow moms in the book so that moms might be able to relate to a few of them because these all have been me, pretty much. I can name them because I’ve been a lot of them. So, Delia Doestoomuch—she’s the mom who can’t say, “No.” She’s the mom who says, “Yes,” all the time because she thinks her value is in what she does for her child. Emma Emptythreats—she’s the one who—
Bob: “I’m going to count to three,” and then, we get to three and nothing happens—that kind of thing?
Joanne: Absolutely. That’s right—you know her. [Laughter]
Bob: I’ve met her—yes; right. [Laughter]
Dennis: Hey, we raised six children. [Laughter] There are just times when the kids win—that’s just all there is to it.
Joanne: The one that frustrates me a lot—it would have to be “Maria Mykidcantdothat.” She’d be my favorite because I think that’s where we stunt our kids because Maria ties her son’s shoes for way too long.
Don’t even ask my son, Samuel—I tied his shoes at a soccer game once. Okay, that’s a bad family story [Laughter]; but that’s also the mom who says: “My child is too young to do this,”—“They are too young to do their own laundry,” / “They are too young to get a job,” / “Well, goodness—it’s their senior year. They’ve got to have fun. They can’t do that.” So, that’s where it affects our kids.
Dennis: Our daughter, Ashley, our firstborn, has six sons and is caring for a foster care boy. She’s got seven boys right now. She spoke at the MomLife Today® Boot Camp on a message called “Oh, Boy!” She was talking about raising boys. She shared stories of her sons being on top of the roof, building fires in the backyard, and how she’s trying to allow them to be boys and not try to make them into something they are not, but allow them to explore.
Now, obviously, you’ve already said it—we said, here on FamilyLife Today—they have to have boundaries. You can’t allow a child to do something, ultimately, dangerous. She got them off the roof when she found them there; but she appropriately loved them and, in a way, kind of cheered them on for their innovation, while at the same time, going, “I can’t believe you did that!” That’s really what you are talking about—is giving your children freedom to get out there, and be children today, and to be innocent, and childlike.
Joanne: Yes. Our son, David, really stretched me in that mom area because, at a young age, he was catching field mice with his bare hands / he just caught birds out of the air; but he’s also my almost-21-year-old, who is a pre-vet student. So, I think that’s fantastic to encourage those things in your kids, you know; because it surprises me, looking back, now, the areas where they are gifted. You think: “Oh, God wired them that way from the beginning. I had no idea!”
Bob: So, there are some aspects of motherhood where you’re letting a lot of latitude happen /
other areas where the boundaries are really clear and tight. How do you know, as a mom, where to draw the boundaries tight and where to relax a little bit?
Joanne: When I wrote this book, I asked 150 moms to help me write it. One mom is quoted in my book to say—because there are quotes written all throughout, not just my words—and she says, “I couldn’t do this mom-thing without Jesus.”
In the Book of James, Chapter 1, verse 5, God says we can ask Him for wisdom. God says He’ll give it to us generously. I think, as moms, we forget that, as valuable as people are with doctorates and educations—you know are fantastic helps to us—God has also given us the ability to make decisions on what’s right, the boundaries that are correct for our kids, the boundaries that are going to bless them, and the things that they shouldn’t be getting into.
I mean, our oldest would tell you the meanest thing I did is put her on restriction from reading because she was reading so much.
When she got in trouble, you have to take away what would work with them. So, with her, she didn’t get to read for a couple of days. Well, I know that that’s a boundary that will work—that’s wisdom, I think, God gave me. I couldn’t put her in her room—she loved being in her room; you know? So, God gives you that wisdom. That’s how you know.
Dennis: And to that mom, who may know about Jesus but doesn’t have Him living in her life to guide her, to speak to her, to direct her as she raises her children—she might be interested in just knowing, “How did you meet Jesus?” You were a police dispatcher when you came to faith in Christ.
Joanne: Yes. I was a single mom. I like to say I was a hard-headed heathen. [Laughter] I really was at the end of my rope. I really just remember—and I wrote about it in my first book. I remember driving home with my kids in the car and just thinking: “This is it. I’m done. I’m done fighting.” It was—at that time, my girlfriend at the police department / who worked with me would take me to church; and that was it.
I surrendered my life to Christ between that and another gentleman who worked at the police department with me. In the middle of the night, he would talk to me about Jesus. He was a former missionary from Ireland, and God knew who I needed in my life to turn my face toward Him.
I’ll tell you—my life has never been the same. To even be sitting here—I’m amazed at what God does with lives and how He turns people’s lives around.
Dennis: And to that mom, who may be—maybe, she’s hit the wall and, maybe, it’s been her kids that have brought her to her knees: “Jesus Christ is alive from the dead.”
Dennis: He came to remove your shame / remove your guilt. He came to be your Lord, your Master, your Redeemer, your Salvation, and give you purpose, and hope, and peace.
He’s not going to make you perfect on this side of heaven, but He will go to work in your soul and help you be the mom you know your kids need you to be.
Dennis: He will change your life.
Bob: You know, we have a link on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, that says/talks about two ways to live—talks about a self-directed life versus a God-directed life. Something is directing your life / something is charting a course for the decisions you’re going to make today: Is it you relying on your own wisdom and understanding; or is it God speaking, through His Word, directing your steps?
I’d encourage you to go to our website—go to FamilyLifeToday.com—click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” then, look for the link that says, “TWO WAYS TO LIVE.” Read through that and understand what Dennis is talking about in terms of what it means to live life according to God’s direction, surrendered to Jesus Christ.
And also, look for Joanne Kraft’s book, The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 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.”
You know, at the end of the day, the most important thing we do, as moms and as dads, is to pass onto our kids a legacy of spiritual vitality. They need to see it in us—needs to be real in us. Then, we have a responsibility to communicate to them that there is a God who loves them and a God who created them, and they owe their life to that God, and they need to serve Him throughout their days.
Our goal, here at FamilyLife Today, is to help equip you, as a parent and as a married couple, to live out your relationships in a way that brings honor to God and that enables you to thrive spiritually. We provide you with practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family every day on this radio program, on our website, through our events and our resources. And we’re grateful to those of you who partner with us in making all of this possible—those of you who are monthly Legacy Partners, making a monthly donation to support this ministry and those of you who donate, from time to time.
If you can make a donation today, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I care,” and make an online donation. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. Our zip code is 72223.
By the way, we’ve got a thank-you gift we’ll send you when you make a donation today. It’s a new resource from Barbara Rainey designed to help promote conversation around the dinner table. It’s called “Untie Your Story,” and it’s our gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about how important it is for a mean mom to be a loving wife if she’s going to raise great kids. Joanne Kraft will be here with us again. Hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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