'Meanest Mom Ever' Throws Away Kids' Ice Cream Cones to Teach Them Manners -- How Rude!

melted ice creamFor parents, it's definitely our job to remind our kids to say "please" and "thank you," and to treat others with respect. But shouldn't treating our kids with respect be part of that lesson? Not every parent thinks so, like the mom whose post about what she did when her kids forgot to say "thanks" for their ice cream is going viral.


Apparently Jaime Primak Sullivan was horrified when her three children, ages 5, 7, and 8, neither made eye contact with nor thanked their server at Dairy Queen. She was so horrified, in fact, that she saw fit to take all their ice cream without warning and throw it in the garbage. Predictably, the kids were taken somewhat aback.

I'll be honest -- as a mom, I will say that a lot of things bother me about this post, but I'm going to start with this sentence:

"So ... I am the meanest mom ever ... Like ... Ever."

Is Sullivan the meanest mom ever? Probably not; in fact, in all likelihood she's probably a perfectly nice mom most of the time. But that was a mean thing to do to her kids, and what bothers me is how she seems to be bragging about being mean, even if it was in an attempt to teach them good manners. Because trying to get kids to say please and thank you -- or exhibit any other type of desirable behavior -- shouldn't be an excuse for parents to take whatever drastic and devastating measures they see fit.

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Why couldn't Sullivan simply have reminded her kids to say thank you to the server in the moment? (I think we can all agree there's nothing unusual about seeing a mom remind her kids to say "thank you" to someone in public.) And then she could have had a discussion with her kids about the importance of showing gratitude to people in the service industry after they left. I'm sure that Sullivan (and others) would argue that throwing their ice cream away "drove the point home" in a way mere verbal nudges never could, but throwing their ice cream away also showed them that their mom -- to borrow her own terminology -- is, well, mean. And unpredictable. And doesn't respect their feelings. 

Hear me out: If Sullivan had issued an ultimatum on the way to Dairy Queen along the lines of, "Listen, if you guys don't remember to make eye contact and thank the lady at Dairy Queen this time, I'm taking all your ice cream and throwing it straight in the garbage," then that would be one thing. That would be entirely different. But Sullivan didn't say anything like that happened. It sounds like these kids were just spacing out, being kids, thinking about ice cream, and instead of a reminder or even a stern warning, Whooosh! Instant kid devastation. How is that fair, and why are punishments like this one something parents see fit to pat themselves on the back over?

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Listen, anybody can be mean. It's easy. And it's seemingly effective, at first, because mean grown-ups have a way of making kids do what they want them to do. But what are the long-term consequences? And how can it make you feel good as a parent to "teach a lesson" that way? Don't you want your children to be polite because they understand the real reasons why manners are important -- like, because human beings deserve kindness and respect? Or do you just want well-behaved robots who don't have a true emotional understanding of what human decency is all about? 

If a child feels empathy toward other humans, manners will come naturally. Maybe not at first, and maybe not every time, but forever -- and they'll be genuine, not phony. I just don't know how we can expect our kids to develop empathy if we don't show them the same. 


Image via torbakhopper/Flickr

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