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The Kindest Mother in the World

The Kindest Mother In the World
By Sheila Baranoski

What parenting with kindness, respect, and trust looks like.

In 1967, a woman named Bobbie Pingaro wrote a poem called The Meanest Mother in the World. The premise is that in order to do a good job raising children, Mom must be coercive, demanding, and punishing. All these years later, I still hear moms bring up the poem and the ideas in it when talking about their relationship with their children. They laugh about being mean moms and insist that their children will thank them some day for the treatment they received.

I know that the ideas in that poem are not true. It is time for a paradigm shift. It is time for moms to proudly proclaim our kindness.

  • I aspire to be the kindest mother in the whole world.

  • I offer my children a variety of food and give them the freedom to choose which foods feel best for their bodies, rather than making them eat what I think they should.

  • I strive to honor and respect all of my children equally.

  • I have been careful to cultivate a close relationship with my children, so it’s natural for us to let each other know where we are at all times.

  • My children are interesting people who spend time with other interesting people, and I am enriched by knowing the people my children choose to include in their lives. I don’t impose arbitrary limits on when they must be home, because I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me.

  • I am in such awe over the magnificent bodies that house my children that I treat them with reverence and care. I would certainly never strike them, and I would do anything in my power to protect them from physical harm.

  • I encourage them to have minds of their own and empower them to do exactly what their hearts desire. I do not desire blind obedience. Although I am always available to give them input and talk anything through with them, my children think for themselves and make their own decisions.

  • I make sure they have clean, comfortable clothing that they like. I trust them to know their own bodies and to decide when they need a shower and a change of clothing. I am always available to help make bath time more comfortable and enjoyable for them if they need that from me.

  • My children are aware of our family budget. If they want something that is more expensive than what we have budgeted for, we brainstorm to find ways to work together as a team to get them what they desire. My hope is that for the rest of their lives, they will remember that there is always a way to meet their needs and desires rather than settling for whatever someone puts in front of them.

  • Sometimes, my children notice that I treat them differently than their friends are treated by their parents. I am loving, patient, and kind. They are grateful for this.

  • Because I want my children to develop self-control, I let them control their own bed times and wake times. I lovingly tuck them in and lay with them to help them go to sleep when they want me to. I give them input when needed about when they might want to go to bed if they have chosen an early-morning activity. Bedtime is a peaceful, bonding time, one that never includes any yelling, threatening, tears, or punishment.

  • My children and I spend much of our days working and playing together. Sometimes, we cook healthy, interesting foods and listen to audio books or have interesting conversations while washing dishes and organizing bedrooms. However, I never force them to do a chore they don’t want to do. I want them to help me when and if they are doing it from a willing, joyful place within themselves. I don’t want to encourage bitterness and resentment in our relationship.

  • Sometimes, I stay awake at night thinking up interesting, world-expanding activities that we can do together. I get so excited when I am able to help them pursue something that is important to them.

  • I am always truthful with my children, and because they see me as their partner rather than their punisher, they have no reason to lie to me.

  • The teenage years are a special joy because we’ve maintained our close relationship. Whenever my teens want to share their joys or frustrations with me, I’m there to listen without judgment and give my advice when they ask for it. I also value their wisdom and ask their opinions frequently.

  • School is optional for my children. I honor the fact that they would rather learn outside the confines of an institution, learning by pursuing their individual passions with joy. My children have never had to lie or pretend to be sick in order to get out of a day of school.

  • I never judge them or grade them. I trust that as they follow their individual paths, they are growing and learning the things that they have the need to know, at a pace that is perfect for them. They know that the only one who is worthy of judging how they are learning and growing is themselves.

  • I never shame my children. They respect me because I respect them.

  • My children know I believe that success is not about having the highest degrees or paychecks. Rather, it is about following one’s heart and finding joy in life. It doesn’t matter whether they choose to serve in the armed forces or join in a protest parade or riot, as long as they are following the calling of their hearts.

  • I know that I would not be respecting my children if I forced religion or education onto them. Rather, I encourage them to be honest with themselves about what is true to them rather than asking them to conform to what someone else believes they should think.

I stand a little taller, and I am filled with pride when my children tell me I’m the kindest mother in the world.

Sheila Baranoski lives and learns with her husband and three children in Pennsylvania.

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