The Four Mom “Musts”

By Vikki Spencer, The Mom Whisperer

The last thing any mom wants is additional lines on her “to-do” list – especially if she can’t delegate it to someone else. So, allow me to warn you – the following might add a few new goals that just might be worth replacing some old ones for.

Beyond home management, music lessons, sports, the friends and the foes, here are four things that every mom must handle because it comes with the territory of growing the next generation – (with minimal years of therapy needed – for them and us).

Know the developmental stages – from 3 months to the teenage years.
Brain and physical development are crucial keys to understanding our kids, especially what they are and are not capable of (physically, mentally, emotionally). In fact, until age 21, the brain continues to develop. So, stages of development will be a normal part of life even into the college years. You’ll know a new stage is coming on when you had life down and now there are curveballs and adjustments. Google “child development”, check the nearest bookstore, or phone the nerdy girlfriend who’s always got a tip for you.

Perks: It’s all the things the kids would tell you about themselves if they could. Guaranteed decrease in feeling crazy. Complete understanding of what’s too much to ask. Realizing what is appropriate in everything from chores to discipline.

Instill values. Values (the super short version) are the things you spend time and money on that are really important to you (beyond food, clothing and shelter). For some, it’s family time, sports, adventure, education, money, or church. It can also be the intangible things like respect, adventure, intelligence, service, or honesty to name a few. Figure out your own values and choose the top 5. Look for “teachable moments” when you can hand down those values. Kids as young as 4 years old can understand them. Older ones need the reinforcement.

Perks: You are doing the “mom” work that is the foundation of family. You’re giving them an inner compass that points them in the right direction now and after they leave the nest. Also, when these are hammered out, it’s easier to say “no” and pare down a schedule because values are the new plumbline. For example, our family values sports AND time together. The result – only one sport each season. Everything else gets a gut wrenching, “sorry.”

Master the art of discipline – we aren’t their BFF’s, we’re parents. Wise discipline includes a wide range of actions and takes time to figure out. So, ask friends, websites, or grandma for advice and try some new things out for a week or so (religiously). Learn what works for each kid and what works for you – and stick to it.

Perks: they ultimately leave home with respect for you, themselves, and others – not to mention fewer run in’s with the law.

Have traditions. Traditions don’t come around just on holidays. They can be the weekly TV show everyone watches together, or a monthly chess showdown, or a quarterly sleep over in mom and dad’s room (pup tent optional). C’mon, give your future adult kid a reason to finish the sentence “My mom made us ____ and at first I hated it, but then I really looked forward to it.” Traditions connect family.

Perks: stories to listen to when you’re old and gray about how silly everyone thought you were, but were so glad you did it.

The four “mommy musts” of child development, values, discipline, and tradition are the building blocks of family. These areas remind us how to regroup and establish family identity regardless of age, stage, or financial position. We are family. We build this generation for the next (so we can have fun with the grandkids and not worry about being so daggum intentional!)

Vikki Spencer is a freelance writer and mom coach. You can follow her on Twitter at

©2009 V. Spencer