Are We Parenting Punks? MyBrownBaby Breaks It Down On Michel Martin’s Tell Me More

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of hanging out on Michel Martin's Tell Me More on NPR yesterday, where I joined two moms in a conversation about being parenting punks. Okay, maybe not punks. The host, Tony Cox (he was filling in for Michel, who was out yesterday) called it caving in. The other two moms, Today Moms blogger Jamila Bey and author Asra Nomani, called letting kids have their way with snacks, risqué music and bedtime, compromise.  Witness Asra's take:

Well, you know, I’m kind of going to argue on the side of caving in because I don’t think that the idea of caving in is a negative one. I think the idea that like parenting as being a set of rigid rules is not going to be true. We shift in our own values from month to month, year to year, based on what one child may be like or another one. And so to me, you know, it’s about being flexible and often times I just realize that it’s not worth it, you know, that as long as we kind of focus on important values of our children, of goodness and kindness and education and compassion for others, everything else is going to work itself out. I mean these kids are going to end up, you know, being able to get to bed on time when they’re 30 and they’re going to be toilet trained by the time they’re 15. And you know, they’re going to… everything is going to work out fine. And you know, if we hold true to the important values, then that’s what’s most important. And flexibility, I think, allows us a little bit of compassion for ourselves as parents.

I admit, I like the idea of being flexible as much as the next mom, especially when it means we can cut back on the amount of time we spend beating ourselves up for being crap moms. But er, um, caving into every little thing my kids want? Knowing that if they're given an inch on things that count, they'll run two miles with it? No ma'am. ˜Round these parts, Nick and I are the boss. Period. Here's what I had to say when Tony asked me whether caving in is an unfair characterization of what parents do when we yield to our children:

I don’t think so. I think we are caving in, personally. I think that our job, again, is to parent, and when we let our child rule what’s supposed to be happening at the moment that it’s happening, we’ve lost control. There’s no circumstance under which a three-year-old should tell you as a grown woman what to do or as a grown man what to do. There are some instances where you should chill out and relax a little bit about some things that are happening, but caving I have an issue with as a parent, because it’s our job to parent.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. At least until just before dinner, when Lila will inevitably tell me her stomach aches from hunger and she needs a plateful of Tostitos with melted cheese and taco dip to hold her over until I serve dinner. Ten minutes later.


I ain't no punk.

Check out our conversation in its entirety here, on Michel Martin's Tell Me More page on You can read the transcript of our discussion there, but if you’ve got the time, listen to the program. I’m using my midnight Quiet Storm voice. Frankie Crocker and Donnie Simpson would be so proud.

Flick credit: Cogdogblog for Creative Commons

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I am slowly learning how to be a firm parent. I was caving in way to much and my kids thought everything I told them to do was a joke. My husband had to teach me to be a parent and not just a friend. He said he saw that the kids were not respecting me as their mother. I still find myself caving in when he is at work.

    • Denene@MyBrownBaby

      Ah, Tony Cox talked about the difference in the way we moms and dads parent and cave… I can agree to that: sometimes Nick and I have to remind each other that we’re on the same team! LOL!

  2. I’m a little bit of a caver. But my kids know The Line, and never dare to cross over.

    In honor of Mr. Crocker….

    “There I go, There I go, There I gooooo…pretty baby you are the soul that snaps my control…such a funny thing, but every time you’re near me, I never can behave…You give me a smile and I’m wrapped up in your magic
    Music all around me, crazy music, music that keeps calling me so….

  3. I hunted down “Moodys Mood for Love” by King Pleasure on CD….going home to play it tonite!!

  4. As a single Mama, I find that caving sinks this ship fast.When I start to slip everything falls apart. If I waffle, they start to act weird–like; “cool let’s see how far we can go this time. What do you mean I wasn’t suppose to spray sunblock in his face? It has a sprayer!” Now that child only uses the gooey cream kind of sunblock! Just today a parenting mentor/friend said to me; “when the consequence is a two minute time out, and you let the child talk you into why they are not going to do it again you have lost. Life requires children to know that actions have consequences, and teachers/bosses/lovers mean it when they make a request!” So at dinner tonight I reminded the family what a two minute time out looks like, and how they know when they have crossed the line. There will be no more talking about it… And you now what? The calm has returned to the kingdom! That is about a layer to the “caving” that I am resetting over here.

    So all this rambling is to say I love hearing you say that a 3 year old is not in charge, and that YES there are times when flexibility in how something is set up is necessary–but not in the follow through around here.

  5. I am by no means a Punk parent. I think it may have to do with me coming up with my grandparents as a huge ficture in my parenting growing up but I don’t cave much. My husband on the other hand is the softy. I am the drill sargent. I homeschool and I have to be with my children all the time in and out the house. I like to be consistant with my discipline so my children can be consistant in there behavior. I think when I waiver back in forth in my style of parenting they waiver back and forth on their behavior. I just see my strictness as a security my children can depend on. I think they appreciate me for who I am and I appreciate them for who they are. My kids will even sometimes gives me pointers on how I can have more discpline in my life. Like with snacks. lol! I am pregnant but they will mention to me “Hey Mom! You haven’t eaten dinner yet maybe you should wait till after to have your snack.” lol!

    I also want to point out for folks just think I am this mean mommy. I am very loving and huggy kissy. I just don’t take no mess. We play and have fun but I like clearly defined lines between parent and child. That is just my style and how I do things. I think every family sets own path with discipline. No one way is the right way. And no way is the perfect way. I think I have found my niche though.

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