ASK A MOM: Mean Moms, Group Punishments, and Depression in Children

WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
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Q: Why are moms mean?

A: Oooooo… this question clearly has context not being relayed. I’m going to tackle it anyway.

Mom shaming is alive and (un)well. The truth on how to handle shaming is easy to say, hard to do. You have to ignore the meanness. Why? Because other moms judging you has nothing to do with you. Their judgment is a window into some problem they have with themselves. Counselors will tell you that, as will good, smart friends. How you parent is how you parent. Short of leaving your children in danger or neglecting them, there is no “wrong” way.

But negativity is negativity, and it’s easy to absorb even when you know you shouldn’t. I know this personally. I wear a pretty transparent attitude when writing about my children publicly; I cop to parenting mistakes. My first two books ( walk right through them. Though 95% of what people have said in response to my missteps is respectful, there are trolls. Always. Over the years I’ve learned it is a real uphill climb to teach yourself to shed meanness, but once you do, the freeness you feel is worth the climb. You get to a point where you realize if your children are happy and well-(enough)-adjusted, that’s success. That’s the goal. You’re surviving, no matter what others might say.

This is a petty example, but a good one: Two years ago, my husband and I went out of town for a friend’s adults-only wedding. We hired a great sitter to stay with our kids. On the Monday we returned, I posted a picture walking into WBTV News with the caption: “Back at work. Feeling renewed and refreshed from a weekend away. See you guys tonight at 5p, 6p, and 11p.”

Immediately, a woman I didn’t know replied with this: “Do you always look for a reason to go out and celebrate and leave your children? I never left mine for a night.”

Instant assumption, mixed with dismay and judgement.

My Momma Bear claws wanted to instantly sharpen and defend my relationship with my three babies. But I’ve learned. I knew better than to reply. I ignored her.

Time away from her flippant judgment helped me remember that we all do what we need to do. You do you, I’ll do me. We do what works best for us. If you never want to leave your child with a sitter for a night or two or three, go for it. But my husband and I leave our kids with loving caregivers for date nights, or in that case, a weekend away. It was excellent. The breaks make me a better mother—and I’d argue both of us better parents—and more excited to enter the Big Top upon return.

So, ignore the mean, hug your kids, and promote kindness. Turn negative into positive, and ignore, ignore, ignore.

Q: My 6th grader tells me they have “silent lunch” at school. She says it’s usually just a few kids being loud and not listening. So, my question is, is it okay for all 6th graders in a school to get lunch detention for “being too loud”? 

A: I took your question to two principals—one elementary and one middle school—with lots of school experience. Both are within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Both had similar answers.

From the elementary principal: “It has been my experience that lunch is one of those times during the school day that students are able to socialize and talk with friends. If a few students are not following the rules, then those specific students should receive the consequences spelled out in the policy handbook.”

From middle school principal: “My gut reaction? ‘Eek! I need to check with my 6th grade team to see what’s up because we try really hard to avoid that.’ Group punishments don’t work. They almost always hurt way more kids doing the right thing than those doing the wrong thing. I hate to punish the group for the poor decision of a few.” This principal later added, “I also always hate silent lunch as an administrator because trying to keep a cafeteria full of 6 th graders is usually harder than it’s worth.”

Google “silent lunch” and you’ll find lots of articles. Most agree with our principals—and you—that group punishment doesn’t seem fair. has an article with good advice. In it, the writer suggests instead of collective punishments, trying collective rewards.

“I do a Harry Potter-esque point system,” the author writes. “Kids can earn points for attendance, homework, hilarious comments, being able to rap the entire Fresh Prince theme… you get the idea. If a whole class gets loud or off-task, I dock five points from the chalkboard in the corner of my room and they settle right down. No silent lunch, no extra assignments needed. Other teachers put marbles in a jar to work up to a class reward. It’s still collective responsibility, but it leaves room for a little more grace.”

If you choose to address this with the school, maybe consider printing out this question, and its answers, to take with you to show your child’s school.

Q: Hi Molly. My 8-year-old son has a friend who always seems sad. He comes from a good two-parent household, has friends, etc. But I think he might be depressed. I was a depressed child too, and I was lucky to have parents who got me help and medication. Do I raise this concern with his parents or stay out of it? I don’t want to offend the parents, but I don’t want to see this boy go through what I went through and not get the help he needs.

A: This is hard. It’s not your place because it’s not your child and yet aren’t we trained that if we see something, we should say something? We’re a village-based world, taught to raise children as a community together. And yet… not your child.

Your past, however, is a beautiful key. It can give you better permission to walk through this door of concern. Because of your own history, you might see things this child’s own parents don’t naturally witness.

For a professional answer, I took your question to counselor Maggie B. Jennings, MS, LCMHC, RPT, a play therapist with Sun Counseling and Wellness in Charlotte. She said it’s tough to see a kid who you care deeply about, feeling sad.

“Sounds like she relates to this child from her own past experiences,” Maggie says. “It’s important as parents to give other parents an opportunity to notice and support their children’s emotions, without outside input. I mean, the last thing you want to do is inadvertently step on toes of a friendship that could get negatively impacted.”

And yet, if the child is playing in your home appearing sad, acknowledging the sadness and putting it to words can help. Something like ,‘Hey Bud, I noticed you’re looking down. It’s really tough to feel sad. But you know I care about you and want to know what’s going on in your head.”

If it feels comfortable to do so, she says, also consider self-disclosure. You could say something like, “I felt that sometimes when I was your age too, I get it.”

She also suggests continuing to foster the relationships with feelings, and letting any child know it’s safe to talk about or question how he or she feels. That’s how they learn.

If you’re reading this question now and wondering if your own child is showing signs of depression, has a list of things parents can do in a repetitive way to change the way a child feels and help them think better about their own selves.


  • Remind the child that you love and believe in them.
  • Remind them you keep expecting good things from them.
  • That you… want to talk through problems with them.
  • Help with homework, or projects, or get the child a tutor.
  • Help the child get enough exercise, sleep and healthy food.
  • Help limit the time the child spends on screens and social media.
  • Help the child wake up in the morning at the right time, but doing so in a friendly way.
  • Do things together you both enjoy: Walking, playing a sport or game, doing a craft, cooking, etc.

You can find more on this site, here.

Good luck. Ultimately, if you really think it’s serious and by NOT saying something will hurt a child more, it’s worth broaching the topic gently with that child’s parents.

Q: How can moms get more sleep? 

A: Ummmmmm, you can’t. Either find a new dream or take a long weekend away (see first answer) and come back ready to see the kids.

As always, thanks for the questions this month and start sending them in for May. A month for mommas. Cue the brunch reservations.


MOLLY GRANTHAM is an anchor, author, and mom of three. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or catch her on WBTV News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.