Mama Rock: Chris Rock's mother on raising your kids right, by Jennifer V. Hughes for


Not long ago, my almost-five-year-old was throwing a fit over the fact that I had turned off the TV for the morning. At the height of her outrage she wailed, “I don’t like you!” I got down on one knee, held her tear-stained face in my hands and said: “You don’t have to like me, sweetheart. I’m your Mommy.”

Clearly, I’ve got something in common with Rose Rock. The first chapter in her new parenting book, Mama Rock’s Rules: Ten Lessons for Raising a Houseful of Successful Children, is: I Am Your Mama, Not Your Friend.

Rock, the mother of comedian/actor/director Chris Rock, has got the chops. She gave birth to seven children, cared for one stepson and informally adopted two other girls. Over the years the family welcomed more than twenty foster children into their modest Brooklyn home. Her book covers topics like the importance of family meals (Feed Them and They Will Tell You Everything) and helping your kid bounce back from adversity (Push “Unable” Off The Table) while offering no-nonsense advice on getting your kids to respect you, standing up to peer pressure and having “the talk” (the predictably hilarious chapter Don’t Lie Down With Anything You Don’t Want to Live With Forever).

It’s also got a few great oh-I-am-SO-stealing-that ideas. For example, Mama Rock suggests that the next time you’re flummoxed over how to discipline your kid for something, ask him what he thinks the appropriate punishment should be. “My kids,” she writes, “always offered worse punishment than I would have given out.”

In her South Carolina home, Rock runs a non-profit youth group that provides theater arts for needy kids and assistance for teen mothers. Babble talked to her about what’s wrong with kids today, spanking and the things Chris did as a kid that still make her shudder. – Jennifer V. Hughes

I’d bet that most parents are sure that they follow the rules in your book – set limits, follow through on consequences, demand respect from their kids. And yet there are so many ill-behaved, out-of-control children out there. What’s up with the disconnect?

A lot of parents do have rules and whatnot, but they’re not sticking by them, they don’t really follow through. Following through is when you absolutely set a rule and you absolutely have consequences when the rule is not followed. It’s not something you do it sometimes and don’t do at other times.

Why don’t parents follow through?

It’s easier to give in. It’s easier not to have a child who is pouting, to be the good guy.

What do you think is the most important piece of advice you can give parents of young children, like toddlers and preschoolers?

Start very young. You don’t wait until they are ten years old to say, “You need to pick up your things.” You start when they start dropping them.