Mom defends tough-love letter to 13-year-old son after getting shamed online

Heidi Johnson's son was 13, deeply in adolescence, and in that stage where he lashes out. He told her he shouldn't have to deal with her rules and should be independent. So she wrote a strict but loving "Mom's not a fool" letter.


She wrote on Facebook how her son reacted to the letter:

"He came home, saw the note, crumpled it on the floor, and stormed out of the apartment. I have always encouraged him to take a walk when he is upset so that he can collect his thoughts so when we try to talk, we are able to talk, and not just yell at each other. I do the same thing — sometimes, I just need to walk away and collect myself. I am not above admitting that. He was still livid when he got home. He decided to stage a 'sit in' in my room, where he did laugh at me and repeat, 'Really? What are you going to do? You can't take my stuff,' etc. He was asked to leave my room, and when he could be respectful, and I was more calm, we would discuss it further. He went to his room, and after about an hour, he had removed some electronics and items I missed that he felt he should have to earn back for his behavior. He apologized, and asked what could he do to make things better and start earning items back. He earned his comforter and some clothes right back. I did leave him some clothes to begin with, just not the ones he would want to wear every day. He also had some pillows and sheets, just not his favorite ones."

She decided to post it on Facebook, the way one does to friends for a laugh and connection. She neglected to make it "private," and soon comments and shares proliferated, including admonishments from strangers who thought she was a bad parent.

Now she had to deal with a bigger teenager: the internet and its commentariat. But Johnson remained level-headed and wrote another Facebook post, clarifying.

"It's out there; and I am not ashamed of what I wrote... I am not going to put my 13-year-old on the street if he can't pay his half of the rent. I am not wanting him to pay anything. I want him to take pride in his home, his space, and appreciate the gifts and blessings we have."\nShe explains that he is more grateful because of it, and also that he has slowly earned back things and dealt with sacrificing others. Then she lists her very organized and succinct rules of the house:

1 – Do your best in school! I don't expect a perfect 100%, but I do expect that you do your best and ask for help when you don't understand something.

2 – Homework and jobs need to be done before you can have screen time.

3 – Jobs are emptying the trash, unloading the dishwasher, throwing away trash you make in the kitchen, rinsing dirty dishes, making your bed daily, pick up bedroom nightly, and cleaning your bathroom once a week.

4 – You must complete two chores a day. Each day of the week with the exception of Sunday has a room that we work on cleaning. He has to pick two chores for that room. For example, if it is the living room he can choose two of the following options: dust, vacuum, polish furniture, clean windows, mop the floor.

5 – Be respectful and kind with your words — no back talking, no cussing at me.

6 – Keep good hygiene.

7 – Make eye contact when being spoken to, and be an active listener.

8 – Use proper manners.

"You know what.. this hasn't hurt our relationship. He and I still talk as openly as ever. He has apologized multiple times... And… he is trying harder." Her son is earning things back little by little, and appreciating it more than he did before.

"This came down to a 13-year-old telling his mother she had no right to enforce certain rules, and had no place to 'control' him. I made the point to show what life would look like if I was not his 'parent,' but rather a 'roommate.' It was a lesson about gratitude and respect from the very beginning. Sometimes, you have to lose it all to realize how well you really had it."

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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

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Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

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Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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