After the children, ages 5, 7 and 8, didn't thank the employee who served them, Sullivan tossed the treats in the trash and didn't look back. She shared her experience on her Facebook page, writing:
"So... I am the meanest mom ever... Like... Ever.
Took the kids to Dairy Queen after dinner. They ordered their dessert choices and we waited about 5 minutes for them to call out our number. The young lady (maybe 17) handed each child their ice cream. Not one looked her in the eye. Not one said thank you. Not to her, not to me... So I waited. I counted to 10 in my head as they dug into their ice cream and the young lady just looked at me (probably because she thought I was hearing voices) and I watched as my children strolled out the door. I followed them outside where I calmly collected their ice creams and my kids watched in horror as I deposited them into the nearby garbage can. All 3 launched into mass hysteria. I waited. Quiet. Calm. When they realized I had something to say, they quieted down. I explained that one day, if they were lucky, they would work a job like that young lady. And I would hope that people would see them. Really see them. Look them in the eye and say thank you. We are too old at 8/7/5 to move through our days without exercising manners and honestly basic human decency. So today, I am the meanest mom in the world."
Her post has been shared over 44,000 times and liked over 351,000 times. Many commenters applaud Sullivan for taking drastic measures to teach her kids manners. One wrote, "As someone who works in a restaurant and deals with people who ignore me when I ask 'how are you?', or sit their money on the counter when I'm holding my hand out for it, or won't even acknowledge me after I say thank you, have a nice day! Thank you. Thank you for instilling into your children manners and plain human decency!"
But other commenters think she took things too far. "I know you are their mother, but in my opinion, I thought that was a bit over the top!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would have made them go back in the ice cream place and apologize for not saying thank you. They are great kids, and this was quite harsh and this memory will really stay with them, even though I know you were trying to make a point," wrote one.
Well, in my opinion, what Sullivan did is aspirational! I dream about doing these things to my kids, but I always chicken out. I wish I could muster the guts to follow through on taking the toys away, or canceling the play date, or not letting them have a treat, ever again! Because tepid punishments yield tepid results. A real punishment makes a real impression and changes behavior. I'm pretty sure the Sullivan kids will never forget to say thank you again!
What is your take?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.