Cleaning House - Rid Your Home of Youth Entitlement

A local friend of mine has three boys, one Ayla's age, one Paxton's age, and one younger.  As I've gotten to know this family, I've been blown-away impressed with the boys' manners, their willingness to be helpful, and their capabilities.  The oldest first introduced himself to Ben and I by telling us his full name, shaking our hands, and calling us by name.  He exudes independence and responsibility.  The middle one can often be seen helping the youngest brother and doing little jobs.  And even the youngest (who barely talks), is his daddy's little sidekick, helping with all the jobs around the house.  They say please and thank you, they share with their brothers and friends without being asked, and they RARELY complain or whine.  They call themselves a TEAM -- and they are one! 

So I've been keenly observing their mom and dad and picking their brains about how they do it, trying to incorporate some little things in our house - things like setting and clearing the table, keeping their rooms clean(er), etc.  Because, let's be honest. Ben and I were doing ALL of those things for A & P, *while* they demanded we do more for them!  And they had no clue how to make a bed, or fill the dishwasher, or sweep the floor--skills they NEED to have in life.  So, who's the sucker??? Us. 

No more!  Once I saw some other kids their age being responsible and contributing to their family -- I was done with being a hovering slave parent!

And then, I heard about this book -- Cleaning House - A Mom's 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement: 

Is Your Home Out of Order?
Do your kids expect clean folded clothes to magically appear in their drawers? Do they roll their eyes when you suggest they clean the bathroom? By racing in to make their lives easy, have you unintentionally reinforced your children’s belief that the world revolves around them?
Dismayed at the attitude of entitlement that had crept into her home, Kay Wyma got some attitude of her own. Cleaning House is her account of a year-long campaign to introduce her five kids to basic life skills and the ways meaningful work can increase earned self-confidence and concern for others.
With irresistible humor and refreshing insights, Kay candidly details the ups and downs of equipping her kids for such tasks as making beds, refinishing a deck chair, and working together. The changes that take place in her household will inspire you to launch your own campaign to dislodge your kids from the center of their universe.
“If you want your children to be more responsible, more self-assured, and more empathetic, Cleaning House is for you.”
—Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family

While we were on our trip, I read the book.  Usually in the backseat of my car, while my dad chauffered us around Chicago.  It's pretty good, not exactly profound, but it's a good catalyst for recognizing different areas of life where kids need to learn how to be more responsible, and she gives a realistic response to how well that went over in her family (not always so well received...) The biggest thing I learned from her was START EARLY.  She had the most trouble with her teenager...

I've tried to incorporate some of her ideas, some of what I'd seen my friends and their kids accomplishing together, and did an *ok* job of giving my kids some responsibility in the middle of a 3-week long vacation.  In some ways, since we had less stuff to take care of, it was a perfect introduction to being responsible for their stuff. 

So, while staying at my dad's house, we gave them jobs.  They made their "beds" every morning, got themselves dressed, cleaned up their own dishes, wiped up spills, helped with the garbage, cleaned up their toys, carried their own bags, helped load and unload the car, etc.

Then we came home.  So far, it's been a good transition into having more responsibility at home too.  It's a work in progress, but I can happily report that it's going well, and though they complain about it some (mostly they're excited about it), they ARE contributing to the family, instead of creating more work for Ben and I to do.  And I call that SUCCESS.

Ayla is 7, Paxton is 4.  Here are some jobs they've recently added to their repoirtoire of responsibility:


  • set the table for dinner
  • clear the table after dinner
  • put away silverware from clean dishwasher
  • replace garbage bags in garbage cans
  • clean up his room and put toys away
  • make his bed in the morning
  • get himself dressed
  • dusting
  • wipe down kitchen table & chairs
  • feed the cat

Ayla (in addition to the jobs Paxton can do):

  • wash dishes & fill up dishwasher
  • vaccuum kitchen floors
  • clean mirrors
  • wipe down counters in kitchen & bathrooms
  • make & pack lunches
  • put food & condiments, etc. away in refrigerator
  • straighten bookshelves
  • go back and get something we forgot at Target (while I was in line checking out)
  • strip sheets and remake her bed
  • take dirty laundry to garage

They are lists we're adding to every day.  Not only has it been good for them to learn to do all these things, but they're actually HELPING and making my job easier.  Once I have seen that they're capable of all these things, I'm much more comfortable saying "YES! You can help!" and trust that it will be helpful.  Because they WANT to help.  They always have, I just wouldn't let them.  It wasn't their fault they didn't know how to do anything -- it was mine!

So here's to raising responsible, capable, contributing kids!  Expect great things from them and watch them happily strive to do even more...

6 comments so far:

becolorful said:

A great post that I should have read ten years ago. I am probably guilty of doing too much for my kids too but when I look at my younger friends I think this is a trend and it is truly getting worse. Hopefully many will take this experiment to heart. Thanks for sharing on beColorful.

lorafleener said:

Andrea: I read this book about a year ago and have made several changes at home. Lydia (10) now makes dinner -- by herself -- once a week. She plans, cooks and cleans it up. It's not usually "gourmet", but she can cook and is learning.

She also completely cleans her bathroom, is in charge of vacuuming the house, keeping her bed made and room picked up, taking out the trash, etc. It doesn't sound like I do much, but I do! :)

We haven't tackled the laundry yet, but that is coming soon, when I have the time to teach her.

Great post!

Michele said:

I'm with ya sista! Pinned your post to my home practical board. Sound like a great book and you certainly got things going! Love the photos of the kids and their jobs:) I posted DIY Doily Jacket to Make it Pretty this week. Swing by:)

Nokes2 said:

Andrea I don't know if you remember when you & Jake would be with us for the summers but we had chores for all of you to do. We were able to do a buddy system-Jake & Kelly, you & Amy- I think.
We posted on the fridge what everyone had to do & switched responsibilities weekly so one team didn't always do garbages or whatever. I also had to spell out what each thing meant. "my" definition of cleaning the sink or cleaning your room or whatever chores versus grade school kids. Then I could hold you more accountable for the activity.

Jill said:

Great post Andrea! I've never heard of that book but shall certainly look out for it. I'm slowly trying to get my kids to do more around the house and it's going well. Last week they (aged 8 and 10) cooked the family a meal completely by themselves, and dished up, and they LOVED it!! We certainly do underestimate what our kids are capable of and what they should be doing! I think they enjoy more responsibility and it certainly makes things easier for us as parents!

Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
Hope you have a fabulous week!
Jill @ Creating my way to Success

Ben said:

Since we look back on this blog from time to time, I think it's worth mentioning that your second paragraph is a bit of an embellishment. We didn't do EVERYTHING for Ayla and Paxton, but we did too much. They had some responsibilities, but we were doing a lot of things for them when we should have been patiently teaching them to do those things on their own.

The book came along at a time when we (particularly I) was fed up with doing minor/mundane tasks that they were more than capable of performing on their own. It was a nice proof case and reminder that kids are capable of much more than we modern parents often allow them to handle. It's also very important as it helps train them to be more self-sufficient adults instead of perpetual juveniles who can't pick up after themselves or wash a dish.

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