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
- 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...