Back in the summer I was attempting to get the boys to do a quick clean up of their toys with me. I was trying to make it fun, light hearted and encouraging. I said, “Let’s go Hayden! Help Mommy pick up the trains!”
He just looked at me and said, “No. Mommy cleans up toys.” He didn’t say it in some spoiled tone, or meanly. Just in a very matter of fact way. Still, I rankled.
“No, Mommy doesn’t-!” But then I stopped. Yes, Mommy actually did. She cleaned up toys, took care of clothes, made beds, cooked dinner, did dishes. The list is rather endless when I think about it. So, being the nerdy, need-to-research-everything type of Mama that I am, I started reading books on today’s children and entitlement.
Oh, it may seem silly that not cleaning up toys made me take the leap to entitled kids, but really isn’t that the attitude behind it? I don’t want to raise my boys to think that someone else will do the cleaning and cooking for them. I want them to know how to do it, to be proud of themselves and feel confident in the fact that they can take care of themselves (eventually).
I read a couple of books on the subject, some better than others. But I liked several ideas in the book, “Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement” by Kay Wills Wyma. The book itself is decent. It seemed to me that she took excerpts from her blog about the 12 months and then tried to form her book around those, which made it less cohesive to me, but again, I took away some good things from the book.
One of those things is picking one thing per month to focus on. Since starting the idea in July, we’ve focused on making beds, cleaning up toys, taking care of clothing (PJ’s in the morning and day wear at bedtime) and taking care of one’s dishes after each meal. As they get older I plan to build on their responsibilities and have them learn to do laundry and even cook. Although they cook a lot with me already, its mainly playing.
The main thing we do differently from the author above is we don’t pay our children for their responsibilities. Kay Will Wilma and her husband pay their children $30 each at the beginning of the month (and with five kids that’s no small feat.) And if their responsibilities/chores aren’t taken care of then she docks them one dollar per day. Her children were older when she started the Entitlement Project and I understand why starting with an allowance of sorts was appealing.
But I’m a firm believer that for our home, there are things that we do because we’re part of a family. We pick up after ourselves, take care of plates, and so much more because we’re a unit and that’s how we work together. At least that’s how it is in my mind. Until recently I was, obviously, not living up to that ideal. I do understand paying for bigger jobs, and I hope that will encourage the boys to take on larger roles as they get older, but for now the small everyday jobs are enough.
So far its been a great experience and the boys, specifically Hayden, have met the new activities with excitement. The only challenge we’ve had was the bed making. For some reason he fought me tooth and nail about it for the longest time. I certainly didn’t expect perfection, I just want him to try and I always help him. So why wouldn’t he make the bed?! It was awful and I was ready to resort to a reward chart of some kind. But my in-laws were in town for a week and made it a HUGE deal every time he made his bed. Its seemed the extra recognition (aside from Mama) was all he needed. Now occasionally he whines a bit, but almost always we get the bed made.
I have so much to add but this is turning into a long post. We’ll be keeping it up next year and focusing on one item per month. I also focus on something personal for me. Usually health related, such as getting to bed earlier or cooking more at home or something along those lines.
We decided to combine November and December and focus our time on giving. Both Arnie and I feel it’s important to be aware of needs around us and help where we can, even if it means making a personal sacrifice in order to do so.
It has been wonderful to see Hayden respond to people and tomorrow I’ll share with you how we’ve tried to focus on giving to family, community and world.