I’ve been thinking a lot about how entitled people feel to pretty much everything these days. There’s no longer a sense of wonder, a sense of gratitude for little things like a sunny day, extra help from a teacher, or a break on a bill from the doctor’s office.
It’s what worries me most about our society, but now I’m much more concerned about the entitlement attitude happening under our own roof. My kids can be so subtle. I can tell them they can only play the X-Box for a half hour, and they play so quietly down there that I don’t realize it’s been two hours. I ask them to clean a section of the kitchen up, but they leave it half done, and I end up just finishing it for them. I ask them to put away a load of laundry only to find the clean load carefully dispersed with the dirty loads. They’re pretty clever.
But I found a marvelous little gem of a book that was just a delight to read: Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12 Month Experiment to Rid her Home of Youth Entitlement. A mom of five kids between the ages of 14 and 4 (and no, it’s not me) decides its time to whip her kids into shape.
Every month this mom, Kay Wills Wyma, focuses on one skill she wants to teach her children and the first month she decides they will learn to keep their room clean. Each child is given a clear container with thirty one dollar bills in it. Each morning, after her kids have left for school, Wyma inspects their rooms. If their room is clean, she leaves the jar alone. If it’s not clean, she takes a dollar out. I really like how she breaks down her ideas into one goal a month. This gave her project more focus and made it more manageable. I think we’re going to actually try it this year!
What I love about this book is the mom is just so real. She talks about their little experiments–what went well and what did not go so well. Some of their disasters are the funniest parts of the books. She’s very open about her kids’ resistance, her need to curtail some of her more ambitious ideas, and her outright failures. But I really related with this mom, and I have to say I admire her for keeping at it, for trying different approaches until she finds success. Quite frankly, I think that’s the hardest part of motherhood—the consistency. I also love her conversations with her teenager–such a relief to know that the frustrating conversations I have with my son are actually pretty normal.
Many of her months goals were quite predictable—teaching children how to clean their own bathrooms, how to do laundry, how to cook dinner, but there were some unexpected delights as well. I was impressed with how she helped her children find work during the summer. She helped her reluctant fourteen year old get a volunteer job at a school for disabled children twice a week, and she helped her daughter advertise for babysitting jobs. I also really like the chapter where she taught her children what it means to be a good host. Each of her children were given a budget to have their own party and were instructed to plan it themselves.
I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to try out this same twelve month experiment. I guess it’s time to get a bunch of dollar bills!