Thursday, October 25, 2012

Coat? We don't need no stinkin' coat....

Oh my friends, remember this?  Remember when my precious 3rd grader was leaving jackets at school left and right?  Leaving them like he believed global warming was on its way tomorrow?  It's happening again, my friends, only this time, it's a year later and my treasured 4th grader is leaving behind winter coats.

When I asked him why he left a second winter coat (by the way, his brother is to blame for giving him the second coat to lose--mean mama was just going to let him tough it out and find the first one he lost) on the playground yesterday instead of at least bringing it back inside the school to his hook, he just shrugged.  When I told him that it was going to be cold tomorrow (today) and he was going to need a coat, he said, well why didn't you TELL me that?! (say it again, with an incredulous, almost-yelling voice).

Oh yes, my friends, you read that right: in his opinion, it is my fault that my son chose to leave his winter coat on the playground instead of bringing it home to wear again.  

It is exactly this sort of entitled attitude that prompted author Kay Wills Wyma to embark on a year-long quest to cure her five children of an attitude of entitlement, which she has chronicled in her book Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.

I really liked this book and found it to be incredibly inspiring.  Kids are naturally self-centered beings and it's our choice as parents whether we want to feed in to that, reinforcing their view that the world revolves around them, or teach them to see beyond their own wants and needs and feelings to those around them by showing them how meaningful work can increase self-confidence and concern for others. 
Ms. Wyma's approach was both systematic and practical--she lays out her game plan in a way that anyone could duplicate.  The book is also a quick read--I really enjoyed the author's conversational style--as if she and I were girlfriends chatting.  I love the way she shares her family's successes and failures, letting us know up front that, if we're going to try this too, we will most likely be met with resistance and varying degrees of success.  I finished the book feeling inspired, and with the definite conviction that, even if I can't devote a year to methodically teaching my children these skills, any improvement is a step in the right direction--I don't have to do everything perfectly in the experiment in teaching my kids life skills and the value of work for it to be a valuable undertaking. 
I was so inspired that I started teaching my kids some life skills before I even finished the book.  I taught my 9 year old son how to do laundry.  After a few loads, he turned to me and said, "this is kind of fun."  And you should have seen the look on my 12 year old son's face when we pulled up to Walgreen's one day, I handed him a dollar and told him to go get some eggs. He could not believe that I was sending him in by himself (I couldn't believe it either), but I knew he could do it, and I wanted him to know he could do it, too. 
The thing that really struck a chord with me about the book is this: every time we do something for our children that they can do, themselves, we're sending them an unintentional message that they can't do it, or that we can do it better and faster, which undermines their confidence and makes them want to try less on their own.  And after time and again of getting this message that they are incapable or their effort is not good enough, is it any wonder our kids expect us to do everything for them?  By believing that they can do it, whatever it is, and then standing by to let them do it, we are showing our kids, in a very tangible way, that they are capable.
And after all, that's the goal isn't it?  To raise our children to be responsible, capable adults?
Want to learn more?  Go here to read an excerpt.
Cleaning House is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.
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