Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Entitle Them Not

All clean with beds made

I've pretty consistently gone out of my way to not do things for my kids that they can do for themselves.  I try very hard to ensure my children will grow up self sufficient, educated on the finer arts of running a home and caring for a family, and have the skills necessary to survive in the big, bad world.

Despite my efforts, I was made aware of a few glaring missteps in my children's education upon reading the book Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma.  The story goes like this:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was a slob.  Whenever her family went to visit her grandparents, her Grandpa would affectionately call her his little tornado.  Whatever the girl was playing with would be discarded as she moved on to better pastures.  Her mother liked to joke how you could always figure out where the girl was by following the trail of her mess.  When she was getting ready for bed, her clothes were dropped wherever she was standing.

Her mother took especial glee in chanting the words I hope you end up with a child just like you.  

And so she did.  

(In an effort to protect the guilty, names will not be used for this portion of my story.)

I have one child who I have bequeathed with my old title of "the little tornado."  She leaves a trail of mess wherever she goes.  She is like a honeybee intent on pollinating the entire house with her clutter.  She flits to the living room where she leaves her stuffed animal collection.  She moves onto the dining room to make a project out of scraps of paper, yarn and glue.  She leaves the table strewn with her creativity as she dances to the kitchen for a snack.  As she heads for her bedroom, she disregards the dishes, cracker box, and crumbs she leaves in her wake.  This is her life-every day, all day.  I am constantly calling her back to a room to pick up her mess.  I am tripping over her clutter all. the. time.  

Unfortunately, while she is the worst culprit in my home, she is definitely not the only one.  Up to this point I have dealt with the messes in alternating ways: Ignoring them, picking them up myself, and ordering the kids to take care of them when they get to the point that I can no longer tolerate looking at them.

One day the author of Cleaning House, Wyma, was having a conversation with her son when it hit her just how entitled her children were.  When she asked her children to strip their beds so she could wash their sheets, several of them had no clue what she meant.  When her husband punished a child by ordering them to pull up twenty weeds from the yard, he had no idea what a weed was.  Wyma decided to take the bull by the horns and make a list entitled: The top twelve things that a kid should know before flying the coop.  I found her ideas brilliant and plan to do my own experiment going through her list of twelve things.  For the month of March, I went with our biggest issue:

How to make a bed and maintain an orderly room

Their response was immediate.

"Oh, mom!  Do we have to???"

"I cleaned up all my mess.  The rest of it is hers."  The normal blame game in my house.

"It's all clean!"  Um, did you miss this gigantic pile of stuff over here, dear child of mine???

Look at this treasure I found!

I helped the girls sort through their disaster of a bedroom and we culled out 3 grocery bags of trash and treasures they no longer wanted.  My hoarder fought me tooth and nail over saving every last scrap of paper, but I prevailed by saying that we could put them into the donation bag (which was really the trash).  She was fine with giving her things away, just not with throwing them away.

He dumped every container on his floor.  Not my method, but whatever works for him.

Once the girls were on their way to a clean room, I moved onto David's room.  David is a funny kid when it comes to stuff.  He never plays with 90% of his things, yet it would never occur to him to get rid of something.  He had a bin that was one cubic foot big full of cars.  I dumped the bin on the floor and asked him to go through them and purge the cars he no longer wanted.  He saved six.  Out of all those cars, he only actually plays and likes six.  (Insert head slap smiley here)  But I forged ahead, helped him purge his room, and get it all organized.

Once the kids were done with their rooms, I told them that this was the beginning of a month long effort to keep their rooms clean and their beds tidy.  We went to the bank where I gave the teller a chuckle when I requested $45.00 in half-dollar coins.  Each child was given a jar containing 30 half-dollars and the instructions that every morning at 9:00 am I would be inspecting their rooms.  If I found their rooms to be completely tidy with their beds made, I would leave their coin in the jar.  If, however, I found their room messy or their bed unmade, I would take a coin out of their jar.  At the end of the month all of the money left in their jar is theirs to spend as they wish.

The first day I would start my inspecting was on Sunday.  Around 8:30 am I was laying in bed and turned to Hubby and said, "So, do you think they'll remember to clean their rooms and make their beds?"  We both agreed the likelihood was low seeing as it was a Sunday.

I got out of bed and went looking for the kids.  I glanced in David's room.  Spotless.  I glanced in the girls' room.  Also spotless.  I almost fell down in shock right there.  My girls' room???  Clean???  Wow!  I LOVE this idea!

Monday morning I told David to get started on his school work.  "Just a minute, Mom.  I need to make my bed first."  I wasn't about to deny him, so I sent him off.  Lizzy announced she needed to make her bed.  Then Joy said she needed to make hers as well.  To which Lizzy replied, "That's alright, Joy.  I will make your bed."  This was the point that I thought it might be a good idea to get my hearing checked.  Did Lizzy just offer to do Joy's chore???  My girl who is the queen of "It's not my mess, it's Joys.  So I don't need to clean it up."

This morning when I checked the girls' room, I noticed two little things on the floor.  I called Joy in to clean them up and her distress was clear.  "You're not going to take a coin out of my jar, are you???"  No, not for two little things.

Once again, I LOVE this idea!!!  Why did I not think of this sooner?!  All this time of promising an allowance for work done was misguided.  Giving them a FULL jar of money with the threat of losing it has proven so much more motivating to them than an EMPTY jar with the promise of being filled.  And their rooms are clean for the fourth day in a row--with no reminders from me.

I could almost cry.

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