February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
“I know you can do it but we’re going to miss the bus so just let me zip it”
“I’ll just clean up these toys myself cause it’s too much of a battle to compel the kids to do it”
“It’s just easier if I do it”
“I’ll speak to your teacher about it”
Providing new clothes or toys cause you know how happy it will make them (rather than making them earn it).
Any of these sound familiar? If so, like me, you are guilty, as charged.
Hypocritically I rant to my husband how the kids act so entitled or spoiled, how this generation is nothing like the one we grew up in, without realizing the role I have played in creating it. I think back to my childhood of making my own lunches, doing my own laundry, and completing my chores each week to earn my allowance. While I’m sure there might have been a few lectures on the topic, I don’t remember being told that I am a member of a family and thus need to contribute to the household tasks. I cut the lawn, dusted, vacuumed and cleaned toilets cause it was expected of me. So why don’t my kids get it?
I recently started reading a book entitled “Cleaning House” by Kay Wills Wyma, and realized very quickly that children learn what they are taught. If you never teach them how to contribute, they won’t. Add that to the age-old wisdom that if you want something, you need to give it, and voila, I am swirling in a self-made scenario where Mom does all the work, the kids learn nothing, and as if that weren’t enough, they are actually forming their personality, work ethic and lifelong habits based on all of this. Wow, no pressure, eh? And I thought picking up after them was a lot of work.
Okay. Snap to reality, something needs to be done. It is not enough to pride yourself on NOT being a helicopter parent. Oh yeah, my kids take risks on the monkey bars, they even play outside WITHOUT me. They can eat dirt and I’m not fazed. They scrape their knees when they fall off their bikes, they knee themselves in the nose on the trampoline. Nope, not a helicopter parent. Too bad that isn’t enough. Turns out parenting isn’t just about supervising. It’s also about teaching.
Transitioning from our newborn years into grade school years, I am faced with my own transition. Teaching doesn’t end at letters and numbers. It doesn’t end when they go to school. There is SO MUCH MORE for them to learn. And they are doing it whether you intend it or not (for examples read my other blog post about Accidental Home-schooling).
In the book Cleaning House, Kay devotes each chapter to teaching her kids something, over a 12 month period (no overnight fix here). She calls it an experiment, but it’s nothing short of brilliant. She offers some terrific techniques for motivation, but the real point it, she is teaching them.
Chapter one starts with what she calls the easier tasks: its all about basic tidiness (making your bed, clothes in the laundry basket, picking up after yourself, etc). Easy, right.
Chapter two is all about cooking. She has five kids so each one gets slotted for a meal each weekday. They learn how to plan the meal, grocery shop, and prepare the food. Contrast that with my approach “okay – everyone stay in your seats with your book/toy/video game while I run the mad dash to collect as many groceries as I can in ten minutes so I don’t have to bring four kids into the store with me”. It never occurred to me before that grocery shopping is a teachable moment (this is the produce area vs. frozen foods, this is how you pick out fruit, here’s how to shop the sales, this is why jam is with “spreads” instead of with breakfast cereal, what is a reasonable price for an item and why it differs by store). Isn’t that handy stuff to know? Major life tool and doesn’t cost a cent in tuition. And here’s the best part – they learn that they can do this on their own, even be great at it, and it has transferable properties to other parts of their life!
Next chapter is outdoor work. How to pull weeds from the root, how to plant, reaping what you sew. I found myself saying “What? She has five kids and still hired someone to cut their lawn?” Crazy right? As crazy as having four kids and still doing all the cooking and cleaning myself? Right. Point taken.
She covers looking for part-time jobs, laundry, bathroom cleaning, do-it-yourself repair, and party planning/hospitality. But she doesn’t stop there: errands, serving others, manners – it’s all in there!
I have already caught myself saying to my kids “oh yes, enjoy the pig sty now, cause Mommy is reading a new book and pretty soon your whole world is gonna change!”
Be the change you want to see in the world, right?
Still not convinced? There’s loads more good stuff in this article: