I’m so pleased to count Kay Wyma as my friend, though to be honest, everyone who meets her would make that circle! She offers a down to earth, practical and witty perspective not only on her own parenting but on the sometimes wacky, out-of-balance world in which we raise our kids. I love that the subtitle of her book, Cleaning House, reads “a mom’s 12-month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement.” If you read her book, and I strongly suggest you do, I’m guessing that like me, you’ll recognize yourself and your kids.
I think I’m raising … the serve-me-kind (of kids) that are numb to the benefits of ingenuity and hard work, the kind that don’t just need to be taken care of _ they expect it. And why not? That’s what I have apparently been raising them to expect….UGH!Cleaning House, Kay Wyma
You may be interested in how Kay breaks down her chapter titles. This partial listing may suggest how you and your kids frame chores:
- Operation Clutter Control (starting simple, beds, clutter)
- Kitchen Patrol (cooking, menus, shopping, cleaning up)
- Grounding Time (yard work)
- Working for a Living (getting a job)
- Domestic Dirty Work (bathrooms, toilets and other gross household stuff)
- Roll Tide (laundry)
- The Handyman Can…Or Can He? (repairs, home maintenance)
- The Entertainers (being a good host, etc)
As I interact with many of my coaching families and with parents who attend my classes/groups, I notice that chores seem to have fallen out of fashion. If I ask parents to hold up their hands if THEY did chores growing up, almost every hand is in the air. If I ask them to keep their hands up if their KIDS do chores, few are left standing. It isn’t just your home where chores have fallen away. It seems kids are “too busy”, “too stressed,” “too spread-thin” to manage fairly common, fairly basic actions of self-maintenance, household maintenance. Things like you did: emptying the dishwasher, doing laundry, making a simple meal, cleaning up after the dog, making your bed, setting or clearing the table.
And while we’re talking about raising hands, raise your hand if you get a pass card on basic self-maintenance items like putting your tissue in the trash, taking out the trash, disposing of a food item you’re done eating! Even if we’re fortunate enough to have paid help at home, there is also that ugly issue of entitlement…that word Kay uses in her book title. The truth is that unless you’re royalty or extreme aristocracy, entitlement is just plain unbecoming. Your mom won’t like it. Your friends won’t like it. Your beloved won’t like it. Your college advisor, sorority sisters, colleagues, secretary….none of them will like an air of entitlement. So if we’re all about teaching our kids how to make it in the world, tutoring them away from acting privileged would be a good idea.
I am tempted to say that no one likes doing chores. But as many of you know, that isn’t strictly true. It’s not as if we’d choose a Chore-Vacation Option whereby we go somewhere to clean toilets or wash dishes. Still it is possible, even common, to derive a sense of satisfaction from a job well done. (where did that expression go anyway?) Also, doing a mundane, hands-on activity (emptying the dishwasher) can provide something like a blank head space when we can think about and process the more complex events of the day. There’s the added bonus that in case our work day (school day) didn’t goes as well as we’d hoped it would, just about anyone can be an ace at washing the dog bowl and giving him new water…. a minor, but-still-counts, sense of accomplishment.
It’s worth noting that many if not most parents of tweens and teens experience being worn thin, time-stressed, over burdened. What would it mean to off-load a couple of small tasks to each other member of your household? So, say, one kid collects and empties all the trash on cleaning day; another unloads the dishwasher every morning; another handles the recycle items; another distributes clean laundry to everyone’s rooms. Don’t just think of it as helping you. Think of it as their learning stick-to-itiveness; learning the pitch-in-and-help ethic. In your deepest heart, you know those are lessons they must know to live well with others…to live well on their own.
Next blog, I’ll share some thoughts on what chores are age-appropriate.
Until then, how about giving some thought to where you and your kids can begin to untangle this chore-mess, this learn-to-care-for-your-space lesson! Or check out Kay’s book: https://kaywyma.com/