Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Life Entitled

How capable do you think your kids are? I’m not talking about their math ability or how well they throw a baseball, but can they clean a toilet? Can they cook a meal? Can they handle an overflowing toilet? Have they ever changed a light bulb?

I’m nearly finished the book Cleaning House: One Mom’s 12-month experiment in ridding her home of YOUTH ENTITLEMENT by Kay Wills Wyma, (This isn’t the review- that will come next week), and I’ve taken her premise to heart. I have mixed feelings about her methodology, but the idea behind it is spot-on. Much to my children's dismay.

Many kids today live a life of entitlement. Very little is asked of them in terms of responsibilities at home. I know, at least in my house, this is mainly due to parental laziness. It’s much easier to do a job myself, especially if I want it done right (interpretation – the way I think it should be done). And I get tired of nagging, demanding, and threatening. I accept half-hearted efforts because “at least they did something.” My kids have very few responsibilities in the real scheme of things, yet they claim that kids at other houses aren’t enslaved as they are in our home. Hmmm.

Wyma asserts that we are creating an entire generation of kids who feel entitled. She cites the common frequency of young adults who quit jobs because they don't like them and throw away educations because they’ve changed their minds. They move home and freeload expecting their parents to take care of them. They don’t feel responsible for paying the bills, especially if it means taking a job that is hard and doesn’t pay well. Why should they? Isn't the world here to serve them? Aren't they entitled to a strife-free happy life?

She makes a point. I know my own kids are indignant when I ask them to do a chore not on their assigned list.

But Wyma makes another argument. She says that when we do the work and problem solve for our kids, we are essentially saying they aren’t capable of doing it themselves. When their rooms get beyond messy, we barge in and clean up for them, sending the message that they can’t do it themselves. When we do all the laundry, housework, and cooking, we continue to assert that they’re not capable of doing their part. We treat them like long-term guests in our homes. When they spill something and shed tears of frustration or embarrassment, we rush in to rescue instead of handing them a towel teaching them that they aren’t responsible for cleaning up their own messes. And when a homework project overwhelms and they're exhausted after practice, we offer our assistance, instead of allowing them to learn that sometimes life is hard and you have to deal with it.

So, before I give away my entire review in this post, let me get to the point. Wyma begins her experiment with a list of Life Skills she believes her children need to be competent adults. I loved this idea and decided to come up with a list of life skills of my own. I'm down to less than a two year countdown on one of my kiddos, so it's time to cut to the chase. If my first-born leaves the nest with the following skills firmly mastered, not only will it mean fewer calls home for help, but it will bolster his own confidence in his God-given ability to take care of himself.

My list is still evolving, but already it is changing out parental behavior. We’re seeking out opportunities for our kids to master these skills. My youngest allowed his room to become so filthy that the carpet was hidden and when we finally dug it out we discovered a black banana peel petrified to the carpet. Instead of flipping out and giving him the same lecture about food taken out of the kitchen, clean bedrooms, and how no-one ever listens to me, except the dog and she's deaf, I’m taking a different tack. I’ve explained to my little cherub that he will need to figure out how to get the banana peel out of the carpet. I’ve suggested that he may wish to peruse the internet in search of carpet cleaning ideas. I think he is shocked at this expectation and is trying the stalling tactic to see if we will break first. He keeps placing books over the spot to hide its unsightliness. But I know this is a smart, resourceful, creative kid. He will solve this problem. And then someday when he has his first apartment, he won’t lose his security deposit because he didn’t know how to get nasty things out of the carpet. 

Anyway, back to our Life Skills List. Here’s our first run at it:

Write and cash a check plus balance a checkbook
Operate a lawn mower – push and ride
Operate a weed whacker
Ride a bike
Run a vacuum cleaner and dust a room
Do laundry, including washer, dryer, and hang-drying
Drive a car safely, fill it up with gas, and check the oil
Write a letter and mail it
Operate a drill, jigsaw, and hammer (plus how to remove a nail)
Paint a room.
Make pancakes.
Bake cookies.
Put up a tent.
Build a campfire.
Safely operate a woodstove (and fireplace if we have the opportunity)
Collect and stack firewood
Make a bed.
Take and leave phone messages
Sew on a button
Unstop a toilet and clear a clogged drain
Clean a bathroom
Change sheets and make a bed
Plan, cook, serve, and clean up a real meal
Change a light bulb, replace a battery
Test a smoke detector
Register a complaint for a defective product, bad service, or problem
Order correctly and leave a tip at a nice restaurant

I purposefully left off planting and weeding a garden figuring that gardens are optional, but I hope they'll be launched with that skill also. Same with baking bread, making peanut butter, and canning tomatoes. I did not possess many of these skills when I left home and had to figure them out on the fly. I'm sure my kids could do this also, but as I said to them when we began this discussion - I'm doing this for their future roommate, boss, co-workers, and spouse.

Note: this list is still evolving and we’d welcome your ideas!

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