True Self-Esteem?

Fourteen and Seventeen on the first day of school..and the first day of our 12-Month Experiment

Ten and Eight…first day!









So apparently, getting rid of youth entitlement strikes a chord. My post from September 1st called, “I’m Robbing My Kids” has been shared more on Facebook than any other post from my blog.

I think this hits people because we see it everywhere. From the grocery store to the middle school to Facebook…we see the result of years of being told we need to instill self-esteem in our children by telling them how wonderful they are. We need to tell them they are special and amazing and unique. And while those things are good things…telling children these things while doing everything for them sets them up to feel like fakers. I think of the times my mom helped me with school projects. She was trying to be helpful…but she’s also a creative, control freak and wanted it to look good. Looking back, I’d have to say she helped too much (sorry mom!). I know the intentions were good. But when I got a great grade, I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I felt like a faker. (As a result, my poor children rarely get any help with their homework. And you know what? They are all great students!)

Understand, I’m not saying our sense of worth should come from what we do. Not saying we should feel that we have to perform to gain love and acceptance. I don’t believe that. But the opposite of that…doing nothing and being told you’re amazing is also harmful. Because kids are excellent “BS” detectors. They recognize that something doesn’t add up. When we praise them, all the while stepping in and doing their work for them because we can do it faster and better, we are sending mixed messages and we are setting them up for a rude awakening once they leave the protective shell of home sweet home.

I think most of us instinctively know that the system we grew up in is broken. So most of the people I know are not the over-coddling, do-everything-for-your-kids kind of parents. They are somewhere in between the old “self-esteem boosting” system and the place where they want to be. Because they know something’s wrong. They try to instill all the right things in their kids but at the same time, they often feel guilty making their kids work. (Or they are control freaks and would rather do it themselves than take the time to teach their kids how to do it properly because that takes waaaay more patience….GUILTY).

When I read the first half of Kay Wyma’s book, Cleaning House…A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to rid her home of Youth Entitlement, it was like a lightbulb went off. I wasn’t in the camp that felt guilty making my kids work. I knew it was good for them and I’ve always made them do chores. But as I’ve admitted above, I am a control freak and I want to do it right. I don’t want to have to take the time necessary to teach my kids how to do certain things because I’m impatient. So while they have always had to do a number of chores, I kept it very simple. I rarely let them do harder things because, honestly, it required more work on my part. So the epiphany was that by doing the harder things for my kids, I was telling them I didn’t think they were capable. How unfair is that when I never took the time to help them become capable in the first place? 

That’s why I’m so excited to be doing this 12-Month experiment. Because I feel like this gives me a purpose. “Seventeen” will be graduating this year and there are still things I can teach her, it’s not too late. And “Eight,” “Ten,” and “Fourteen” are still young enough that I have time to help them gain true self-esteem. The kind that comes by satisfaction in a job well done. The kind that comes by mastering a skill by putting in hours and hours of practice. The kind that comes from pushing through the hard parts and achieving victory rather than sitting down in frustration and waiting for a rescue. These lessons are more important than my control issues. I’m learning to relax. To let them make mistakes. To be fine with imperfect progress.

Now it’s the 7th of the month, but we are only on day 4 because we started on the first day of school. For the two days before school started, bedrooms were in complete flux. My sister moved out, so the easy road would have been for “Ten” to have moved back into his bedroom (he’d been sleeping on the couch in the basement. Don’t cry for him. He didn’t mind. That’s where the 55-inch television is!). But that’s not what happened. “Seventeen” decided she wanted a smaller room. So she asked for “Ten’s” old room. “Fourteen” took her old room and “Ten” was psyched to get “Fourteen’s” room because it has a restaurant booth in it. “Eight” is my steady, organized one and he never even considered asking for a different room so he stayed put. But, he did get a gazillion Legos for his birthday and they were strewn across his floor the night before school started.

So considering all the room swapping going on, you would have thought that no one would have been ready for the first Dollar Day where they would keep the dollar in their jar if their beds were made and clutter was off the bedroom floor. But “Eight” stayed up an hour later  on Monday to make his room spotless. And “Seventeen” got up at 5:20 a.m. on the first day of school to get hers in order. Yes, you heard me, 5:20 a.m.! I was duly impressed. And they have kept their rooms clean.

“Fourteen” has yet to earn his daily dollar. His room is not finished from the swap. He still has boxes and bags all over and therefore cannot earn the money. He’s aware and he worked on it today after school. But the great thing is that I don’t have to bug him about it. He’ll eventually get it done because sooner or later it will bother him that his sister and brothers are making money while he is not. No stress for me. No struggle. I just take the dollar and close the door. 

Many of you have told me you’re going to do the 12-Month Challenge with me. Keep me posted. Let me know how it’s going! Let’s encourage each other along the way, shall we?



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