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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I’m Robbing My Kids

Recently I started reading “Cleaning House, A Mom’s 12 Month Experiment to Rid her House of Youth Entitlement” by Kay Wills Wyma and I’m inspired. I’m only a few chapters in but I wanted to get started in September so I’m jumping into my own 12-month experiment without yet knowing the end-game.

But here’s the gist: Most kids these days walk around with a sense of entitlement. I have literally heard from one of my cherubs, after I asked him to clean up his dishes, “But you’re the mom, that’s your job.” Yeah. Now, I am not someone who has always done everything for my kids. I am the kind of mom who works to train up independent kids who can do for themselves. My teens do their own laundry, budget their money and buy their own clothes, pay for their cell phones and monthly charges, etc. I don’t do homework or projects for my kids. I only help them if they really need help and then I only help, I don’t do it for them. Our home is not one that revolves around the kids and while they know they are loved, they also know they are not the center of the universe. Still…there is some amount of laziness and entitlement that resides in their precious little hearts.

This is what Kay Wills Wyma had discovered in her children as well and she set out to do something about it. I identify with her in many ways. She’s a self-proclaimed, “mother of five, a recovering enabler, finagler, procrastinator, and charter member of the Women’s Auxiliary for the Organizationally-Challenged.” Yeah, I totally relate. I think I’m all those things (except the mother of five part…I’m a mother of four).

In a car-pool epiphany she realized her children didn’t know how to do basic things like thoroughly clean a bathroom, change sheets, and make (and clean up after) a full meal. She realized it was her job to teach them these things rather than do these things for them. And most importantly, she realized that by doing too many things for her kids (often because it’s easier and with better results) she was robbing her kids of the satisfaction of knowing they were capable. She was subconsciously telling them, “I don’t think you can do it.”  Wow. That really hit me. How many times do I step in and do things because I can do them better and quicker? What message am I sending my eight yr. old when I take over his task because I’m in a hurry? Ouch. I am robbing my kids!

I had never looked at it that way before but it’s very accurate. And I’m not doing it any more. I’ve been very conscious of it with my younger two, since reading about Wyma’s epiphany. It takes a re-training of my brain but I’m going to change my approach because I want my kids to know that they can tackle tough challenges and I don’t want them to work at something half-heartedly while waiting on a rescue from me!

So this month is the first of our 12-month experiment. Here’s a picture of the 12 things Kay Wyma decided to focus on with her crew. Mine may look different but I’m starting with bedrooms, just like she did.

Excerpt from pg. 11 of Cleaning House by Kay Wyma

This month, each of my kids will get a jar in their rooms with 30 one-dollar bills in it. (You can amend this to the ages of your kids, by the way. I won’t be paying for anything for my kids, they will have to use their newfound money to buy snacks, movie tickets, etc. so I don’t mind shifting that money from my budget into this “program.” But you could do quarters for small kids, etc.)

The focus for September is simple. Before they leave for school, their beds should be made and all clutter off their floors. If those things are not accomplished, I will take their dollar for that day. (They don’t get to spend their money till the end of the month, btw.)

Next month is on cooking and cleaning the kitchen. The kids will be responsible for cooking on a few nights a week. They will have to plan for their recipes, shop, cook and clean. This will be in addition to still keeping their rooms clean so if they don’t keep up with both tasks, they will again lose their daily dollar.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I don’t know what the rest will entail but I’ll keep you all posted on our progress. And I hope some of you will join me. Let me know if you’re going to take the 12-month challenge with me! 

I, for one, am actually very excited about this. I feel like it gives me tangible ways to be a better mom and I can use all the help I can get! Thanks for reading!



Updates – Further posts on the Twelve Month Experiment:

 –True Self-Esteem

-One Month Down

-Mom Gets an F

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