When I was in high school, there was no easy path. My History teacher was infamous for throwing dusty erasers at the heads of students who gave wrong answers. And even though I never opened my mouth, I still was hit once. For looking at him funny.
I’m not going to lie to you. He terrified me. There were bottles of medicine in my house purchased specifically to calm my stomach over that man. But, at the end of four years, I respected him more than any other teacher because he wouldn’t let us settle. He wouldn’t give us a free pass. There were no pat-pats, no letting things slip by, no trophies for everyone, no problem with separating success from failures. He made us work—and work hard—because he knew we could.
In my senior year, I remember hearing the rumblings of new programs aimed at improving self esteem. I remember thinking those kids were lucky, because after what felt like four years of struggle, I could see how building students up a little (instead of constantly putting them in their place) might be useful in life.
Fast forward fifteen years.
It was my first real management role. I was still young, but I’d put in my time as the underdog. I’d taken on tasks that most kids would laugh at today. I never complained, and never turned my nose up at an assignment. I’d been taught (by the overarch of a felted eraser) that you do what you’re asked. You put in your time. You perfect your skill. You don’t complain.
So, it was stunning to me when college graduates who didn’t seem much younger than I was, came out of school turning up their noses at assignments I’d give them. I had one young employee who would regularly moan out (loud enough for everyone to hear): “I’m so borrrrrrrrrred.”
I wanted to go to her right then, with a stack of manila folders the size of Mount Everest and point her to the filing cabinets. Give her a taste of what my first two years in the business world looked like.
Instead, I’d watch her with fascination as she grew angry when her assignments were not as glamorous as those of us who’d already been designing for the last decade or more. I stood in amazement as she once berated me (her boss) for questioning her desire to purchase a very expensive piece of artwork for what I will always think is the ugliest piece of fabric I’ve ever seen.
As my own children are now in school, and heading toward high school, I can’t say things seem much better with students. More often than not, even in my own home, I regularly witness encounters with parents and children in which I’m not sure the proper person is in charge. I’m not sure they appreciate what is being given to them.
There’s a serious sense of entitlement in these kids, and it’s high time we changed their view.
Over the last few months, I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Cleaning House: a Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma and Michael Gurian. I was introduced to this book through a talk radio show and immediately went out and bought a copy.
Then, unbeknownst to my own little ones, I put a plan in place. A secret plan to scout out, confront, and overcome their own sense of entitlement. I believe this book’s plan is pure genius. Its goal is to not only rid your home of youth entitlement, but to build up the life skills your child will need when they eventually leave your home. Over the span of twelve months, your kids will learn everything from ridding the house of clutter, to cooking a meal, cleaning a bathroom, and even maintaining a yard.
The premise behind this theory being that hard work is not only good, but necessary for our kids. That they crave the accomplishment of a job well done. Of hard work finished to completion. They want us to trust that they are capable. To understand that we don’t need to “save” them, because they are capable of saving themselves. Being stretched further than they believe they can be stretched.
We’re rounding the end of month one in our house in which we’ve focused on making up beds, keeping clothes in the hamper, and keeping the house tidy. A monumental feat for kids who felt the need to fling shoes, book bags, and whatever else was in their hands, in various directions as they entered the house each day. It’s been an experience for everyone. It’s been a challenge for some. But, it’s shown us that together, we can change things for the better.
All without a single toss of the eraser.
We’re giving away a copy of Cleaning House: a Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, today on Moms Together on facebook. Join the conversation for a chance to win!