WASHINGTON - One day after morning carpool, Kay Wills Wyma walked through the front door and assessed the state of her home.
With five kids, things are expected to be out of place every now-and-then. But what Wyma witnessed was beyond tolerable.
The kids' beds were not made, their dirty dishes were out, and laundry and clutter was scattered throughout their rooms.
"Who knows how many weeks they had been disrobing and discarding, thinking it would be picked up, cleaned, washed, put away -- all of those kinds of things."
So Wyma threw in the towel and decided to make a change to what she calls her "enabling mother" style. It was no longer working.
She immediately came up with 12 things she wanted her kids -- who range in ages from 6 to 16 -- to know, and be able to do, before leaving home. Her plan turned into a family-wide experiment that is now published in her book, "Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement."
Wyma says her family had to start small, and for them, this meant that each kid needed to start making his/her own bed. In the past, Wyma says it was something she always did because it was "just easier."
Other lessons in Wyma's plan included teaching the kids their way around a kitchen, working in the yard, applying for -- and getting -- a job, running errands, serving others, proper manners, handyman work, the value of team work and how to host a party.
"Our experiment was the good, the bad and the ugly. There were a lot of times I had to back-up and start over, because that's a big part of life," Wyma says. So what was the biggest takeaway of the year-long project?
"They can do so much more than they think they can," says Wyma, who realized, herself, that she was sending the wrong message to her kids all along.
"When we race in and do everything for them and we finagle them, we control them, we manipulate, they are hearing very loud and clear that they can't do it, or they can't do it well enough or they can't do it fast enough," Wyma says. "It solidifies what they think about themselves and it's completely counter to what we actually think as parents."
Wyma says this enabling parenting style is not just something that was happening in her home -- it's happening across the country.
"It's everywhere. It's like the elephant in the room and people are going, ‘Something is not right about this,'" says Wyma, who adds that we are kid-gloving a group of people who do not need kid gloves. "They need to be inspired, because they are crazy gifted to do so many things and we're stripping it from them."
For parents looking to clean their own house of youth entitlement, Wyma has one piece of advice: Just start -- no age is too young.
"It's important to remember that kids thrive on high expectations, just like we do. Out homes are like societal test tubes. It's a training ground … Train them, show them how and then get the heck out of the way."
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