Have you ever looked up after a big meal to find everyone in your family had disappeared leaving you with the dishes? Or maybe you are beginning to feel like a short order cook or a maid as you work while everyone else is watching television. Perhaps you have even wondered to yourself how your offspring will ever have clean clothes or nutritious meals once they leave your nest.
I think every mom has had at least fleeting moments when they wonder if they have done enough to prepare their children for the real world. While most moms don’t go as far as doing their children’s schoolwork for them, all of us have probably procrastinated a bit about teaching our children the really important life skills like cleaning toilets or doing laundry.
Enter Kay Wills Wyma and her delightful book, Cleaning House. Kay Wyma had become concerned her children were beginning to feel entitled. She was tired of her children expecting her to do everything for them and was more than a little concerned how they would fair on their own as adults. She launched a year long experiment to re-introduce her children to the idea of work, serving and doing their best at things that aren’t necessarily exciting.
The book is broken into twelve tasks or areas of work she introduced to her children. Smartly, she chose to hit them with only one new area a month (although each new area was applied on top of previous ones.) Wyma does a wonderful job of mixing a how-to book with stories laced with humor and humility as she recounts the experiences of the year.
Wyma, like many of us had started out well, training her children to help with the household chores small children could do. Once school and extra curricular activities began for her five children, she had let them stop helping in order to be more efficient and to avoid unnecessary conflict. Suddenly she was doing everything for them and they appeared to have forgotten how to do even the simplest of tasks. She found though that once she and her children had survived each month’s training, adding those extra chores to their load didn’t overly stress them or harm them in any way.
Although I found the constant use of money as an incentive not my favorite method of encouraging behavior change, the rest of her book was not only a fun read, but also a great template for training any child in some of the basics of life as an adult. I would suggest this book not only if you are about ready to go on strike, but also as a reminder for what your child still needs to learn or just a fun look into someone else’s home.
Soon, I will make available the complete list our family developed of all of the life skills we thought our daughter should know before she was an adult. There are several major areas, with various sub-skills under each area. Each task is done with help and then checked off when the child is able to do the task totally unassisted. It gave us a visual way to keep track of what we wanted her to know and would probably be a lifesaver if we had to keep track of a lot of children. Until then, read Cleaning House and let me know how your children respond to your own experiment!
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I am painfully honest though, and would tell you if I didn’t like it. I am keeping it on my reference shelf of parenting books in my library!