These cows have the life don’t they? That is until, well, you know, the end… But let us not speak of that.
Instead let us speak of this age of entitlement. Let us speak of how it permeates our society. Let us speak of how it permeates the culture. And let us speak, really specifically, of how it permeates my household. A little background first.
When I grew up children were to be seen and not heard. Truth. My brother and I were never consulted about where to take our family vacation, whether we wanted to do our chores or not, what place we might like to eat on the few occasions we ate dinner out, or even what we wanted for dinner at home. We were never given sympathy for having to get up and go to school, for not being able to sleep in, for having to take care of our 4-H animals before school, hang laundry, pick strawberries in the garden, mow, dust, clean bathrooms, make our beds, etc. The only eye-rolling or back talking I ever did was from behind the closed door of my bedroom, never to my folks’ faces. Things were just expected of us kids, and if they didn’t get done we got a pretty stern dinner-time lecture. There were some spankings too, in our younger days. That was the era in which I grew up, and it was standard treatment amongst most of my peers.
My children, on the other hand, grew up with the beginnings of the self-esteem movement. (Just google the words “self esteem movement” and you will be flooded with backlash articles regarding this topic. And you’ll also know where I’m headed with this conversation.) The movement, that at its heart, wanted every child to feel like they were special. An admirable goal, and one that was probably motivated by the idea that kids who don’t feel good about themselves have lots of struggles in life. But there have been some unforeseen consequences to all of this. I believe that it has cultured a sense of deserving completely unrelated to any effort on the part of the child. Speaking of my family specifically, I have spent a lot of energy over the years making the path smooth for my kids. Mistakenly thinking that I was being a good mom. What I didn’t understand completely was that discomfort, challenge, problem-solving, & plain old work are very often the things that increase self-esteem. They help a person realize they are capable, and instill that relationship between effort and reward.
Sadly, for me, my time with my children at home is drawing to a close. Don’t get me wrong, my kids have great qualities and they will do things when I tell them to, but I just have this gnawing feeling that I haven’t done a good job in cultivating their work ethic. They have their areas where they understand effort and reward. They all played sports and had to put in the time for practice and conditioning. They mow (for payment), they can do their own laundry, they can on occasion put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Lately, however, one of those boys only speaks to me when he needs or wants something. And frankly it’s starting to piss me off. But I have a plan! It isn’t too late for an intervention.
I had dinner the other night with two friends, and one of them mentioned a book they were reading - Cleaning House A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma. So the mom coalition all agreed to read the book, implement the ideas, and check in with each other to see how the experiment unfolds in each of our households. BOOM – it’s going down in my house!! I’ll try to remember to update here.
“Don’t be upset by the results you don’t get with the work you didn’t do.”