Cleaning House: Good Read.


I just finished reading the most incredible book.  It wasn't a magical story or a brilliant biography, it was a book on kids and work.

Julie first posted about this book and I knew that I had to read it.  The book chronicles the author's attempt to get her five kids to help out around the house, master skills they will need for when they leave her house, and understand the value of work.  It started as a plan to lessen the feeling of entitlement she was feeling from her kids, which I think is a huge problem today.  I saw so much of this while teaching- so many kids feel as if things should be done for them just because, and there is no sense of earning things.

The outcome of the experiment- the kids realized that they were actually capable of cooking dinner, doing laundry, weeding the yard, and cleaning the bathroom, as well as helping others and hosting a party.  And with each task the author finds that her children become more self-confident and self-reliant, as well as more helpful around the house.  The big message of this book- work makes kids feel good about themselves- it makes them feel worthy- and by doing every little thing for them we are robbing them of not only the skills but their self-esteem as well.  I honestly think that anyone who has any interaction with kids should read this book- parents, non-parents, teachers, baby-sitters, day care providers, you name it.  This is especially true for those whose kids have everything and never work for it; those are the kids who will be most damaged by this.

Problems developing in the long term: parents are filling out college applications for their kids and helping them write the essays; parents swooping in to help solve problems and conflicts; parents running to the teacher or principal about grades; parents going to job interviews with their children (this one floors me); young adults who flit from job to job because it's not fun, who think it's ok to continue living in their parents' house.  She even cited how kids are now allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance until the are 26.  26!!!!  Shouldn't they be paying for their own by then?

(Note: if you aren't fond of Bible passages or mentions of God then you might want to skip this book, but they are pretty benign and easy to skip over without losing the fantastic message of the book.)

To that end, I have always planned on my kids working and knowing the value of accomplishing something and earning something.  Gus is at the age where he wants to help a lot, and even though there are things he wants to do that he's not proficient in, we let him try because he needs to learn somehow.  An example- Gus has always loved to help in the kitchen even around a year-and-a-half old.  He was fascinated by eggs especially, so one day when he was around two and a half, I gave him one.  I showed him how to bang it on the bowl and pull it apart.  When he tried it, he squeezed the egg, which exploded and he started to cry.  Was it a mess?  You bet.  Would it have gone easier if I had just done it myself?  Yep.  But what would he learn?  He'd learn that he couldn't do it.  So we tried again, and again, and again over the course of many meals.  He's now just turned four and I can hand him an egg, turn around to do something else and when I come back it will be in the bowl, perfectly cracked with barely any mess on his hands.

I found this on Pinterest awhile ago and I think it's such a well-put-together chart:

Kids are way more capable than we give them credit for.  If you start young while they are eager to learn and help, getting them into the groove of working will be easier.  Both kids love to help in the kitchen and unload the dishwasher.  Gus can feed Casey, set the table, and fold small pieces of laundry, and he's learning how to make his bed.  We suggest things we think he's capable of, and things he's interested in.  Greta will follow along as she gets older.  There's no reason that they can't both be helpful and learn important life skills.

We owe it to our kids and ourselves to teach them the value of work and of contributing- no job too small.  There's nothing worse than a kid who thinks you owe them.

UPDATE: This article shared with me by Ayla is also really interesting: Can There Be Such A Thing As Too Much Parenting? via Huffpost


  1. Ugh. That last line. There is definitely nothing worse than a kid that thinks you owe them. We were just talking about this yesterday. Thinking back to our neighbor kids that moved about a year ago. One of them just graduated high school, works at the baseball stadium in concessions, and is planning on going to college. We see him every time we go to an O's game even though he doesn't live next door anymore. He used to knock on our door because he wanted Andrew to show him how to fix his bike tire, to earn $5 for washing Andrew's car, to ask if Andrew needed help with a construction project just because he wanted to learn. His younger brother always felt entitled-- "Mom, give me money." "Hey, give me your bag of chips." (Yes, he would actually say stuff like that to me as I'd be bringing in groceries from the car) --that sort of attitude. The older one seems much better off while the younger one was down a bad path. Long story short, those two brothers are the perfect example of the difference between hard work and feeling entitled. One will get you places, the other not so much. I wish more people were aware of how important it is for their kids to carry the working attitude!

  2. I'm a bit concerned that adults have to learn to do this for their children. It makes me wonder how they were raised.

    Doing chores in my house growing up was a given and not an option. I learned to iron my own clothing around 6 and I have been doing it ever since.

    I'm really concerned about how parents treat their adult children. I used to be a supervisor while in college and I would have parents call out their kids from work and of course I've heard of the parents calling into places for jobs for their kids and what not. Even now, while working in customer support I have had parents call in on behalf of their children to create returns and what not.

    I had my mother stop doing things for me a long time ago and I haven't lived at home since I was 19 even though I did take advantage of being on her health insurance until I was 26. That was primarily because I was unable to find a job that would offer health insurance until my current one.

    I do like the feature of the health insurance until 26 because in today's economic climate it's very difficult for someone to a. find a job and b. find a job that offers benefits. Also, I have actually known people in college who's parents health insurance ended at 18 so they had nothing unless they paid 1K each semester for school insurance.

    I was raised to be independent by my parents and I will raise my children the same way. It's pretty much a given.

  3. I need to finish this book! LOVE your recap on it, and I think I will start getting into it again tonight. Brayden has been pulling the "I don't know how" card lately, and boy, it drives me insane.

  4. Just a comment about the health insurance thing - that's actually a great thing for young adults today who get out of college and can't get a job because of the economy. If I hadn't had a job right out of school, you can bet I would've stayed on my parents' insurance until I found one or turned 26. I don't think that's indicative of lazy kids or parents who do too much for their kids - I think it's a necessity in this economy.

  5. What an interesting book! Sounds like a good read. My niece and nephew who are 4 and 6 like helping out. And yes, we should give them credit more because we think they don't know how to do things, but we all start somewhere. It takes practice to learn how to do things. I think I'll have to read this and maybe pass it along to the rest of my family!! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Oh man, we're currently dealing with my younger brother-in-law and his sense of entitlement. I've been around my husband's family for a decade now, and this kid has never had to work for anything for as long as I've known him. He was the baby of the family and his parents definitely treated him as such. What's he doing now? He took an extra year to finish college because he was lazy and has been unemployed ever since. He thinks that his parents should just pay for the things he needs. Mercifully, they finally made him move out a few months ago.

    Anyway, I do have to disagree with you about healthcare. I was one of the unfortunate people who finished college in 2008 but couldn't find a full-time job with benefits in my field. I wouldn't have been able to afford my own insurance because I could barely pay my rent, so thankfully I could stay on with my folks. I worked three part-time jobs for almost a year, so there are people out there who really do need a hand.