Sunday, May 31, 2009

Help your children help themselves

Yesterday we had a Stake Enrichment. I only got to make it for half of it, but what I got to attend was great. The best class I went to was "Help your children help themselves". It felt like I was back in one of my major classes at BYU. I just wished it was longer! She gave us some "homework", so I really wanted to do a series of posts relating to what I learn.

One hand out she gave us was by a bishop in our stake (Mark Ogletree, PhD) who specializes in MFT and Parenting Solutions (among other things). The article was called "These Beggars are Choosers" and was pretty much about the rising generations' entitlement problems and how parents enable children and give them too much. The whole thing was just packed with great stuff. (I promise, I won't normally quote so much, rather I'll talk about what I learned, but I just thought this was too good not to put up!)

The whole article is pretty awesome, and I wish I could find it online to link, but I couldn't. It's in Family Times Volume 3, Issue 12. Here are some examples of the great info in the article:

"Unfortunately, such a couple [independent, responsible and self-sufficient] is now the exception rather than the rule. More common is an experience I had in my counseling office not too long ago. I was visiting with a distraught middle-aged mother. She was worried about how she and her husband were going to pay for their son's rent and living expenses--mind you, their son had just been married the week before. This perplexed mother did not know how she and her husband were going to support two households. Why would this couple be footing the bill for their newly married son and his wife? Then, the mother shared that she was equally concerned that they had to rent a trailer for the newlyweds to transport their gifts and other belongings from TX to UT. Renting the trailer wasn't going to be cheap. Once again, I was bewildered that the parents were paying the way for these newlyweds. Then, the nail in the coffin was when the mother added, "I am also concerned that they will be driving all through the night to travel back to UT, but, they are adults, so I guess I can't say anything." Because I didn't want to offend this mother, I decided not to correct her on the spot. However, if I was more bold, I supposed I could have said something like, 'excuse me...Adults? what do you mean adults? These are grown kids just playing house!" In fact, they are just kids in grown up bodies! Just to set the record straight, an adult doesn't mooch off their parents; an adult is someone who can financially back up their decisions and pay their own way. An adult is someone who can stand, independednt of their parents. Simply put, and adult is someone who can process the consequences of their choices."
He notes some alarming trends such as:
  • teenage boy who doesn't mow the lawn because the dad doesn't think he can make it look nice (so they have a lawn service come)
  • 21 yr old who lives in parents home, eats their food, refuses to go to school, go on a mission, or work. He has retired, and ironically, has never worked a day of his life.
  • Kids who want to work but parents won't let them because there's no need since they're rich.
  • Parents who cover for their children so they don't have to bear the full consewuences of their mistakes.
  • Teens who stay up till 2-3 AM and/or sleep in until noon or later.
"We cannot raise future church leaders, civic leaders, parents, and teachers on a steady diet of cotton candy, video games, and country club memberships. Ask yourself, "What is the hardest thing my child has to do?"

Enabling Parenting Quiz
  1. Do you often rescue your children and bale them out of trouble and responsibility?
  2. Do you practically do everything for your children [chores, projects, scouting, young women's] and don't expect anything in return?
  3. Do you not expect your children to have chores, work, or be respectful at home?
  4. Do you often defend your children, feeling like they can do no wrong?
  5. Do you believe that your children's problems are someone else's fault?
  6. Do your children believe they are entitled to have rights?
  7. Do your children believe that they are entitled to success without any effort?
  8. Are you more concerned with political correctness rather than teaching standards, values, and beliefs?
  9. Do you buy your children something every time you walk into a store?
  10. Do you let your children come and go as they please, having set no limits or boundaries?
  11. Do you let your children sit inside day after day, watching TV, playing Video games, and complaining that there is "nothing to do."
If you said yes to more than 5 of these questions, run as fast as you can...the inmates are running the prison!

"Elder Maxwell has voiced this concern when he said, 'A few of our wonderful youth and young adults in the Church are unstretched. They have almost a free pass. Perks are provided, including cars, complete with fuel and insurance--all paid for by parents who sometimes listen in vain for a few courteous and appreciative words. What is thus taken for granted....Tends to underwrite selfishness and a sense of entitlement.'" (Neal A. Maxwell, BYU Devotional, January 1999)

So what do we need to do as parents?

  1. For those of you who have children living at home, I would give them a daily does of Vitamin "N". Just tell them "No."
  2. Give your children responsibilities. They need to work; they need to have chores, they need to help around the house; they need to pick weeds. Children will never become responsible adults if they do not learn responsibility in their childhood. No child should have a cell phone who is not helping to pay for the monthly fees, or working for the privilege.
  3. Have children pay for some of their activities. If they drive, they can help with gas. if they have a cell phone, they better ante up each month; etc.
  4. Get rid of teenage retirement in your home! If I can't retire until 65, I'll be danged if my kids can do it at 13!
What about those who have adult children? Do the same rules apply?
Absolutely! If you have a 22 year old son or daughter who has retired before you have, then you had better make some changes! I am aware of parents who are paying the entire way for their college-aged children who are fully capable of working their way through school. If you are paying for everything in your adult child's life, please reconsider. Your child is being robbed of the experiences of growth and development.

What I learned about myself:
You know, my parents did a whole lot of things right! My mom was occasionally chided by her contemporaries and professors for having so many kids (7), but she knew she was raising producers and not just moochers! We learned to work hard, set and achieve goals, and to produce results.

I also realized that I do "rescue" Dean more than I should. I know, he's only 18 months. That's part of my problem. I'm an inexperienced mom who's trying to figure out what kids are and aren't capable of for their age. I decided after attending the class, that I needed to stop going to nursery with Dean for the first hour. I didn't go today, and Matt said it was one of Dean's best days in nursery! I'm sure not all weeks will be this great for him, but goodness, the kid needs to learn that I'm not going to be at his disposal 24/7 like I am right now. In 8 short weeks he's going to have to share me with another little being.

I also realized that I should say "no" more often than I do. I need to practice saying things like, "No, Dean, you can't play with the [toothpaste, hair gel, glasses, sink, lotion, CD player, soap, etc.]." Sometimes I don't say no because I want to avoid a fight, a tantrum, or I'm tired of stopping him or redirecting him all day long. However, the better I get at saying no now, the better I'll be at holding boundaries later when they're deliberately pushing the line on more important issues.


Kristeee said...

Wow, that sounds like a good class, and definitely in the MFHD genre (aka right up my alley)! I took BYU's parenting class, but 1. I don't remember much of it now and 2. I don't remember them addressing issues like this ever. Okay, I also didn't like the teacher so I didn't pay as much attention to it as I should have. But this definitely needs to be addressed on a grand scale - how to prevent kids from feeling entitled to whatever the crap they want. Especially since our generation didn't have the same "living through the depression or the aftermath of it" hardworking values instilled in us like our parents, ya know? Ahh, soapbox...

Thanks for sharing!

Jodi said...

Amen! I see this all of the time. My peers whose parents give them money for a down payment on a house, or pay for their kids to do activitites. I did not grow up like this. I had to work to help pay the household bills, so this is new to me. I worked to pay for college, etc. I completly agree we live in a world that people want what their parents have without working for it or saving for it. I hope I can make my kids independent. Thank you for this article!

Erin S. said...

Sounds like a really good class! I'm glad Dean did so well in nursery yesterday! I totally agree with all of that! (I might have to get a copy of the article from you!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

leethie said...

I know exactly how you feel with wanting to ignore things to avoid tantrums. With my work I've been glad to learn a few new phrase to use with the kids (instead of directly saying no, which can trigger revolt): "That's just for Mommy to use," or "That's not safe." Also redirecting - showing them what they CAN play with.
It really does help motivate me to remember that this is good for them (even though they may not agree in the moment).

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Kristeee, my parenting class was one of the least helpful/informative class I took in MFHD! I think part of the problem was my teacher (it was a night class once a week), and I think I took her because I was stressed and knew it was an easy A. Dumb of me! I should have found the BEST teacher for that one, not the easiest.

Leeth, I agree that "no" doesn't always have to be the word "no". Dean's almost got the word "dangerous" down since he often wants the scissors or knives. Good reminder!

Lindsay said...

Sounds like a great class. And I'm all for telling children no. Even though I'm still sometimes a push over, I usually have no qualms with telling Garrett no -- especially after we've been to the playground and I've seen all sorts of obnoxious yes-spoiled children. I'm also an advocate of instilling independence in children. They really need unsupervised time to play in order to develop normally. Don't get me wrong -- I play with Garrett, frequently, but he also has his fair share of time during every day when I expect him to play by himself. And I've been pleased with the results of my doing this. It's taught him things that he couldn't have learned if I was constantly hovering.

Amanda said...

Celia, you are so right about mom and dad doing such a great job. I used to beat myself up that my 3 and 6 year old were just not that great at doing chores like we used to do when WE were younger, and then I realized that I was remembering us as teenagers not little tiny kids, and that it takes a lot of years of training to teach them to really work. Now C (12)& K (9) are great at doing chores, but it is still a lot of work to get my 5 and 3 year-old to do much. I only make them to try and teach them, knowing it will pay off YEARS down the road. It would be much easier right now to just do it myself.

Anyway, on a different topic, I agree that it is good to be positive and not overuse the word "No," but sometimes it is the easiest and fastest way to get the message across. if your kid is playing with a medicine bottle and you explain in 20 words that it is not safe to play with medicine because it is just for big people and it will make you sick, it might not be as effective as one word-NO! Of course the explanation has to come next, but seriously, "No," has a very important place in parenting in my book.

By the way, GREAT BLOG! Thanks for posting all this stuff.

Jacqui said...

Great article. Thanks for sharing. It has some great advice, which we learned in our family, too. I remember hearing a quote once that went something like, "The lazy mother (parent) does it all." In other words, the lazy parent does all the work for her kids. It's MUCH harder to teach them to clean a bathroom correctly than to just do it myself.

But the entitlement movement among kids is scary. Ridiculously scary. So, my kids will be working, and already are. And you know what? As much as they complain, it makes them happier when they can contribute and when they accomplish something on their own.

Just one more thought. I have read several times that at Dean's age, it's better just to remove them from the situation (eating toothpaste, whatever) rather than tell them "No!" all of the time. As they get older, you can impliment this better. But at his age they don't have the maturity to understand as well as they should. Unless it's dangerous, that is what I do with my toddlers. By about two, they get it more, and then I use "no" more. A thought.

Anonymous said...

Wish I would have seen this earlier. So, what do you do to make up for the past? My daughter is now 19 and and lacks the motivation to even take advantage of opportunities that are given to her. I am not rich and struggled to obtain a school loan for her (which I agreed to help her pay off) The school is in another state (where her boyfiend lives). I recieve updates from her all the time about how school is going only to find out that she hasn't even been attending classes and has now been dropped from the program. She is not working and stays at home all day with the dogs doing nothing. I don't get it. Is cutting her off financially the only option left. I try to guide her in positive directions but she refuses to help herself. If I have unintentionally instilled this in her, is there anything I can do to reverse the damage done. Any thoughts here?

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

Anon, I did a post just for you and I'm telling you here just in case you're subscribed to the emails in this comment thread.