I love making beds. I'm a rarity, I know, but there's
something satisfying about the simple act of making a bed. I love making beds
so much that I tend to function on autopilot in the morning. I travel from room
to room, making beds and restoring the appearance of calm to each bedroom.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Making beds gives me a few
moments of focus in the morning, while I run through the mental to-do list and
prepare to tackle the day. What's the harm in that?
Cut to the day I'm running late and yell up to the kids to
make their beds and meet me in the front to get shoes on and out the door on
the double. They stared back at me with blank faces. While they often thank me
for making their beds "neat and organized," and are generally filled with gratitude,
I completely forgot to step back and show them how to make their own beds. So
when I yelled up for them to take on the task for me that day, they didn't know
where to begin. Oops.
Needless to say, we altered our plans and spent some time
practicing bed-making. Now they take pride in making their own beds.
Are my kids "entitled" because they didn't make their own
beds until recently? No. But in taking on tasks they are capable of completing
simply because I enjoy those tasks, I rob them of the chance to learn a new
skill and build more responsibility into their lives.
When parents routinely do everything for their kids and put
their kids first every single time, entitlement can occur. Over time, it can
reach unbearable levels. We have to step back and guide our kids toward
independence and responsibility instead of running in for the save, fixing what
needs fixing and answering every demand.
In her new book, "The
Me, Me, Me Epidemic," Amy McCready takes on the problem of entitlement
with a positive spin. Entitled children can trigger feelings of frustration and
anger in exhausted parents who are constantly stretched too thin. That can lead
to yelling and excessive punishments, strategies that typically yield little
reward and cause children to fear punishment instead of making better choices.
"When kids act up, they're doing more than pitching a fit over a candy bar (or permission to go to a party)," McCready says. "Without even knowing it, they're on a mission to achieve the belonging and significance they crave."
"The truth is kids everywhere—from toddlers to teens—are ruling the roost and they're not about to abandon their posts without a fight," she says. But there are ways to make the transition away from entitlement as a family.
Check out these great tools from McCready's "Un-Enititler Tool Box":
1. Mind, body, soul time
Parents today seem to thrive on being busy. There is always
something that needs doing or somewhere to be. But in all of this doing and
going, it's very difficult to connect with our children in a meaningful way.
It might feel like your kids are constantly interrupting
you at inopportune moments, but, in the mind of a child, it's an attempt to
connect on a deeper level.
McCready suggests setting aside 10 minutes of complete
focus for each child, at least once (hopefully twice) each day. Turn off the
distractions and connect with your kid on his level. If he wants to make paper
airplanes, make them. If he wants to dance in the rain, go for it. Establish a
meaningful connection by being present and focused during that time.
2. Sail out of the wind
Do you ever feel like parenting is really just a series of
power struggles? You're not alone. Kids want things and they push boundaries to
see how far they can get you to bend. That's normal. Pushing back, however, is
not the answer.
A power struggle over an ice cream cone can turn into a full-blown screaming match when parents go back and forth with kids. McCready
suggests sailing out of the wind, instead. Remove yourself from the power
struggle. Make a decision. Stand by the decision. And leave the power struggle
3. Adapt the home
I think most parents wish for a cleaning fairy at some
point, or at least for a few extra hands when it comes to prepping meals,
cleaning the house and getting various chores done. The good news is that kids
are great helpers when we empower them, especially if we adapt our homes to
make them kid-friendly.
I keep my plates and bowls within reach of my little ones so
that they can prepare their own snacks and help set the table. All toys are
also organized at kid level so that they can be responsible for cleanup.
Take a look around your home from the viewpoint of your
child. Make the necessary adjustments to empower your kids to help out in the
4. Ditch the 'don't'
Kids hear a lot about what they shouldn't do each day.
Sometimes we do this to keep them safe, other times we do it to save time or
get things done. Whatever the reason, parents dish out a lot of "don't."
Reframe your thoughts and replace "don't" with "do." Empower
your kids to take on more responsibility and learn new tasks by helping them
learn what to do.
5. Take time for
The bed-making fiasco reminded me that I need to think about
things my kids can do, but I haven't necessarily taught them to do. They have
always enjoyed folding laundry with me, so they are great helpers when it comes
to laundry day. But I find that teaching them how to load the dishwasher, how
to scramble the eggs and how to make the grilled cheese makes them feel
confident and increases their
responsibilities in the home.
6. Create a decision-rich environment
This is a big one. Kids don't have a ton of choices on a
daily basis and that can be frustrating. A great way to stop over-parenting is
by allowing your kids to make their own choices as much as possible.
Let them choose little things, like how they want their hair
and what outfits to wear, to bigger things, like what chores they want to take
on. My daughter mopped my bedroom for me the other day because I listened when
she said that she wanted to learn how to use a mop.
Take the time to teach and empower your children, and then
step back and watch them grow.