Advice From a Former Enabler
About the Guest
Mom, are you tired of doing it all? Self-described enabler and mother of five, Kay Wills Wyma, tells how she introduced her kids to the basic tasks of independence by implementing an unusual one-year experiment designed to teach her kids to be helpers, rather than the helped, one household chore at a time.
themoatblog.com and video podcasts at saysomethingshow.com. She has been featured on outlets such as The Today Show, CNN, and Focus on the Family, and has contribu...more
Kay Wills Wyma, tells how she implemented an unusual experiment designed to teach her kids to be helpers, rather than the helped, one household chore at a time.
Advice From a Former Enabler
Bob: Kay Wyma remembers when taking her child grocery shopping was a chore until she decided to make her eight-year-old responsible for all of the aspects of the family’s evening meal.
Kay: By the time we walked out of that grocery store, he was taking all of his stuff—that he had purchased to cook our meal that night—he was putting it on the conveyer belt, not me. He wanted to pay for it, not me. When we got to the car, guess who loaded the car? That kid did! That kid had never loaded the car before. He had set the table and done everything, and he sat there so proud of himself.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Today, Kay Wyma joins us to tell us how she moved her children from having a mindset of entitlement around their home to becoming contributors. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Dennis?
Dennis: Bob, I love getting emails like this—this is really a cool one. The lady writes: “I am writing to thank you for Passport2Purity®. I am 23 years old and completed the Passport2Purity program with my mom ten years ago.” [Laughter] I had to laugh about that—because, “She completed it recently, at 23?” because it’s for 10- to 12-year olds.
Dennis: She goes on to say, “I still have the workbook and look back through it, periodically, in order to remind myself of the commitments I made.”
Bob: At 23, she’s still reviewing the material?
Dennis: Isn’t that interesting?
Bob: That’s great.
Dennis: She said, “Praise God that, at 23 years old, I am still sticking to them.”
Dennis: “God bless your ministry for encouraging people, young and old, to live in a way that honors Jesus Christ.”
Bob: Isn’t that cool?
Dennis: That made my day!
Bob: Yes, I bet.
Dennis: That’s why we do what we do, here on FamilyLife Today, to equip singles, young people, moms/dads, husbands and wives, grandparents to apply the best blueprints for living in their lives.
Bob: Well, and who are we going to try to equip today? What’s our target for today?
Dennis: Moms and dads who are tired of messy cars, messy rooms, and undone chores.
Dennis: We have the world’s expert—
Bob: You got the cure on this one?
Dennis: —at knowing how to fix you and your children with us. [Laughter] Kay Wyma joins us on FamilyLife Today. Kay, you are all of those things; right?
Kay: I’m looking around the room to find that expert. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, Kay is a former worker at the White House—we’ll not tell you what administration. If you want to look that up, you can Google her. She is married to Jon. She is a mother of five. Together, they all live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
She has written a book—you’re going to love the title to this book.
I happen to like it. It’s called Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. This sounds like a stump speech.
Kay: Well, we left off the last part of One Eye Roll at a Time. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes, exactly. You begin the book by talking about—and I can almost tell you the spot in the road where this likely occurred—probably somewhere in University Park/Highland Park, driving down Preston Road in Dallas, Texas. You look to your right, and you look to your left—cars in front of you. Anyway, tell our listeners what happened with, I believe, it was your son; wasn’t it?
Kay: It was my son. It was really he that was looking around, noticing the lovely vehicles that were next to us—that we were sandwiched in between. The sad thing is—he mused, aloud, that he, in fact, would look lovely in that Porsche that was driving in front of us—that he would, supposedly, drive when he was 16.
Bob: How old was he at the time?
Kay: He was 14.
Bob: So, he had his eyes open for what he wanted to be driving.
Kay: I think he was just sitting there, thinking, “What am I going to drive?” At the core of all of that, really, was—a kid, looking around, going, “How can I fit in?” because that Porsche probably defined and solidified his social standing if he actually could drive something like that.
As I heard these words, it irritated me to no end because I sat there, thinking—first of all, “What planet do you live on that you think you are going to drive a car like that at 16?”—[Laughter]—which he looks at me /expecting me—that we would provide that for him. Then I wondered: “Where have all of my lectures gone / all my soliloquies about serving others and that things don’t make your life—that it’s really living your life well?” I realized that he probably hadn’t heard any of that!
Bob: I have to tell you a car story, here, real quick because, when our daughter, Amy, turned 16, I was able to get a used Camry that was about ten years old.
She drove that to high school—I mean, it didn’t become her car. It was just—it helped us out for her to have that transportation—got it cheap. It had an oil leak—that was okay. We just put stuff in the driveway to soak up the oil [Laughter] because we weren’t going to get it fixed. But I remember her sister, Katie, looking at the car—and Katie was three years younger—and saying, “I will never drive a car like that when I turn 16.”
Dennis: Oh, that’s dangerous.
Bob: Well, those were fighting words, right there.
Bob: I remember saying to Katie: “Well, you don’t have to. It will be the one that will be available to you when you turn 16, but you don’t have to drive it if it’s beneath you.” The funny part of that is—Katie did drive it. When she graduated from high school and went off to college, we sold that car. She was so sad that we had sold the car that she had come to love—the old beat-up Camry that was now 15 years old—
—but it had a soft spot in her heart by the time she got done driving it. So, I know some of that entitlement mentality that says, “This—
Dennis: “This is not my identity—
Bob: Yes, that’s right.
Dennis: —“I can’t really get into this.” The whole incident and encounter with your son kind of sent you off into a bit of analysis about—
Kay: It did.
Dennis: —yourself, as a parent?
Kay: A little bit. I called my sister-in-law because I was driving the kids to school. I dropped the kids off. I called her and I said, “This isn’t good.” She went on to tell me that her oldest was responsible for taking out the trash that week. She, too, was finding herself frustrated because, that morning, he had to climb over the load of trash that he had piled at the back door because that constituted taking out the trash to him—if he just put it at the back door, which he literally crawled over because she didn’t take it out that whole week. So, we both sat there going, “Something’s wrong.”
I go home, and I open the door. There are all the dishes, just exactly where they laid them from breakfast.
I go upstairs. There are clothes everywhere. The beds are unmade. I sat on the couch and thought, “My kids are looking to me like I’m the state, and I’m there to serve them.” I don’t believe in that—I’m a capitalist. [Laughter] So, it really, really irritated me that I was grooming a group of kids that were looking for others to serve them instead of handling their own stuff.
Dennis: You felt like you were failing, as a parent, at equipping your children with life skills that they were going to practice?
Kay: I don’t even know if I could even go that far—I was just a mad mother. I was frustrated! Really, I was just frustrated. I’m not—I never really thought I was a mother that enabled. I’ve always been the mom that goes into the teacher, at the very beginning of school, and says, “By the way, my kids do their own homework,” because you have to tell your teachers that now because most of the parents are checking all the homework. I want the teachers to know that the grades that my kids get—they are their grades. If they need help, they can come ask us, but I’m not going to look at it for them.
So, I kind of—I might have prided myself a little bit on that thinking—that “I’m not stepping in and saving my kids,”—until I opened my eyes, and looked around me, and realized that, in fact, I am doing that just in everyday life by not letting them participate in our life.
Dennis: Kay, I want to ask you—what the entitlement generation—what it’s saying about us, as parents, because there is really something taking place in us—
Dennis: —that really is screaming—I think, that needs to be addressed—just about a check in our own soul about who we are—
Dennis: —and what we’re producing in our children.
Kay: I think that’s a great question, too—the going to the “Why?” Why do we do it?
Dennis: Right; right.
Kay: Probably, some parents are living their lives through their kids, wanting to be the one that has their kid that’s the best on the football team, so that they’ll be in whatever college they’ve decided that their child needs to go to. So, there’s that going on.
I think a lot of it is fear. Parents are afraid that their kids might fail.
I talked to a mom, not long ago, who—once we started talking about this issue, she said to me, “I think I do this to my kids.” I was like, “Really?—how?” She said: “I have a ten-year-old and a seven-year-old—that last night, I took a cup of water and the toothbrush with toothpaste on it, while they were in bed, and helped them brush their teeth.” I was like, “Oh, my word! You must stop!” [Laughter] But she was concerned that, if she didn’t do that, they wouldn’t be brushing their teeth properly—a ten-year-old and a seven-year-old.
Dennis: As I was reading your book, I was thinking, for me—and I would have to say that children really do help us recalibrate certain issues in our lives. For me, I think I was doing certain things in the name of love; and it’s a distortion of what love is to provide everything for a child. Somehow, I equated that doing homework—like you prided yourself in saying, “We’re not going to do that for our kids,”—
—sometimes, I felt like I was the one who got the science grade on the science project that we were up until—who knows what time on Sunday night, finishing—so our child could turn it in!
Kay: Yes, that’s a great point too. The projects—they’re out of control. I don’t know if you’ve looked lately at a fourth-grade classroom and the projects that are being turned in by the kids, but they are unbelievable! They could be in the hobby shop, up the street, because they’re terrific. They usually have a water feature or electrical things going on. [Laughter]
This is the interesting part—so, you do have to laugh at it, but even—again, as one that really my eyes have been open to this and I try to keep my hands off—one day, one of the girls came up to me with a paper that was due the next day. There was so much going on with five kids—I didn’t have time to sit and watch her peck on the keyboard because she’s learning how to type. I was like: “Just get out of the way! I’ll do it for you.”
As I sat down, I started typing; and, then came all these creative ideas. Low and behold, her paper was done.
She brought it back the next week with a 97 on it—and firework red marks over that 97. That was a really terrible realization. She sat there and I sat there, knowing whose 97 that was.
Dennis: What we’re talking about here is: “What are we trying to produce in our children?” As I was reading your book—Philippians, Chapter 2, just kept echoing in my mind. It says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” This is the stuff that marriages are made of / that families are made of and that we, as parents, must implant in our children’s hearts.
Bob: So, I guess the question is: “How do you get from: ‘Who is going to do my homework?’ ‘Who is going to clean my room?’ ‘When do I get my Porsche?’—which is kind of the block we’ve been around here—to where you have been trying to take your family?” You went on a 12-month experiment with your kids; right?
Kay: We did.
And just even as we’re talking about this—I think, “It’s just—it’s almost an insurmountable problem.” It’s countercultural—not to stand up and help your kids or not to have your kids overscheduled these days. So, you really do have to slow down and think, “What’s on the other side of this?”
You can look on the news today, too, and see that—I think Pew Research came out with a study saying that a rather large percentage of people, after they get out of college or even just in their young adulthood, are moving back home. You wonder, “Are my kids moving back home because the economy is bad, or are my kids moving back home because they do not know how to live?”
As a mother, do I really want that on the other side? Is that really what my job is? You used two words a minute ago, and one was “train.” That’s a big part of what parenting is—it’s training your kids. Well, if I am going to teach my kid how to drive—if I go out and do the classes and do all the driving hours for them—I probably wouldn’t want to meet that child on the road when they’re actually in a car, driving.
I would much prefer to meet somebody that has had experience driving. It’s the same thing with just life.
It’s a little laughable to think: “Oh, chores—that’s just so ridiculous. That sounds like a 1950’s word.” It really is everything that’s going on in your home for it to work well together. You know what? Food is involved in that. A kitchen is involved in that. Trashcans are involved in that.
Dennis: To that point, you said, when you started out your marriage, you went to the grocery store. You stood and looked down the aisle, as a newlywed wife, knowing you needed to feed the man in your life—
Kay: Right. [Laughter]
Dennis: —or he’d starve to death. [Laughter] You didn’t know what you were doing, at that point.
Kay: I had no clue at all. [Laughter]
Bob: Had you cooked meals before?
Kay: No, I had not—I really hadn’t!
Bob: Never cooked a meal?
Kay: I don’t know what I did. I was 30 years old. I’m embarrassed, and let’s just go ahead to the fact that I had never cleaned a bathroom in my life. I love you, Mom. [Laughter]
Dennis: So, some of this entitlement is being passed on—second and third generations—is what you’re talking about.
Kay: Absolutely; that’s what is so interesting—not to blame or do anything like that—because that’s what’s so interesting. It really probably started in the early 1900s with Kierkegaard and the Existential Movement that kind of made: “Everything around the world revolves around me.” You moved into Dr. Spock, who in 1946, wrote a book that became the bible for parenting. What he promoted was a child-centric type of parenting so that your child’s self-esteem was guarded—whatever that means.
So, you have a generation that’s been cooking / sort of marinating in that ideology to begin with. Then, you throw in the 1960s and the 70s, where it really was this free-for-all: “Anything I want to do is going to be good. Anything that makes me feel good is the way to do it,”—that’s who is parenting these kids. You throw in uber-parenting / competitive stuff and, for sure, you have them racing in, and saving, and doing all these things because their kids’ self-esteem depends on it.
What’s at the core of that?—a lot of loving parents who just—we’ve been sold a bill of goods, so to speak, because that is never going to build up a child’s self-esteem. Us going in and doing it for them does the exact opposite. That’s when the seriousness of this really hit me, as I sat with my eight-year-old, who had clearly never been to the grocery to actually shop because he freaked out the minute that I said, “This is what we’re going to do.”; but it didn’t take long—that’s the beauty of the whole thing.
As soon as I started showing him the grocery store—that there are different kinds of butter and why there are different kinds of butter—it became a game to him. Then, he started to own it. By the time we walked out of that grocery store, he was taking all of his stuff—that he had purchased to cook our meal that night—he was putting it on the conveyer belt, not me. He wanted to pay for it, not me. When we got to the car, guess who loaded the car? That kid did! That kid had never loaded the car before.
He became a part of the process. When he sat there, at that meal that night—and let’s just admit—he’s an eight-year-old, so it wasn’t anything special—but he had combined every ingredient. He had set the table and did everything. He sat there, so proud of himself. He had done something he never thought he could do. He didn’t know anybody who does that. It gave him confidence that I couldn’t believe was even available in our house. It moved me to the core.
I sat there, wondering, “What else am I stepping in and doing—
Kay: —“that I’m taking away this gift from them?—that really will help them figure out who they are?” So, when they get out of my house, they are going to look at mountains, not as obstacles, but as opportunities. That’s what we want, coming out of our house. You throw in these technologically-savvy kids, and they’re equipped. Right there—that’s exciting because you could literally have the cure to cancer or anything else because they’re terrific, amazing kids if they are allowed to do what they were created to do.
Dennis: One of your big “Aha’s” that you came to the conclusion on—was that we’re shorting our kids in terms of their potential—
Kay: You bet.
Dennis: —and realizing we need to raise the bar, not in terms of higher grades,—
Dennis: —but in terms of: “You maximizing your gifts—who you are—and succeeding in life.” We do that cleaning up after them / we do that by picking up after them and training them that it’s all about them and it’s not about somebody else, looking out for their brother or sister, or for the rest of the family, where they can serve a meal like your son did.
Kay: Right. The word, training, is so important because we are training them to look for someone that they will have to pay on the other side—whether it’s mowing the lawn, or doing the laundry, or doing the dishes. Is that really the right thing?—because you know what?—they may not be able to afford that. So, the training part is key and critical to the entire process.
The exciting part is watching the light start to go off in their eyes.
Now, we’re real—so, there’s still whining. I had one, the other night—that it was his turn to do the dishes. What was the first thing he said? “It’s not my turn.” Then, he was like, “Well, what about her?”—[Laughter]—because they are regular kids. But, as soon as he stepped up and did the dishes—what happened, at the end of that, is what happens nine out of ten times—he was looking for something else to do.
Dennis: Well, I know from having been on the other side of the project—where you are right now—that there is a time when you can step back. You can look and say: “You know what? We didn’t do it all. We didn’t do it perfectly, but we raised our sons and daughters to begin to assume responsibility for their lives and for the lives of others.” So, when they become an adult, they weren’t boomerangs, who took a swing across the country and then landed back home for Mom and Dad to take care of them, as a 20-something or a 30-something—
—but instead, began to establish their own homes/their own apartments, and began to assume responsibility for their lives, and to begin to walk with God and Jesus Christ and trust Him, day in and day out—which back to the word, training—is what we trained them or attempted to train them to do.
Now, I know that’s what you’re about; and what you’re talking about here in this book, Cleaning House.
Bob: It’s interesting because, when we produced our Stepping Up® video series for men, there was a conversation that I had with Pastor Matt Chandler in Dallas about the need for young men to learn to bear weight. A part of boys becoming men is that they need to learn how to assume responsibility and bear the weight of responsibility—appropriate levels of responsibility, based on their age—and that needs to happen throughout their lives. That’s really what you are trying to do with your kids at home—
—your sons and your daughters—to help them learn how to bear the weight of the responsibility they’re going to need to shoulder as they go through life, as adults.
Of course, we’ve got copies of your book, Cleaning House, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I’d encourage our listeners to go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order a copy of Kay’s book, Cleaning House. Again, the website: FamilyLifeToday.com. When you get to the website, click the button in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” It’ll take you right to where you need to go so you can order a copy of Cleaning House online. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Ask for a copy of the book, Cleaning House, when you get in touch with us.
Now, of course, this is the last week of the year. I don’t know—have you had the chance to see how things are going with the matching gift?
Dennis: We are still short of taking full advantage of the match that’s in place, here at yearend. Here is what I want our listeners to know—in 22 years of broadcasting, FamilyLife has aired 260 broadcasts a year, roughly, because I know there are some guys out—
Bob: With some leap years in there.
Dennis: —there going, “There is the leap year deal.” But in 22 years, that’s over 5,500 broadcasts; and we’ve paid our bills. We’re current, but we need you to stand with us now. And I need you to know that I’m not asking you to do something that both Barbara and I haven’t done—but also Bob and Mary Ann—we’re donors to FamilyLife Today. And I also want you to know that Barbara and I don’t take any royalties from any of our books, for speaking at our conferences, or any of the resources we’ve created—like Passport2Purity®/Ever Thine Home®—it’s zero. We give it all to FamilyLife Today to keep this broadcast on the air and to keep creating resources that are going to help you in your marriage and your family.
Bob: In fact, you raise your own support. You’ve got a support team of folks who make your paycheck possible so that you can work here; right?
Dennis: Yes. In fact, Bob, it was interesting. I was speaking at I Still Do™ in Washington, DC. I made this statement—because I think there is some cynicism out there about Christian leaders—and I told them that I didn’t take royalties from my books, and we donated the money back to FamilyLife.
A guy came up to me after it was over. He said: “I just want you to know that I was sitting out there, with my arms folded/cynical—that you were asking us to donate to your ministry, looking at this vast arena with a lot of people in it. I thought: ‘He’s getting rich off of this.’ And you said that you donated all your royalties—you didn’t take anything for speaking / you didn’t make anything off the event: ‘Whatever proceeds are left—if there are any left over, after expenses, go to the ministry to help move it forward and create more resources.’”
He said, “Because of that, I’m making a donation to your ministry.”
So, I say to you, as a listener, here at the end of the year, if you haven’t given yet—or if you have given and have the opportunity to give again—it’s time because we have not taken full advantage, and we need every dime/every dollar that you give to keep this ministry on the air at a needy time in our country’s history.
Bob: Well, again, every dime becomes two dimes / every dollar becomes two dollars because of the matching gift that is available. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to make an online donation, here at yearend. Click in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “I Care,” and make your contribution online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make a donation over the phone. And there is still time to mail a donation to us. As long as it’s postmarked before Wednesday, it’s still eligible for a 2014 tax deduction.
Mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And I hope you can join us back tomorrow. We’re going to continue talking about how we teach our children to assume responsibility around the house. We’re going to talk about how this is really an exercise in teaching them how to love other people. Kay Wyma joins us back tomorrow. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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