FamilyLife Today®

Putting an End to Youth Entitlement

with Kay Wills Wyma | December 31, 2014
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Do you feel more like the household maid than the queen of her castle? When Kay Wills Wyma asked her son to clean his room and he replied that it was her job, she knew something had to change. Kay and her husband began a 12-month experiment with their five children, introducing a new chore each month and rewarding them for a job well done. Amazed by what her kids were able to accomplish and the confidence they began to have, Kay began to realize the value of making kids work.

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  • Do you feel more like the household maid than the queen of her castle? When Kay Wills Wyma asked her son to clean his room and he replied that it was her job, she knew something had to change. Kay and her husband began a 12-month experiment with their five children, introducing a new chore each month and rewarding them for a job well done. Amazed by what her kids were able to accomplish and the confidence they began to have, Kay began to realize the value of making kids work.

When Kay Wills Wyma asked her son to clean his room and he replied that it was her job, she knew something had to change. Kay and her husband began a 12-month experiment with their five children.

Putting an End to Youth Entitlement

With Kay Wills Wyma
December 31, 2014
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Bob: When Kay Wyma began her 12-month experiment to rid her home of a sense of entitlement, there were a number of issues that she knew had to be addressed.

Kay: Right; and we threw in some stuff that was outside of the home, like service. We had a month of service, which was arguably the best month that we had. Every month, they had to serve somebody. We did big things, like at the food kitchen; and we did very small things, like picking up the kids’ trash that was around you and not telling them. What happened? We had kids walking in, going, “I never knew how good I could feel.” 

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, December 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today about Kay Wyma’s yearlong campaign to introduce her children to some basic life skills—and the ways that meaningful work can increase your self-confidence and your concern for others. Stay tuned.



And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Honestly, I’m a little concerned about the conflict that we may have stirred up in homes, all across the country, because of what we’re talking about this week. 


Dennis: You talking about the mutiny that is now occurring with children, who are pushing back against the chores, against the responsibilities, against the system of rewards that have been put in place by militant moms? [Laughter]

Bob: I hear the whine meter going off. The “wambulance” is being sent to a lot of homes as a result of what they’ve been listening to this week.

Dennis: We can blame Kay Wyma, who joins us again on FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]

Kay: Thank you for that.

Dennis: You may need to go into hiding! 

Kay: I do have a few kids that—seriously, the other day, we pulled up to 7-Eleven®. This little kid peered around out his window and glared at me.



I was like, “That’s little Charlie, and he’s glaring at me!” His mother leans over and said: “Oh, yes. He keeps saying to me, ‘Is this Mrs. Wyma’s fault?!’”—that he has to do chores. [Laughter]  I took care of that kid when he was three at church! 

Bob: And you’re taking care of him now too! 

Kay: He won’t speak to me anymore! [Laughter] 

Dennis: Well, this is Mrs. Wyma’s Cleaning House experiment. She’s talking about A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. You’re talking about training the next generation of children to become responsible adults—imagine that! 

Kay: Yes, because they are great kids and because we love them.

Dennis: Alright.

Kay: We love them so much to make them work.

Dennis: Here’s what we want you to do.

Kay: Okay.

Dennis: We want you to sit down with a mom /and for that matter a dad, who’s kind of tired of enabling.

Bob: Let’s make it a room full of moms and dads; okay?  You’ve got a whole group here because they’re all tuned in.



They’ve been hearing us this week talk about “You need to do this with your kids.” They’re going: “I don’t have the energy to do this with my kids. I can’t even imagine what the family meeting would be like when we sit down after dinner tonight and say, ‘Some things are going to change around here, kids.’” They need Coach Wyma to step in here and get them ready for how they engage in this process and how they stick with it.

Kay: Well, I’m definitely walking the road with them. I’m not—we’re not the perfection over in our house, by any stretch.

Dennis: You have five children—you’re very much in process.

Kay: Absolutely! That’s the beauty of it—it is a process. The first thing is to just start. It doesn’t matter what age they are. The truth is—it’s a lot easier when they are younger. When they’re little kids, they still look at you and listen to everything you say. They think you’re wonderful, and it’s so fun to put the silverware away. But even if they are teens—which arguably is the hardest place to start—it, too, is a great spot because it grounds them.



It does get them out of that funky self-absorbed vortex that they live in, just to be able to be a part of the family. So, the first thing is to start.

Bob: But don’t you have to be steeled up and ready, as a parent, because you’re going to get some blow-back from your kids on this; right? 

Kay: Yes, you do; but you know, we all got blow-back when they were toddlers—and they wanted a green M&M instead of a blue M&M, and they’re writhing on the floor. I mean, what did we do, then?—go, “Fine,” and pick out all the blue M&M’s out of the package and give them to them? [Laughter]

Bob: Some parents did.

Dennis: Yes, they did—you bet they did.

Kay: Well, I would say, “Ignore it.” I do sit there, many times, going: “Teflon—I’m Teflon—it just slides right off.” 

Dennis: “Gird up yourselves—moms and dads—for battle.” 

Bob: When the misery index in the house—because it’s going to—you can expect some escalating misery in the first days that you try to implement this; right? 

Kay: Yes, but the crazy thing is—the good comes so quickly that those whines are as futile as they appear to be—



—they really don’t even mean the whines either. So, yes, you definitely have to decide that you’re doing it.

Bob: If a child becomes hostile or—and I don’t mean hostile / but they’re pushing back, they’re whining, they’re complaining—

Dennis: Well, I’ll give you an illustration.

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: When we started doing this at our house—and it wasn’t near the system you’ve got. You’ve got a great system in your book here that, really, moms and dads ought to check out. But we decided that cleaning the kitchen was going to be a family affair. We were going to get everybody involved. We had to show the kids “What is a clean kitchen, boys and girls?” 

Kay: Right, that’s a good place to start.

Dennis: “What constitutes a clean kitchen?”—because they would complain that they didn’t know what a clean kitchen was—

Kay: Right.

Dennis: —which is baloney. [Laughter]

Kay: Right.

Dennis: It’s a con job—it’s an effort to manipulate and get your way. So, as parents, you really do have to—back to Bob’s point, you have to get steely and firm and not bend because they are watching every twitch of your eye/every wrinkle on your lips.



They are looking for any breakthrough they can get to go, “Oh, we’ve got Mom now!” 

Kay: Yes; and you know, if you give an inch, they take a mile. But I do—I think, “toddler,” a lot and go: “This is just like when they were little. I would ignore that—so I’m going to ignore this too.” 

But, for us, we came up with 12 things that we wanted them to know before they left our house. I think that’s a good thing to do. What is it that you might not be doing in your house that kids need to learn how to do? Laundry is probably on everybody’s list. That is something that most kids don’t have to do. It’s easy—there can be an element of fun to it, and it is always serving.

Laundry was another one where we had to back up and start over because, when we started that month, I gave them the option to do it how they would like to. They each chose to do their own laundry until I noticed that one of them wasn’t changing their clothes. [Laughter] So, we had to change that and make it where you did everybody’s laundry, which actually worked so much better because then they really were serving each other. They had to go put it in each other’s rooms. I didn’t make them put it away—they each have to put away their own clothes.



But still, there is that element of serving; and they learned. They also learned what happens when you wash colors with whites on hot—something not great happens to your clothes. So, there was a failure experience; and they won’t, hopefully, do that again. But we had to run the gamut—learning how to do yard work, which I am terrible at. So, there was another principle: “I don’t have to be an expert at something to teach it.” That was a big thing for me because I’m—it’s a death sentence to any plant coming into our house. So, it was good for me to be able to teach them that, but there are some that are actually good at that—so they enjoy working in the yard.

We moved on down to everything I wanted them to learn, including how to host a party, because hospitality is a big part of my life. My mother had an open-door policy, as did her mother. People have always asked me: “You have the gift of hospitality. How did that happen?”  As I started doing this book, I realized that wasn’t a gift at all.



That was something that she had trained us to be—hospitable. It dawned on me, “My word, I need to train that too.” So they each had to host a party.

Well, at the end of their parties, which included the invitation, a budget, having to come up with something for the kids to do—everything—almost every child that left our house was begging their mother to be able to host a party because they had never done anything like that. It’s contagious because—and right there—I was sitting there, going: “These kids crave it. They crave it.” 

For years, I have been telling my children: “You can do anything you put your mind to. I believe in you.” I just had not realized that there was no meat on those bones because, every time I race in and do it for them, I’m telling them, “You can’t do it,” or “I can do it better,” or “I can do it faster,”—all kinds of negative, very loud implied messages were being sent—that they’d hear those.

Dennis: You also use repairs as a way to get—

Kay: Yes.

Dennis: —the message across. Your 14-year-old son had an encounter—wasn’t it a shower head? 



Kay: Well, it was really—there—I do share the good, the bad, and the ugly in this book; and that one was not our proudest moment. That wasn’t the kid’s lack of a proud moment—it was really his dad’s and mine—because it was an example of a dad that raced in and did it for the kid. He had a shower that had—it’s an old house—and who knows how long that drain had not been cleaned. It started backing up to the point where it was literally going over the four-inch lip of the shower onto the floor. I was thrilled to have a handy-man opportunity, but the timing wasn’t right for Jon. So, he very clearly communicated to me that he would be doing that.

All the kids had gathered around—they were all watching. They were so excited for one of them to get to snake the drain. I inadvertently opened my mouth to the oldest kid, standing there, to get in there and do it, which I shouldn’t have done because my husband had clearly communicated that he was doing that job.



The kid looked at me and said, out loud: “I can’t do that. I’m not old enough to do that. Maybe when I’m 16 / maybe when I’m 18—maybe when I’m a man.” 

It cut me to the core, because I was sitting there, going, “That’s exactly what they hear and what they see when we race in and do it for them.” It solidifies everything they think about themselves, and I don’t think that about that kid. I think he can do anything he puts his mind to, and it’s been amazing to watch that occur as we have put things on his plate because that opened our eyes.

That kid—right now, when I go back and read the book—it’s not even the same child. In fact, one time, I had to read it just for editing purposes. I thought, “Ooooh, this isn’t like him at all.” Then, I thought: “It’s not like him at all because he is a different kid. He’s a kid that actually has owned his life,” which is what we all hope for.

Dennis: You’re really talking about a different way of thinking as you go through the routines of life.



Everything that occurs around the family—the preparation of the meals, the cleaning up of the kitchen, doing the laundry, fixing things—everything is looked at from, really, a child-development—

Kay: Absolutely.

Dennis: —exercise; right? 

Kay: Right; and we threw in some stuff that was outside of the home, like service. We had a month of service, which was arguably the best month that we had. Every month, they had to serve somebody. We did big things, like at the food kitchen; and we did very small things, like picking up the kids’ trash that was around you and not telling them. What happened? We had kids walking in, going, “I never knew how good I could feel.” 

Well, go figure—it goes back to the core of what the Lord tells us—just the very simple: “What’s the greatest commandment?—to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” and “What’s the other one?—to love others as I have loved you,” because that’s what we were created for. Right, then and there, my kids taste that; and that tastes great! They want to go back to that.



Bob: I want to know what you do as—again, you’re starting to implement this in your house. You’re taking a theme for the month and saying, “This month is going to be laundry,” or “This month is going to be yard work,” or whatever you’re doing. What do you do with the child who says—and this is kind of the passive-aggressive approach:
“I’ve got a paper due tomorrow. I can’t. I’d love to help, Mom, but I’ve got homework that I’ve got to do”?—they’re just always trying to find this passive way to get out from under the pile 

Kay: You know, that’s an excuse that the parents use too: “There’s no time,”—that’s one of the biggest things: “We don’t—my kids don’t have time to do this.” Well, how long does it take to put the laundry in the washing machine? It doesn’t take very long. This happened just the other day because finals were occurring. One of my girls—I had to say: “Too bad. Get in there and do it. Oh, by the way, you could have done it—in the amount of time that it’s taken for you to complain about it, you could have done it twice.” There was that Teflon-mom, going, “I just am not going to listen or bite on that.” Here’s the amazing thing that happened that night.



Her sister was supposed to cook dinner, and I had planned the meal. So, she had to cook something she didn’t want to cook. She complained, “I don’t want to cook this,” but she did it anyway. She made it kind of like the way that she wants to, spicing it up a bit. She sat down to dinner and listened to her younger brother just gush over how great the meal was. She gets up to clean it and notices that the wash—that there is laundry in the washing machine that needs be put in the dryer, but it wasn’t her turn. She turns to me, and just looks at me, and goes in there and does it for her because she knew her sister was studying for finals.

That’s what happens—it’s beautiful! There’s that teamwork, and there’s that family belonging, and there was a kid that was selflessly serving, without saying, “Oh, I’m doing it this time so I won’t have to do it next time.” They’ve leaned into it because it tastes good, and it feels good, and it’s the right thing because that’s what they were created to do.

Bob: Would the kids today—if we had them here, would they say, “We like this, and we’re glad that things have changed”? 



Kay: I think they would be scared to actually say the words, “We like this.” [Laughter] 

Bob: Afraid of what crazy mom would come up with next.

Kay: I know. They are so—it’s the truth. They just cringe at what I might do next, but they do. Yes. People have asked them. Again, it’s not perfect—we’re just trying. We’re putting one foot in front of the other—it’s a step in the right direction. I think, sometimes, when we read, “Train up a child in the ways of the Lord so that he will not depart from it,” we think of that just as Scripture. It’s so much more than that—it really is walking through the daily process.

We can head on up to the New Testament and get to the armor of God. It’s one of those things—if my kid isn’t accustomed to wearing that armor, he isn’t going very far. So, I really want them to feel it—I want them to know what it’s like to fail because, if you’re going to get to success, there are a lot of failures that pave that road.



I need for them to know what that is so that they get back up on their own—and they don’t look to me or to their dad to pick them back up—because I want those legs to be running. I don’t want them to be limping and having to take things off so they can move.

That’s to alleviate the burden and forget about any feelings of guilt: “Who cares if you haven’t done it, you know, whatever the right way is?” Love our kids enough to do this for them because they are amazing. They have no idea how great they are. Kids thrive on high expectations, not on low expectations—why not set it at home? Why not let them do these things at home? 

Dennis: Kay, what I hear you offering here is turning up the game on me, as a parent, expecting me to not be lazy but to keep both hands on the plow—plowing straight ahead / doing the hard work of parenting and not let go.

I’ll use an illustration here—when our son was 15 or 16, everything he touched, in a period of time, broke.



In an attempt to do, I think, something along the lines of what you’re talking about—I did it half-way right. I let him put some additional memory in a computer that we had, to increase the size of the capacity and, hopefully, the speed. Well, he put the memory in there, plugged it in, and it didn’t work. So, he worked on it some more. My problem was—I didn’t know what to do. Now, looking back on it, if I’m really applying what you’re talking about to that situation, what I should have done was say: “Come on, son, you and I are going to go down to an electronics store. We’re going to talk to a technician who is going to coach you to know how to do this.” 

Now, I don’t even know if they had those stores available to be able to take a teenager in there and have that back then, but the point is I didn’t do that—I didn’t do that.



I really missed an opportunity to turn a failure into a training opportunity and, ultimately, a success; but all that effort would have been hard work—it would have taken extra hours/extra patience. Many times, we, as parents—we are selfish. Sometimes, we don’t know what to do—which was my problem—but sometimes, we’re just selfish; and we don’t want to have to go the extra mile.

Bob: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking, as I’m hearing this. I’m thinking of a lot of parents, going: “You know, I’m just exhausted as it is right now. I’m going to take on this assignment? It’s just—come on! I just want to watch the game and be done.” 

Kay: I remember, one time, sitting on the couch, thinking: “What have I done?! Why have I done this to myself?” Then I realized, “I’m sitting on the couch thinking, ‘Why have I done this?’ and my child is making dinner.”  [Laughter]

Dennis: You’re actually having a chance to think! 

Kay: I really was. I was like: “Wow!  I haven’t sat on the couch in years.” [Laughter] I love that story about the computer, and I’m going to come along with one more behind that.



I have some friends that have really done a terrific job putting their kids to the task, in a good way, with them, walking the road. I tell this story in Cleaning House. There is a boy that is a junior in high school. His parents looked at him—his dad, really, one day, and said: “You know what? We don’t have a sprinkler system. We want one in the front yard. Go do it.” 

The kid looked at him and was like, “How in the world am I going to do that?” He knew this kid could possibly do that because, a few years earlier, he had been working for a painter during the summer. He had moved their wall in their dining room and successfully had done it—moved a wall, painted it, plastered it—everything / whatever you do with dry-walling a wall.

So, this dad thought his kid might be able to do the sprinkler system. Now, what happens if the kid messes up? Well, he might hit the water main so they’d have to pay for that. But even if the kid completely messed up the whole thing, they would still be paying someone to do the sprinkler system. So, in his dad’s mind, he was like, “What have I got to lose?” 



He told the kid, “Go to Home Depot®—talk to the guys / YouTube® it. Figure it out yourself, and you can do it.” So, he started digging the trenches—doing all the hard work. He had to go to a school meeting, before school had started, for student council. He came in, completely grungy and dirty, from digging out his yard. Nobody at the school would believe him that he was putting in a sprinkler system because “Who does that?” 

Lo and behold, the faculty calls—they say, “Yes, he did do that.” The sprinkler system worked. The kid had achieved something that he never thought he could do. Fast- forward a couple of years, he’s going to UT as a freshman. He decides he wants to try out for the football team. The school that he went to was a small school in Dallas—they didn’t really have a football team like Texas football is—and he’d only played two seasons.

So, he’s—

Bob: He’s trying out at the University of Texas?! 

Kay: University of Texas football team. His dad says, “No, you’re not.” He says, “Yes, I am.” “No, you’re not.” “Yes, I am.” The kid goes out and does it. He walks on as a wide receiver because that kid didn’t ever see a mountain—he just saw an opportunity.



Dennis: I love stories like that—I really do because I think our young people today are not being challenged with a high enough standard, where they live at home. I’m not just talking about at school or in the marketplace, but they need to be taught how to work. They need to be taught the character that it takes to persevere and finish something that’s hard, like a sprinkler system—I mean, what training that represents. I thought you were going to go on and say that the young man today was running a multi-million dollar lawn care—

Bob: Sprinkler business; yes! [Laughter] 

Kay: You never know! This kid—he doesn’t see very many barriers—and I love that about him.

Dennis: Yes, that’s what we’re really training. We’re training the next generation of business leaders, male and female; we’re training the husbands/the wives, the moms and dads, who are going to take our places and raise the next generation.



I appreciate you putting a little tension against the muscle here, Kay. You have—I think you’ve upset some homes. There may be some more boys sneering behind windows.

Bob: Yes, in fact, I’m thinking—anybody who wants to get a copy of your book, Cleaning House—they can go to and order it. We’ll send along a picture of Kay that your boys can just glare at. [Laughter] 

Kay: Thank you for that. [Laughter]

Bob: Go to and find more information about how to get a copy of the book, Cleaning House. Again, the website: Click the button in the upper left-hand corner that says, “GO DEEPER.” That will take you right to the area of the site where you can order a copy of Kay’s book. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Get in touch with us and let us know you’d like a copy of Kay Wyma’s book.

I’m just curious—are you usually awake at midnight or in bed by midnight tonight?

Dennis: No, I’m in bed.



Barbara and I have given up on that. We hear the fire crackers pop and see some of the—you know, we’ll wake up one of our eyes and look outside; but, no, no, no, no.

Bob: You’ve seen enough New Years come in—

Dennis: I have; I have. But here’s what I want our listeners to know—to those of you, who have stood with us with a financial gift, I want to say a hearty “Thank you.” I mean that—I wish you could see my face—I’m grinning. I’m thanking you for standing with us.

To those of you who are still thinking about it—you’ve only got a few hours left because we haven’t fulfilled the full amount of the match yet.

Bob: You started frowning—you went from grinning to frowning when you said “…those of you who haven’t given...”

Dennis: No, I didn’t, but I do know the seriousness of what we’re talking about here. We need folks’ help. I mean, FamilyLife Today is a listener-supported broadcast. Where have you heard that before? I think you’ve heard that from Bob Lepine on this broadcast, and very rarely from me.



But I’m asking for your help because I believe, as never before, this is one of the most important ministries in our country. For me, it’s the most important thing I can give my life to—period. I think our marriages and families are hanging in the balance. Both Barbara and I are fighting on behalf of our children’s marriages and, ultimately, our grandchildren’s marriages.

Bob: I know a lot of our listeners feel just like you do because we’ve heard from them, throughout the year. Again, we appreciate those of you who stand with us regularly.

Dennis: We do.

Bob: If you’ve not made a yearend contribution, and you can do that, can I encourage you to go, right now, to Your gift is still tax-deductible if you make it online, right now. Go to Click in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “I Care,” and make a yearend contribution. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329—and make your yearend donation over the phone.



Again, we appreciate your financial support of this ministry. Pray for us—that we can take full advantage of this matching-gift opportunity.

We hope you can join us back tomorrow on New Year’s Day as we hear from Michael and Hayley DeMarco. We’re going to hear about the spiritual transformation that took place in Michael’s life—it actually happened in jail. He’ll share the story with us tomorrow. Hope you can be here for that.

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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Episodes in this Series

Cleaning House 2
Cleaning Up: Tackling Bedrooms and KP Duty
with Kay Wills Wyma December 30, 2014
Kay Wills Wyma decided to end the entitlement attitude she saw in her children by kicking off a one-year experiment in her home that would reward her kids for household chores.
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Cleaning House 1
Advice From a Former Enabler
with Kay Wills Wyma December 29, 2014
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.
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