I just read this awesome article about how my generation of parents is enabling, stifling, and protecting their kids too much. I have to say I 100% agree. In fact, I have been part of the problem. I am trying to change.
My marriage counselor helped me to see what outcome I should want to have: kids who at 18 can manage their lives for themselves. That means that they need to start doing their own laundry, taking caring of their own time management, being in charge of their own homework, and managing their own relationships. There needs to be clear rules and consequences to the acceptable state of the house for all family members and we all need to be held accountable. I needed to not rescue my children as often as I was rescuing them. I needed to stop taking the stuff up to the school that they forgot. I needed to make them order their own fast food. If I don’t do these things now, they won’t be ready. It was pretty eye-opening when I started to see everything that I do as a parent that has robbed my kids an opportunity to learn to do it for themselves.
I laughed when I recently told a friend about my counselor’s suggestion. She had posted a picture of a humongous pile of socks. I told her that at the suggestion of my counselor, all but one of my children are now doing their own laundry and that I no longer have to deal with the sock pile. It’s awesome. She replied to me, the same exact way I had responded to the counselor. “I’m not ready to manage that right now. I can’t handle it.” My counselor called me out on my control issues (I spared my friend) and said, “No, you can handle it, it will be easier to handle actually. You just aren’t ready to give up control.” Ouch. We immediately went home and started the new and improved way of doing laundry.
It’s a cinch. It takes no management. I won’t say my kids love it, but they are incredibly impressed with their new-found independence and responsibility. The three of them each have one day a week that they know is their laundry day. When they get home from school, without even being reminded, they immediately go and put their stuff in the washer (or dryer if they really had their act together before school). The consequence was clearly lined out. If they don’t do their own laundry on their own laundry day, they will have to haggle with someone else to share their day or they will have to go a whole week without clean underwear. Yes, it sounds a lot like real life. That’s the point. You will be amazed at how well your kids will manage when they don’t want to be without their favorite clothes for a week.
I chuckle as I think about telling the counselor that I couldn’t possibly let the kids do their own laundry. “They will waste so much water and laundry detergent. It’s just more efficient for me to do it all.” She asked me this, “What is your goal for your children?” I answered, “I guess for them to be happy, functioning and self-sufficient adults.” She answered, “Well then, the cost of a little water and laundry detergent is what you are going to have to deal with – it’s what good parenting requires.”
I hate it that she is always right! And then while I sit here and blog while my daughter is running upstairs with her own laundry that I never have to worry about again, I love it that she’s always right. That session was the best $80 I’ve ever spent.