CHAPTER EIGHT: Duct Tape for Your Body: Quitting Your Job as the Maid Is a Solution – Duct Tape Parenting: A Less is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids

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Duct Tape for Your Body: Quitting Your Job as the Maid Is a Solution

Taking care of yourself and making a positive contribution to the group in which you are a part are the biggest influences on developing healthy self-esteem.

—Vicki Hoefle

You can be the maid or you can be emotionally available to your children, but you can’t do both.

—Vicki Hoefle

As I discussed in chapter 3, being the maid is not an effective way for parents to promote independence, responsibility, or mutual respect in children. I pointed out some of the myths and the good intentions behind mothers and fathers who want to do it all perfectly. In this chapter, I’ll talk about the many benefits to kids, to parents, and to the family when you quit your job as the maid. I will also let you know how to do it without throwing your home and your life into complete chaos. By the end of the chapter, I think you’ll see why it’s worth it to stop saving, doing for, or making life easy for your kids.

How Did I Get Here and Why Am I Wearing an Apron?

As I’ve mentioned, it’s not uncommon for parents to wake up one day and find they are more maid, short-order cook, laundry worker, chauffeur, law enforcement officer, and referee than parent. In an attempt to keep their families moving forward, keep their homes looking tidy, and keep children out from underfoot, they fall prey to this silent enemy. Often it’s a matter of parents thinking that doing for the kids is an expression of love and a parent’s responsibility; sometimes it’s a matter of parents wanting to be in control, needing to be needed, or thinking they will be judged by others based on their kids’ appearance and actions.

No matter how a parent ends up as the maid, breaking the cycle can be tricky unless you have a clear picture of where you are going and how you are going to get there.

I’m going to guess that, over the years, you have tried systems and strategies to get your kids to help you around the house. You’ve tried stickers and charts and wheels that turn. You’ve tried bribes and praise and treats. And when those don’t work for more than a day or two, you resort to nagging, reminding, yelling, and threatening. And although you can get your kids to help out once in a while, you know there has got to be a better way. I am here to tell you there is.

Duct Tape Moments

If you hear the words “good job” come out of your own mouth, pay attention and keep the roll within reach: you’ll likely have to use the duct tape to plug the praise that comes dribbling out in mindless moments. There is no point in telling kids “good job” on repeat, autodial, and without any real reason other than to let the kids know you’re happy with them. This habit plays into the “getting kids to” do stuff via “external motivators” cycle—just like the dangling carrots, bribes, stickers, and all that other nonsense. Once you train yourself to quit throwing “good job” their way, try replacing it with “so you did X” or “What was that like for you?” They might look at you funny but, yes, that’s a good thing!

When my kids were little, I was determined to find or develop ideas, systems, and strategies that allowed me to solve the problem of a messy house once and for all, train the kids for their future independent lives, and enjoy them as they experienced the day to day ups and down of life.

Here is how you can quit your job as the maid without losing control of the house or your mind; it’s a training system that will work with kids ranging from birth to eighteen years of age.

A Timeline for Training: Eighteen Years at a Glance

The Timeline for Training is a tool I have been using for more than twenty years. It is a visual representation of the time we have to train our kids, as well as a helpful reminder of the optimal times for specific types of training. With this timeline, you’ll see what tasks your children can and could be doing at certain ages, when their focus shifts, and how to shift your training accordingly. You’ll see that, along with tasks, we are also considering lessons that are the foundation for a satisfying and successful life. The Timeline for Training tool will show you why it’s time to duct tape your hands to your side, invite the kids to help out, and watch as the magic unfolds.

When you think about it, we have eighteen years to teach our kids everything they need to know before they move out on their own. Think about your own life here. How many tasks and activities do you juggle on an average day? When we set up a system that continually invites kids to participate in their lives and the life of the family, combined with a system of training that is respectful, realistic, and reliable, our kids are far more willing to help out on a regular basis.

Here is how it works.

FIGURE 8-1

This simple visual shows that, technically, by the time our kids are nine they have the ability to handle 50 percent of all the self and life skills they will be expected to handle in adulthood. Just for fun, if I asked you to gauge where your child is today on the graph, could he do half of everything expected of him at age eighteen? This includes everything from getting up on his own, organizing all his gear for school and sports, packing his own food, cleaning a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom, handling laundry, and making meals. Mind boggling, when you think of it this way! Most parents tell me that their kids are nowhere near the 50 percent mark (even parents of five-year-olds can see clearly that they are doing too much for their kids).

When They Can Do What, and Why

One of the reasons this visual tool is so powerful is that it points out the optimal time for training. There is an ideal time to train for self, life, and social skills. If you realize this, you will see eighteen years as three smaller, clearer windows of time where learning is easier and more enjoyable for the children, as well as for mom and dad. If self-skills training is too late in the game or social training is overlooked, parents will experience stress and pushback from kids. Trust me, it is both fun and rewarding to take advantage of these ideal times and watch as your kids become more independent and happier human beings.

It’s important to remember that, no matter what age your child is today or what stage of the training process you are in, it’s never too late. You just might have to account for some internal and external pressures that will affect the ease of the transition!

Birth to Age Nine: Life Skills and Self Skills 101

At birth, our children are completely dependent on us for their very survival. Knowing this is not sustainable, they spend childhood learning to become independent and self-sufficient. They teach themselves how to roll over, scootch across the floor, kneel, crawl, stand up, and walk. And they do this with little or no assistance from us. As they make their way to their feet, their opportunities expand, as do their interests. Suddenly there is more to learn, and their curiosity and drive to master new challenges and tasks increase. Unfortunately, it’s at this time that well-meaning parents step in, slam on the brakes, and send the message to their eager and enthusiastic kids that mom and dad will take it from here. Talk about a crash-and-burn scenario.

Children are innately interested and open to learning basic self and life skills, and if allowed and encouraged to do so, they grow into confident people who know they matter within the family and within the community. This, in turn, affects how they develop socially. By the time they are teenagers, if they’ve mastered basic self and life skills, they can focus on developing their social skills. Often, as parents, we can’t see this progression clearly because we’re too close.

It’s important that parents remember kids are interested and eager to learn. Taking advantage of this eagerness and willingness to learn is our job. Letting our children practice, even if it’s messy, is our responsibility. Giving them chances to fail is our gift to them.

Skills and tasks kids can learn and master between infancy and nine years of age include:

Age Ten to Age Fifteen: Plugging into the Social Circuit

When kids enter adolescence, which happens between the ages of ten and fifteen, learning how to clean their room, organize their stuff, or master the laundry aren’t as important or interesting as they once were. Their focus shifts outward, toward the world, to developing and mastering social skills. This is perfectly natural because social skills are just as important in the development of our children as learning how to take care of themselves and help out around the house. Here is a short list of the social skills our tweens and young teens are learning and the life lessons that will enrich their lives and prepare them for the adult world.

Age Sixteen to Age Eighteen: Rebooting into Real Life

Then, suddenly, just as quickly as our children shifted their focus from family to friends, they shift their focus again and realize, “Hey, I am leaving home in two years and there is still so much I have to learn to do.” Here are just a few of the things our young adult kids are interested in learning:

So you see, if we use the Timeline for Training to create a system that supports our children in their natural rhythm for becoming more independent and competent in the areas of self skills, life skills, and social skills, we can eliminate the fighting, the reminding, the pushback, and what some people refer to as defiance.

Imagine Your Child at Eighteen

With the Timeline for Training, we are working cooperatively with our children to empower them and to invite them to become more independent with each day, until finally they arrive at age eighteen ready to cross the threshold into their lives as young adults. As parents, we can feel confident knowing we have prepared them for this journey. And our children experience us as supportive allies who have made it possible for them to be excited about the journey ahead.

Imagine that you invited, trained, supported, and acknowledged your children as they developed their basic self skills and life skills for the first nine years of their lives. Imagine how they will feel about themselves. Imagine the confidence they will have in their own abilities. They experience themselves as responsible and capable young people who can take care of themselves and who help out around the house every day. They work with you, not against you. They are engaged and harmonious, and they know they are capable of what the real world will throw at them.

Now imagine the opposite. Imagine a child who wasn’t invited to participate in life as a young child, but was nagged, reminded, lectured, and threatened into helping out or was never allowed to do anything for himself because his mom and dad wanted to make life easy for him or wanted things done perfectly so they took care of everything. Imagine how much less confident this child is as he enters his teen years. Imagine how vulnerable he is to the influence of others and how his lack of confidence could begin to impact his friendships, grades, and willingness to try new things and explore new areas of life. Imagine his reaction as his parents began to demand that he pick up after himself and help out around the house, something he hasn’t done or been allowed to do until now. He begins to withdraw or becomes rebellious and questions his ability to manage his life and questions his parents’ faith in him.

Clearly, if you’ve stopped to imagine this, you can see there is a benefit to training your child to become independent and capable, contribute to the family, and make decisions at a very young age. There is plenty of reason to back off and give happily any opportunity you can provide for your child to take the reins and steer her own life, even if she makes mistakes or sometimes fails in her attempts. Yes, she will fail, but that’s how she’ll learn!

You Can’t Quit Overnight

Turning the reins over to your children and providing them with greater opportunities to do things on their own takes time. Training is a process. You can’t just wake up one day and say, That’s it, you’re on your own, I’m going to eat bonbons in the kitchen. This is not at all what this method is about! This method is about a gradual, intentional shift in which you decide that your child can handle more, day by day and week by week. You know that while you’re not physically there to do everything anymore, you are there to offer encouragement and help guide her if she gets stuck. You’re also not there to judge, be critical, or say I told you so when she forgets something or screws up her schedule. This is a very emotionally active yet physically passive shift in your parenting. You keep your hands “duct taped” to your side while offering support in other ways.

To quit your job as the maid without losing your mind (and your kids at the grocery store) you must:

1. Assess the kids’ skills.

2. Invite your kids to participate.

3. Train your children in skills they need to develop.

Step One: Assess the Kids’ Skills and Discover What They Can Do

Take the next two to three days to assess:

• What your kids can do and will do

• What your kids can do but don’t do

• What they can’t do because they haven’t been trained

In those two or three days you may not coax, remind, nag, bribe, threaten, plead, beg, or scream. Grab the duct tape and place it over your mouth. Not a peep from you.

You have to watch and document what’s going on in your house, because it’s the only way to get accurate information.

Is life going to be out of sorts for a few days? Yes. Is the house going to be a mess? Yes. Are your kids going to be confused? Yes. Will you all get over it? Absolutely.

Here is what I know. Parents think they know what their kids can and can’t do. But I am here to tell you that by the end of the third day, you will have learned things about yourself and your kids that will blow your mind.

Grab a sheet of paper and make three columns.

In column one, keep track of everything the kids do on their own with no assistance from you, and I mean no assistance from you.

In column two, write down everything the kids can do on their own, but don’t do. This might include hanging up their coats, unpacking their backpacks, making their beds, putting clothes in laundry baskets, loading the dishwasher. Again, remember this is with no prompting from you. Just watch, observe, and take notes.

In column three, write down everything the kids cannot do for themselves because they haven’t been taught. This list may be fairly long, but don’t get discouraged. Before long, everything from column three will end up in column one.

Step Two: Invite the Kids So They Will RSVP “YES!”

This is about more than just “inviting them” to pick up their junk or learn how to empty a dishwasher. You are inviting your kids into a process that will last a lifetime.

I consider extending an invitation to a child an art form. And most of the parents I work with are in the habit of telling their kids, not inviting their kids. And kids don’t like to be told what to do any more than adults do.

But here is the thing: parents are nervous about inviting their kids into this process because they expect the kids to say no. When this happens, parents feel stumped and they panic. They wonder, Now what? I invited, they said no, now what am I supposed to do? The easiest and best answer they have is to resort to demanding, dictating, begging, nagging, reminding, and threatening the kids to help.

Here is a disclaimer, just in case some of you are nodding your heads, thinking, No way is my kid ever going say yes. I want to be totally up front with you. Don’t expect the kids to jump at the first few invitations. Remember, they are used to the old dynamic and kids are naturally suspicious of all of their parents’ new ploys and quick-fix strategies.

Your kids may look at you, mystified, and wonder what you are up to. Why aren’t you yelling at me? What’s going on around here? This is great, this is just where you want them. Your kids are paying attention. Allow your kids to be cautious and to test you by saying no. It isn’t personal and it isn’t an indication of what is possible.

I have coached thousands of parents through this process and 95 percent of the time they are successful if they allow for the time it takes and are committed to long-term change, not just to kids who will pick up their junk for a day or two.

FIGURE 8-2

The Art of the Invitation

Sending out an invitation is an art form. Here is how you master it:

Choose the time to begin a conversation with your child with care. Make sure you are feeling encouraged, supportive, calm, and patient. Take into account that you may have to have this conversation dozens of times, and don’t expect your child to be able to digest everything you are saying all at once. Give it time. Let your child know that there are three reasons you decided to train him on how to run a home:

1. He is leaving home eventually and it is your job to ensure he doesn’t have to move back home with you at twenty because he doesn’t know how to manage his life.

2. It’s the only way to ensure that you will not continue to nag, remind, lecture, scold, or threaten him about helping around the house.

3. If you want me to spend time reading, throwing the ball, making art projects, and building Legos with you, then I have to have some help because I can’t do it all. So would you rather have me be your Mom (or Dad) or your maid?

Brainstorm (with your children) new skills or tasks they are ready to learn or master. When you include your child in this brainstorming activity she feels listened to and validated and you get good information about her level of confidence and interest. It could be that you and your child generate an extensive list of ten, fifteen, or twenty skills she wants to master. And it could be that your child only comes up with one or two tasks. It doesn’t matter. It’s the process that matters.

Ask don’t tell, demand, need, nag, and so on. Ask your child which task he wants to learn or master first. He gets to decide. Asking instead of telling is what brings parents and kids closer together. If you start making demands or saying things like, “I think you need to learn this one first,” you are going to get pushback from your kids and the entire process could stall out. Make sure that you follow your child’s lead. Even if he chooses something simple, go with it. You are going to start with what he wants to do or what he seems excited to learn.

Invite, and set a new tone for your communication. Finally, invite your child to take the lead in this process. Instead of demanding and insisting, inviting will increase a child’s willingness to say “Yes!” Imagine what it will sound like when your kids start inviting you instead of demanding and insisting. Inviting allows children to stay in the “choice” mode, which is a powerful place for all of us to live.

Step Three: Train Your Kids and Keep the Duct Tape Handy

Training is about more than telling your kids how to do something. It is a system. A thoughtful, commonsense system for training kids to take on more responsibility in their life. Here is my Training Mantra—Acknowledge, Build, Teach, Maintain.

Training kids is simple if you have a plan that will support them from age two through eighteen (and beyond). As you follow your plan day in and day out, you not only establish healthy habits for the kids, you also create habits that define your family. The power of your plan is based completely on your kids, on how much they are already doing on their own and ensuring that they will keep doing things on their own.

When you have a plan that makes sense, you can track the progress your family is making and feel inspired and confident that you are parenting from a very intentional, thoughtful, and powerful place. No more guesswork.

When it comes to making a plan for your child, you’ll use your master list (from the “assess the kids’ skills” step) to create a plan and implement the training. However, because no two kids will ever have the same needs, let’s use an example to demonstrate how training works.

Sample: Training Lucy, Age Four

Lucy is four years old. Here is what her mother noticed after three days of observations. This is the information mom will use to create a training plan just for Lucy.

Use the Mantra, Mom and Dad

It’s easy to forget that kids need a simple, consistent system to follow if they are to master all the tasks and skills required to live rich, satisfying lives. Refer to the Training Mantra as often as you need to help you stay on track.

1. Acknowledge—not to be confused with praise! Over the two- or three-day observation period, mom noticed that Lucy could do two things all on her own, with no support from her. She could get dressed on her own and make toast.

Mom starts the entire training process by acknowledging what Lucy can do.

Notes on acknowledgement: We are a society focused on pointing out what’s wrong or still needs work. We seldom teach ourselves to focus on and acknowledge the progress and improvement our children make each and every day. Now that you know what your kids can and will do, it’s important that you begin to anchor these skills by acknowledging them on a regular basis. Notice I didn’t use the word praise? That’s because praising children does not work, and there have been enough studies to suggest that praise and phrases like “good job,” with a pat on the back, offer no value and only make children seek adult approval instead of recognizing their own growth.

Acknowledgement inspires kids. It sends the message to them that you see that they are actually doing quite a bit (even if they aren’t yet), that you appreciate it, and that it makes a difference to you and the rest of the family. And yes, this is the biggest motivator in our kids’ lives. It isn’t stickers or praise or treats. For them, it’s knowing that they play an important role in their family and that their family counts on them.

From now on you will begin to focus on the positive. You will move away from all the criticism and negative talk and your kids will begin to look forward to your feedback, instead of running from it. The kids will be influenced by this new language, this new appreciation you show when they do something for themselves or for the family.

To children, this “noticing the positive” feels so good inside, but it’s not because you are praising them, it’s because they like the way they feel when they help out. And they will begin to show appreciation for you and for others when someone does something for them. Hmmm. You mean, you will be living with children who have a sense of gratitude instead of entitlement? You bet! And because they feel good about what they are doing and about getting feedback from those most important to them, they begin to see themselves as capable and cooperative people. They like that feeling and they want more of it. It’s self-motivation, and that is the strongest motivation there is. And before long, they begin asking to learn how to do more. To summarize:

• Acknowledge your children’s accomplishments: I see that you picked out your own outfit today.

• Bring attention to their abilities: Those tights can be tricky and you pulled them on all by yourself.

• Ask them to talk about how they learned to do these things: What did you do first? How did you know how to do that? What part was difficult? How did you solve that? What part was really simple? What would you do differently next time? What would you do again?

• Once they master a task, there is no need to discuss it again, merely move on to the next new task.

2. Build—what can the child do but doesn’t do all the time? Work on that next! In column two is the list of tasks Lucy can do, but doesn’t do without reminding or nagging from mom. Mom has noticed that, among other things, Lucy can brush her own teeth and set her place at the table, but she doesn’t do this on a regular basis. Brushing her teeth and setting her place haven’t become habits yet. Because a child already possesses some competency with the tasks in column two, training is easier and less stressful for the child. Because success comes rather easily, the child’s confidence increases and she is more willing to take on increasingly difficult tasks as you proceed.

Mom starts by inviting Lucy to talk about what mom has noticed (I noticed that you can set your place at the table, but that you don’t always do it), and asks Lucy if she would be willing to do it every morning and evening? In fact, mom says how about they make a spot for Lucy’s dishes and glasses on a low shelf in the kitchen so she doesn’t have to ask for help all the time.

Remember that inviting Lucy into a conversation on a weekly or biweekly basis and asking her to decide what new skill she would like to learn is going to ensure that she feels respected, included, and in control, and she will be much more likely to be open to this new process.

3. Teach—ask, show, and let her try!

First, mom asks Lucy to show her what brushing teeth and setting her place at the table look like, so she has accurate information. This will help mom break training into small, manageable steps, so Lucy feels encouraged and can experience success. Let’s say that Lucy does everything but put the cap back on the toothpaste and rinse the spit out of the sink. Mom will show her how to put the top on and how to rinse the sink.

Then, mom and Lucy agree on a time each day that Lucy will perform this task. In this instance, it will be easy because brushing happens two or three times a day and setting a place at the table might happen two times a day, but happens before another event (eating) can happen. Mom will use this as an opportunity to anchor this learning, so that Lucy begins to connect the dots. She begins to understand that taking care of herself and helping out the family happens every day and often happens during the same time of day.

To summarize:

• Allow kids time to practice and improve.

• Go slowly and be consistent.

• Focus on one or two new tasks until the kids have mastered the task.

As a parent, you will continue to step back and out of your child’s life, handing the reins over in small increments. But you will be there to guide and support and offer assistance when needed. Your kids will play a more active role in their own lives, develop responsibility, and build on their success. They will gain much-needed confidence. Remember, they are getting life training that will serve them in creating a meaningful, rich, and engaged life.

Because you have a plan and your kids trust you and you are asking them to participate, the teaching and training becomes something everyone looks forward to. Soon enough, you are helping train the kids for bigger things in life. They begin to connect your help in training them with increased independence, and for this they are thankful. Instead of demanding perfection the first time, the entire family begins to realize that learning anything new takes time and support, so expectations are more realistic.

As your child masters skills, move them from column two and three to column one. Continue to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate progress and improvement for those column a skills.

Remember, you are going to spend time with your kids doing something. You can spend it nagging, reminding, lecturing, fighting, and bribing or doing for them. Or, you can spend it training, encouraging, supporting, and teaching your children to become contributing members of the family. You can spend it helping them develop strong self-esteem and become increasingly independent and self-confident. The choice is ours as parents.

The cycle of training repeats itself over and over again. Eventually, everything from column two is moved to column one. The only thing left to do is tackle column three. By now, you have confidence in yourself, your kids, and the plan, and suddenly the entire process is one that is enjoyable and fruitful.

4. Maintain—don’t rip off the duct tape and reach back in. Give it time and keep growing! All that’s left is a plan for how to maintain the system over time. As Lucy becomes more independent and takes on more responsibilities, it will be easy for mom to let up on the training. This is a common pitfall, and it happens largely because it becomes clear that Lucy is doing far more for herself and her family than her peers are and mom begins to wonder if she is expecting or perhaps demanding too much from Lucy.

I want to assure you that there is nothing more thrilling for children than to know, deep down inside, that their parents believe in them, have faith in them, and see them as capable human beings. Will there be times when Lucy’s enthusiasm for taking on more responsibility wanes? Of course. In those moments, take a step back. Otherwise, keep moving forward, maintaining the system that has brought you this far.

• Be really careful that you don’t slip back into your old habits. It’s easy to do when you begin to notice how much your kids can do and how little their friends are doing.

• Keep expectations clear and consistent. Expect kids to forget and to give you a bit of pushback now and again. This is part of the growth process. Remember that it isn’t personal.

• Keep growing with your child. An increase in fighting among the kids usually means the kids are ready for more responsibility. And, I have to say, kids can do so much more than we parents give them credit for.

• Keep looking for “what’s next” and think outside the box. Kids are interested in so many things and we tend to overlook the simplest tasks (changing a tire, creating menus, paying bills, planning vacations).

• Keep talking about how important their contributing to the house is and how much you count on them. Everyone wants to know that they are needed, important, and contributing to a successful family life.

Once you begin to train your kids, you pass the baton to them and they begin to learn how to use this system. They learn patience and the importance of practice.

Here’s what the training process looked like for my oldest daughter, Hannah, and myself. I started this with Hannah when she was two. My motto is, “If they can walk, they can work.” I will use helping in the kitchen as the example of the task.

At two, helping in the kitchen meant that Hannah carried her cup to the table. Four weeks later, she carried it to and from the table. Eight weeks later, she carried her cup and her plate to the table.

By the time she was four years old, Hannah could set the table for the family. It wasn’t perfect, but it was by the time she was eight. By the time she was six years old, she could load and unload the dishwasher. At seven, she could and would set the table, clear the table, load the dishwasher, unload the dishwasher, and wash the dishes.

By the time Hannah was nine years old, when she chose a task to help the family for the week and she chose “Kitchen,” it meant that we could count on her to set the table, clear the table, load the dishwasher, start the dishwasher, wash the dishes, put them away, and wipe down the counters by the time we left for school.

Are my kids exceptional? Well, yes and no. They are exceptional to me, but they are like every other child on the planet in most regards. Perhaps the biggest difference between my family and other families was that we had a plan that grew with Hannah. In fact, she developed the idea that everyone in her family helped out each and every day, without complaint (or at least no complaining 90 percent of the time), and she discovered that cleaning the kitchen didn’t really take all that long once you got the hang of it. Because everyone else was doing something to help out and people were visiting with her as she cleaned up, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. I didn’t have to tell her, “It’s not so bad once you get started”; she figured it out all on her own.

If you are rolling your eyes at this story, let me just tell you that I have thousands of these stories from other parents who will tell you the exact same thing. It’s a system. It makes sense. It’s easy. It’s fun. Everybody wins. And I don’t know one kid who hates cleaning a kitchen more than they hate the constant fighting about helping out that goes on in the home. Quitting your job as the maid might just turn out to be the best thing you ever do for yourself, your kids, and your family.

Parents, Remember This

At the end of day, parenting is about more than just not feeling overwhelmed, not feeling overworked, and not feeling stressed out because you are doing too much for your kids. And it is about more than having kids who will pick up after themselves. You know that by quitting your job as the maid, by inviting your kids to participate more fully in their lives, by taking the time to train them, support them, and acknowledge all the progress and improvement they make day in and day out, you are creating the perfect environment for raising capable, cooperative, responsible, respectful, and resilient kids whose relationship with their parents is solid, trusting, and loving.

When you commit to quitting your job as the maid (and keep your mitts off your kids’ business), what you are really saying to your kids is:

• I have faith in you.

• I believe in you and your abilities.

• I believe that you are ready to become more independent.

• I believe you can handle a little bit of frustration as you learn new things.

• I believe you will overcome setbacks and disappointments that you experience.

• I believe you have what it takes to participate in life in a deep and meaningful way.

• I believe that at your core, you want to be a contributing, cooperative member of this family and that having a parent who is lecturing and nagging and reminding you is as distasteful to you as it is to me.

Kids who have been invited to participate in life are talking with you instead of at you, or ignoring you altogether, and this is what builds the kind of relationships between parents and kids that will weather any of the storms that come with raising children in the twenty-first century. And best of all, our children become the stewards of their own learning.

As a parent, you can decide to either be the maid to your children or you can be emotionally available to them, but you can’t be both. It’s time to throw down the aprons, quit your job as the maid, and make yourself emotionally available to your children, (which requires rolls of duct tape in order to break all the habits we have unconsciously created).

Why Quit Your Job As the Maid?

Here are just a few reasons to hang up your apron:

• Kids deserve a chance to learn how to take care of themselves.

• Everyone likes knowing she makes a positive contribution to the group she is a part of; “everyone” includes children.

• No one likes to be treated like he can’t take care of himself or learn new things, especially children who are developing a sense of self-worth.

• Bored kids make trouble, busy kids do not.

• Kids are moving out and will be on their own at eighteen. It seems reasonable that we allow them ample time to practice navigating life from the earliest possible age.

• Being emotionally available to the changes, challenges, and successes of our children is the definition of parenting, not doing things for them that they could do for themselves.