Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Entitlement Trap: Book Review, Part One

Let me just tell you that this book is now one of my top three most favorite and life-changing parenting books. I've attended a hand-full of Power of Moms retreats that refer to Linda and Richard Eyre's programs for families and I've read a few of the Eyre's other books, and this one is the cream of the Eyre's expertise. In this post, I'm only referring to the first half of the book which is about The Trap of Entitlement and the Rescue of Giving Kids Financial and Material Ownership.

In preparation for my Power of Moms Mini Retreat on May 31st, I picked up this book to refresh my understanding of these powerful tools. (P.S. We are currently booked at the workshop, but if you're still really interested, email me!) I can't even tell you how badly I needed this book right now. We've had systems in place in the past, but I think we may have missed a very important point of those systems, and that is ownership.

"Giving kids true ownership offers them the chance to develop within themselves all of the qualities we want for them but can't give them." p. 25

This book points out that the reason we want to have a strong family culture, a system of rules and consequences, and a family economy is so that our children can gain a sense of ownership and equity in their own home.

"If the perception of ownership can be given to children, a sense of responsibility will follow, and a sense of pride, and a sense of purpose." p. 33
I want to focus this post on that first part of family systems that the Eyre's discuss in the book: Family Culture and Identity. Perhaps some of you grew up with strong family traditions, but this is quite foreign to me. I mean, the extent of my family culture was watching Friends on Thursday nights and gifting one another new socks at Christmas. And as silly as it sounds, those socks meant a lot to me. I looked forward every year to opening my new socks because it was "our thing." The tradition carried on even after I moved out of the house. Shortly after I was married, my parents divorced and the tradition stopped. It was hard for me to let that go (and my sock drawer suffered). I saw more clearly how traditions, even simple ones, can become a part of our own identity. Seven years after the divorce--just this last Christmas--my sixteen year old brother gifted me a nicely wrapped box of socks. And I cried. I love that even though he was young when that tradition was alive in our home, he still remembers it and wants to keep it alive.

One of my greatest desires as a parent is to be deliberate. I want to have a plan. By developing a strong family culture, we can give our kids a sense of identity and ownership in the home that will withstand outside influences such as media and peers.

"Our job is to create a family culture that is strong enough that it can, when necessary, supersede and override all the other cultures..." p. 55

Who knew you could have a family mission statement?! Or a family motto, a family song, t-shirts, yearly themes, weekly family meetings, a mascot, dinner games, movie nights, unique holiday traditions, a family flag, and even your own "secret codes" for communication.
"Our kids need the gift of a strong and personal identity, and parents are the ones who can give it. Children need roots before they can develop wings." p.43
The Eyres suggest having regular discussions about your own ancestors and learning more about your family's roots. They discuss the power of traditions both big and small, family symbols and culture, and having weekly meetings where your kids can participate in making decisions, solving problems, and discussing values.

So, wait. Slow down. Before we all get overwhelmed, just know that these things take time to develop. Lots of time. And that's okay right? The point is to just get started. We've been working on improving our family culture for the past year with our LITTLE ones and here's a few simple things we've started that have really worked:
A Family Motto

(This is the best picture I could get of us doing our motto, but David was at a meeting, 
I was taking the picture, and Edison would simply not participate)

My husband and I chose three of the most important characteristics we wanted our kids to develop and created our motto based off of those three things:
"Phipps are Kind, Phipps are Obedient, Phipps are Brave,
 and Phipps like spicy food!"
The latter part of the motto came along when our girls would label any type of food they didn't like, "spicy." So we started saying, "Phipps like spicy food. Eat up!"
We recite our motto every night before bed after we say family prayers. We usually try to put all of our hands on Edison's head, just for fun, but he usually wiggles away.

Snuggle Time

This year I started a tradition of having a "snuggle time" with each of my kids about once a week. They get to stay up a few minutes extra for a story of their choice, some delicious tea, and one-on-one with mom. They get to stay up later, I get some relaxing tea and snuggles; it's a win-win. We always end with our secret handshakes, which are getting longer and more complicated with time:)

Family Trophies
 These are our family trophies. Their purpose is to reinforce our family motto and reward our kids for their extra efforts during the month to be kind, obedient, and brave. It's a great opportunity for positive reinforcement. I even keep a notebook where I take note of good behavior so we can read out loud what they did specifically to earn the trophy (sometimes I forget to write it down and just pretend to read, relying on my memory). Dad is in charge of handing out the trophies and he makes it a really big deal. We give them out at family night once a month and our kids seriously act like they just received an Emmy, gracing us with a bow and a big smile as we applaud loudly!
 It's not always perfect. Charlotte (in the middle) is pouting here because she really wanted the Obedience trophy. (And I will explain why Eloise is dressed as a Nephite in just a minute).
 Eloise with her Kindness trophy.

Phippsite Nite
(Definition of "ite":a suffix of nouns denoting especially persons associated with a place, tribe, leader, doctrine, system, etc.)
 In January of this year, we started a tradition of having PHIPPSITE NITE on the last Monday of every month. We are currently reading the stories in the Book of Mormon every night with our children and Phippsite nite is an opportunity for them to get dressed up in robes and blankets and act out those stories. We keep it really simple and so far, it's been a hit.

This is the story of wicked King Noah (my husband, in my pink robe) and Abinadi (Hazel, preaching adamently).

There are so many fun things you can do that really don't take too much planning and/or effort to get started. My trophies were around $7 each online and the personalized engravings were free. Snuggle time really only takes ten to fifteen minutes extra and oftentimes we don't finish the tea and I'll let them take it to bed in a sippy cup. We've recently started a family movie night on Friday nights where we have pizza (Freschettas from the freezer folks), Rootbeer, and a family classic I find at the library.

Of course it could be easy to go overboard with traditions, especially the ones that surround holidays. My philosophy is that if it causes me more stress than fulfillment, it's not worth it. I've found that my kids cling to these traditions already and will remind us about them if we ever forget.

"Kids need to feel ownership or equity in their own family. If they feel like unvalued, unconsulted employees or like pawns on a chessboard, both their security 
and their sense of responsibility will suffer" p.44

Hoorah for a healthy family culture. Hope you got some good ideas.
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  1. Janelle this is magnificent!! Thanks for the recommendation! You have taken some good ideas and not only made them better but deliberately focused on making them work on your own family!

    Congrats on changing the trajectory of your family! Good luck with your mini retreat! You have so much to give!

  2. Thank you so much for this review Janelle. I do need to work on creating traditions for my own little family. Right now the only tradition we've got going is Sam's club and rewarding Acalias with a whole slice of pizza:) It amazes me how much he enjoys our weekly trip to the store and it all started because I had severe morning sickness and my energy level was too shot after shopping to make dinner.
    I've been thinking about you! I hope all is well. You are such an inspiration, I know all your children will grow up to be just as amazing as you!

  3. Thanks for the review! Sounds like a great book that I might go and purchase now. Yesterday my middle child demanded snuggle time with me; I was just thinking how I should spend one-on-one time with each kid once a week. Some of our traditons include camping in the living room every Friday night (just the kids), poetry tea-time once a week where we each get a book of poetry, a picnic blanket, and a bowl of popcorn, go outside and take turns reading poetry to eachother. Of course family scripture, prayer, song, and a story from the Friend every morning. And I read to them every night from a history book. Homeschooling brings a lot of traditions into our home. If we're lucky, we spend Thanksgiving in our pajamas and decorate the Christmas tree; those have always been our favorite Thanksgivings. Just some more ideas!

    1. Heidi: I love your traditions! What fun ideas. Sure wish we lived closer (as always).

  4. This is really inspiring Janelle! I'm sending this to my husband now...

  5. oh janelle. i really needed to read this post. it is so inspiring! i would love to attend one of your retreats sometime - the 31st we are moving! but hopefully another time. in the meantime, i will reread this post over and over again to help keep it fresh in my mind - the simple things i can do to help create culture in my family. thanks again!