First, I have to admit that I often feel entitled.
I walk around subconsciously with the belief that I deserve privileges and special treatment. And I don’t say that lightly.
The words are heavy. Just admitting it makes my heart hurt.
You might be thinking, “this lady is about to give me 7 tips about raising grateful kids in an entitled word and she’s admitting guilt herself? Who is this woman?”
But as my pastor always says, “What cannot be acknowledged, cannot be healed.” Recognizing and admitting my own sense of entitlement, allows me to bring it into the light and surrender it to Jesus.
If I am going to raise children void of the “entitlement syndrome”, I first have to be willing to examine my own life and ask myself, “are my kids’ behaviors and actions a reflection of my own?”
As we cover these seven strategies, I encourage you to check your own heart before judging your kids.
Entitlement starts with you.
Next, we should acknowledge that entitlement can be healthy.
According to Psychology Today, entitlement can be a healthy expectation.
It’s a normal part of a child’s psychological development to think that he or she is the center of the universe.
However, it’s up to the parents to help their children recognize that while one’s self is important, it’s equally important to recognize and respect the rights of others.
If you’ve ever been disrespected or mistreated, it’s a healthy shift towards self-respect to demand being taken care of, treated with compassion or to feel that you deserve better than what you’ve been getting. But Author Diane Barth, LCWS says that these individuals eventually need to find a way to balance self-respect with respect for others.
She also goes to share that a certain amount of entitlement is also valuable in adults.
“The belief that we have the right to take care of ourselves and our family, the right to be respected by others, and the right not to be hurt by them are important to psychological well-being.
But the feeling that we are entitled to go to the head of the line or to be given special treatment at all times is not only not healthy, but it is not a particularly productive way to be in the world.”
If you’re feeling a bit convicted by your own sense of entitlement, or your child’s, hope is not lost.
In fact, I believe there are seven ways you can begin raising grateful kids in an entitled world (even if you feel entitled too).
Let’s dive in…
1. Distinguish Privileges
Have you ever rewarded (or should we say bribed) your child to do something for a treat or special prize?
- A piece of candy during potty training
- Dessert if they eat all of their vegetables
- A trip to the toy store after getting good grades
Of course! What normal mom hasn’t?
In the moment, it feels like a win-win. Your child complies. You don’t have to change a pull-up. They get candy.
But if you continue to repeat this reward system over and over again, your child will come to expect the jelly bean, rather than view it as a reward.
When you suddenly take away that beloved piece of candy, you may find your child whining, crying, throwing a tantrum, or some other form of unwanted behavior.
Why? Because failed expectations always lead to an upset.
Entitlement begins when we forget that our extracurricular activities and things that we have are privileges, not expectations.
- What do you mean it’s going to take 5 days to ship my online order?
- Where is my food? Ugh, the service at this restaurant is so slow.
- Can you believe they don’t have wifi?
Expedited shipping, fast service, and free wifi used to be incentives companies added to get the competitive edge. Now, these “extras” have become so common they’re now considered cultural expectations.
To ensure you’re raising grateful kids in an entitled world…
Sit down as a family and write out a list of privileges your family gets to enjoy.
On our list, my kids wrote down…
- drama class
- swimming lessons
- renting movies
- getting ice cream
…to name a few.
While this exercise may sound insignificant, it can actually have a lasting impact or at the very least remind your family of how fortunate you are to be able to do or have certain things.
It’s our job as parents to teach our kids the difference between wants vs. needs and privileges vs. expectations.
2. Practice Gratitude Daily
Now that you’ve distinguished your privileges on paper as a family, your kids can not only reflect but also see a list of all of the things there is to appreciate.
But like motivation, gratitude is often fleeting.
Especially when we tune back in to “life as usual”. I can bet that an hour after you complete the privileges exercise your kids might go back to fighting over the remote.
That’s why it is so important to train your kids to practice gratitude every day.
Expressing thanks and gratitude shouldn’t be limited to the major holidays – you know, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother’s Day (if you’re lucky).
At the beginning of this post, I said, “entitlement starts with you”. The same is true about gratitude. Gratitude starts with you.
If you want to raise grateful kids in an entitled world, you have to make sure you’re modeling a heart of gratitude.
Here are a few practical ways you and your kids can start practicing gratitude daily:
- Fill your cup at the feet of Jesus. By reading God’s Word and praying daily, he’ll restore your soul when you’re weary and celebrate every win no matter how big or small. When your cup runs dry, bring it to the Creator of the Universe; He’ll fill your cup every time.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Phillippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
- Write it down. In a notebook, a planner, on a whiteboard or even your bathroom mirror — list three things you’re thankful for every day. There’s a powerful connection between the stroke of a pen and its effect on your brain and how we think. Paul Bloom, a Yale Psychologist, says…
“With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.”
- Say it out loud (in front of your kids). Whether you read aloud what you wrote in your journal or ask your kids what they were grateful for that day, talk about gratitude.
- Thank your spouse for putting your laundry away.
- Acknowledge your kids when they follow directions.
- Give others grace when people mess up or when a situation doesn’t play out like you expected it would.
If you want to raise grateful kids, gratitude must be a part of your family’s culture. You must pray, think and talk about gratitude in your home regularly.
3. Put Your Kids to Work
When I asked a group of mompreneurs about the things they practice in their home to ensure they’re not raising “entitled kids”, the consensus was unanimous…
Teach kids responsibility through chores.
While nearly every mom who answered agreed chores were important, it was clear the word “chore” took on different meanings in everyone’s household.
- “[My kids] earn their tablet time. They don’t get paid.” – Shannon D.
- “I have the expectation to clean up after themselves and help me around the house. I don’t have a daily chore list with punishments and rewards because that teaches them that they should be rewarded for every little thing.” – Sandy Y.
- “[We use] point systems and charts that I learned from the book MoneySmart Family System. They seem to be working. I took the ideas and added my own for the chores and other things they are required to do each day to earn their points. ” – Susan L.
As for our household, we implement an expectation and commission-based chore chart system.
In a separate post, I talked about our philosophy on chores and include the Customizable Chore Chart & Work For Hire Cards we use.
In a nutshell, we put our system into place because it teaches our kids:
- Expectations – The importance of contributing to the family because it’s your duty and expectation. (There are no monetary or experiential rewards for these tasks.)
- Commissions – The importance of working on tasks or jobs to earn money. Work = get paid. Don’t work = don’t get paid.
Whether you use a system like ours, don’t offer cash payment for chores, or reward your kids in screentime, all that matters is that you put your kids to work.
There are valuable lessons to be learned in having responsibilities and earning your keep (so-to-speak).
4. Teach Your Kids About Money
Raising grateful kids in an entitled world is impossible if you don’t teach your kids about money.
Our schools can teach about the face value of money, but beyond that, they’re not teaching your kids how to work for it or what to do with their money when they earn it. That’s your job as a parent.
If your parents didn’t instill good money habits in you or you feel like you’re not a money expert yourself, consider what these moms are doing…
- “We started raising [our 4 kids] with the mindset that money was a benign, nonemotional tool to use to gain access to their needs first and then wants. ” – Betty R.
- “My kids (4 & 6) have 3 jars on their dressers – Give, Save & Spend. Whenever they get money as a gift they split it among the jars. The money from the save jar goes into their bank accounts, they use the give jar to buy a toy for the toy drive each Christmas and they can spend their spend jar.” – Jill W.
- “My son is 6. If he wants to buy something really important to him, the money comes out of his piggy bank. He’s only allowed 1 toy like this a year. It really challenges him to think about saving vs spending and I find it works out well.”
As for our household…
- We’re using that commission-based chore chart system as a tool to allow our kids to earn money and understand the value of working. When they get a little older, we’ll also show them how they can earn money doing tasks or jobs outside of our home – like mowing lawns, selling used items, and other odd jobs for friends or family. Then when they’re 16, they’ll get a part-time job.
- We also regularly talk about budgeting and reference our budget in YNAB to see if we have room for some of the fun things we want to do. Sometimes we have to say no and show our kids the budget to help our kids understand why.
- Later this year, we also plan to implement the “save-give-spend” system as well. This system teaches kids to live on 80% of what they earn, save 10% for a rainy day and give 10% through tithing or other charities.
Regardless of the specific tactics, you employ at your home, there’s so much value in giving your kids responsibility, showing them ways to earn money, and how to save and spend their money at an early age. Teaching your kids about money can help keep the “entitlement syndrome” at bay rather than feeling like everything should be handed to your kids.
5. Set Realistic Expectations
- I’ve worked hard so I deserve a vacation.
- I did my homework so I deserve screen time.
- I worked out today so I deserve that piece of cake.
Let me set the record straight…we deserve nothing.
Literally, no thing.
This mentality of “I deserve” has plagued my generation (giving us Millennials a really bad reputation) and will permeate throughout the generation we’re raising unless we decide to fight against it.
How do exactly do we fight against the “I deserve” mentality in our youth?
We set realistic expectations in our homes.
Every family is different, but here are some examples of realistic expectations:
1. Teach your kids to work now for things they’ll want in the future.
If your child wants a car after he/she turns 16, let them know at an early age that they’ll have to save for half (or all of it.)
Not able to pay for 100% of your kids’ college education? Help your kids save the money they do earn and talk to them about their future.
2. Limit the number of gifts they get.
At Christmas, my husband and I only buy four gifts for our children to put under the tree- something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need. Even with those limits our kids still get WAAAAY too much around the holidays from Santa and the extended family… but setting those limits is a small start.
For Birthdays, our kids usually only get 1 gift from us as parents. Sometimes we’ll forego a gift in lieu of a birthday party, because, DANG, those can be expensive.
If you feel like your kids are drowning in gifts and want for nothing, consider adding a few limits.
3. Limit the amount of time they spend on screens.
We recently started implementing tighter screentime limits – only 30 minutes on school nights and 2 hours maximum on weekends. (Of course, the kids have to take care of their responsibilities before they can turn the TV on.)
I’ve seen a few parents enforce a list of tasks their kids have to complete in order to earn screen time. That can seem like a great way to combat the over-extended screentime use, but just be careful because this can turn into an “I deserve it” scenario if you don’t keep it in check.
Before I share the next point, I want to go on record and state that I’m no expert on parenting. (Is there even such a thing?) While these suggestions are ways of parenting my husband and I work towards daily, we’re not perfect. And we don’t expect you to be either.
6. Parent Like Gravity
When my son participated in the Landmark Forum for Young People, My husband and I received the best parenting advice ever…
Parent like gravity.
So simple and yet so profound.
Parenting like gravity doesn’t mean “parent every kid the same” or “never extend grace”. Rather, parenting like gravity means handing out consistent consequences for the same offensive behaviors your child repeats.
If you feel like your kids are CIA-level negotiators, constantly disobey or keep doing unwanted behaviors, check to see if you’re handing out consistent consequences.
One way to parent like gravity includes letting your no’s mean no and your yes’s mean yes. If your kids go into negotiation mode, remind them that you already gave them the answer, it’s not going to change and warn them about a consequence if they argue or negotiate again.
Also, we have to stop handing out unrealistic consequences.
“If you don’t eat all of your vegetables, I’ll ground you for a year.” No, you won’t.
Set consequences that fit the offense and allow you to consistently follow through in your parenting. When you don’t follow through it teaches your kids that sometimes you don’t really mean it. (And….cue more unwanted behavior.)
Consistency in consequences can help your children set realistic expectations, build trust in your word and cut back on the unwanted behaviors without a major blow up or whine-fest.
7. Serve Others Regularly
To raise grateful kids in an entitled world, it’s important to shift the focus off of ourselves and onto others because entitlement is always self-seeking.
If you and your kids are never put in a position to see the world outside of your bubble, it’s easy to get caught up in your #firstworldproblems.
Serving others doesn’t have to be monumental like becoming a missionary in a third-world country (although that is a noble way to serve). Serving others can take on many forms like…
- Sharing your lunch with a friend who forgot theirs
- Helping an elderly person put a gallon of milk in their shopping cart
- Greeting people at your church
- Volunteering at a soup kitchen
- Visiting residents in a nursing home
The possibilities are literally endless.
The Bible says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:3-5
Ask God to open your eyes and soften your heart to new opportunities that serve the community. If you want your kids to reflect a servant’s heart, ask yourself “Am I serving others and modeling that behavior for my kids?”
If that sense of entitlement is plaguing your family, it’s never too late to make a change. Remember, you now have 7 tools to start implementing, if you aren’t already using them in your family:
- Distinguish your privileges as a family
- Make gratitude a part of your family culture
- Put your kids to work
- Teach your kids about money
- Set realistic expectations
- Parent like gravity
- Serve others regularly
Now, I’d love to hear from you. In the comments tell me:
- What are some other things you’re doing in your home to ensure you’re raising grateful kids in an entitled world?
- What was your favorite takeaway from this post?