It’s one of my biggest fears —— Raising Entitled Kids.
You know what I’m talking about, we’ve ALL had to deal with them and it seems more and more common these days.
As a former teacher and a mom who has spent a good bit of my life around children, I’ve seen the danger entitlement brings to a child’s life and to our society as a whole. It’s not surprising or a new trend, kids have a natural inclination towards this behavior.
The difference in the last two decades has been in parenting and the expectations, or lack thereof, our culture places upon young people.
It can seem counterintuitive, this standard of requiring more from our children. As parents, we want to protect and shield our kids from difficulty or pain. But what happens when doing so actually harms them more than the original circumstances would?
Holding our kids to a higher standard, setting limits and having appropriate expectations on their behavior, is the secret to raising kids who are more secure, show increased confidence, and are ultimately more successful.
Here are 5 Ways to NOT Raise Entitled Kids
We’ve discussed the Importance of Chores For Children and giving kids age appropriate responsibilities is key in this component of hard work. Teaching our kids to make their beds, do their laundry, and unload the dishwasher are life skills that promote independence and demonstrate the value of learning responsibility. However, this concept of hard work extends beyond just chore charts and setting the table.
Children need to experience the demands of physical labor, like mowing the grass on a sweltering July afternoon or moving furniture up a flight of stairs. It’s not just about doing the easy things, it’s about developing a work ethic and being willing to jump in and help or get the job done no matter what is required.
Many parents today grew up in the era where self esteem became a huge issue. There were 15 different TV talk shows, full of “experts” constantly telling parents that the choices and behaviors that manifested as young adults were often due to a lack of self-esteem and poor parenting by previous generations. Clearly, self esteem is a real issue and I am not discounting it; however, in our efforts as parents to make sure our kids feel special and loved, we’ve gone a tad overboard and created a generation of entitled kids.
Instead of constantly giving your child an endless stream of positive, but generic feedback try being more focused and specific. I know that I’m guilty of sometimes absently mindedly telling my kids “good job” or “I’m proud of you” or even “you’re so smart.”
In some instances, try turning things around and asking your child what they like about their work or what they feel they’ve done well. When you do pay your children a compliment, look for opportunities to praise their effort or their improvement.
You can say things like “I know how hard you studied for that test.” or “I appreciate the effort you showed and look how it paid off.”
Kids from a very early age can recognize authentic praise and it’s been proven that children who are praised just for existing tend to end up narcissistic and risk averse, while children praised for effort and other areas that they have control over tend to be more resilient and successful.
Serving others, on a regular basis, models a lifestyle of empathy and caring for others. I’ve shared several ideas for Raising Kids Who Serve Others and have seen this work firsthand in my family. Letting your kids labor, physically work to help someone else, is a powerful thing. Giving up personal comfort and time can change a kid’s outlook.
You can have them pack meals for the hungry, help a neighbor with mowing or landscaping, deliver meals to the elderly or participate in a walk/run/bike ride for a charitable organization you support.
Besides structured events, there are even little ways to encourage a heart for service like picking up trash around your neighborhood on a walk or returning carts to the corral at the grocery store.
The purpose of all these things is to teach our children the principle of thinking of others and placing value on their well being, rather than thinking about oneself. It is one of the best ways to fight entitled kids!
This can be difficult to model because it’s going to require sacrifice on the part of the adults involved, too. Giving to charity out of our excess is a good and noble thing to do, but it may not be impacting our kids the way we think it is.
When there is no change or sacrifice on the part of your family, life continues as normal, even with your charitable giving. There’s no real understanding of giving when your standard of living is not affected.
I have a friend that decided to turn off her hot water heater for a month, just to see what type of savings her family would experience on their electric bill. By giving up warm showers for a few weeks, their family saved $75. This was enough to purchase a water filter system for an at risk family in a 3rd World country. Now, the family could’ve just given the $75, but by sacrificing their personal comfort, even for a short period of time, a lasting impression was made on every family member and an actual change in perspective occurred.
Maybe your family decides to take a 4 day vacation versus a 7 day one, perhaps your family gives up cable TV for a year, or decides not to eat out on Friday nights. Finding a way to sacrifice gives your kids an experience they otherwise wouldn’t have and can leave a lifelong impression on their character.
Don’t Bail Them Out
Depending on your parenting style, this can be a hard one. Consistently “fixing” our kid’s mistakes teaches them they’re entitled to expect others to stop in their tracks to repair issues they themselves have created.
For example, my elementary school aged son forgets his lunchbox at home. Do I bring it to school or let him deal with the consequences? In our family, we have a “one and done” policy: the first time you forget your lunch, I’ll drop it at school for you, after that, you’re on your own.
My kids know that I won’t bring homework or projects to the school if they forget them either. I’m not doing this because I’m lazy or mean; I want them to learn responsibility and accountability and experience is a teacher like no other.
Letting kids experience the discomfort of natural consequences is key if you’re looking to banish entitled kids. Plus, we also need to remember that helping them to learn this lesson young means that they experience far less harsh consequences. As they get older the fall-out could be far worse and we may not be able to bail them out.
Great books to help you avoid raising entitled kids:
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What have you done to NOT raise entitled kids?