HELP! I’VE GOT ENTITLED KIDS!
Help! I’ve got ENTITLED kids!
Overwhelmed in Omaha
Dear Overwhelmed in Omaha,
Your problem of entitled children is sadly all too common. We’ve all been there! In fact, it’s one of the most common complaints we hear about from good, intentional parents just like you. Entitlement is one of the vices of the character strength of gratitude which can result when kids don’t have enough gratitude or appreciation for all that they have in their lives and all that you and your spouse do for them in a single day. Good for you for recognizing that this obstacle is limiting your kids and family.
Never fear, there are little things you can actually begin today that will help your children to become less selfish and tap into more gratitude... banishing that entitled attitude in no time.
Engage Your Kids’ Imagination in a World Without…
Many children haven’t ever experienced a single moment of deprivation. That’s good, right? Thanks to you, their rosy little lives don’t know what it’s like to go without anything. They deserve love, kindness and respect, but… giving in to Johnny and Janey’s every single whim can be harmful to them. They can easily become conditioned to thinking they deserve whatever they desire as their birthright. Consider having a family meeting to discuss going without something for a day, week, or (gasp!) month. There’s an ancient tradition in the Catholic church called Lent, prescribed as a way to make us properly order all the good things in our life—God being the number one. Lent’s over, but even if you’re not Christian you can still take advantage of this age-old wisdom. Try giving up one meal a week for just a bowl of rice. Or if that’s too tough, try going without unnatural light (lamps, overhead lights, etc. including screens, and TV’s) for one night a week. Maybe go without all desserts for a couple weeks. Forgo milk and sugary drinks for water for a whole week. Engage your family and talk about what that feels like. And celebrate when the deprivation is over! My family went without electric, artificial light for Holy Week and what an amazing, thought-provoking experience it was for all of us. This is a creative way for families to experience going without while beginning to consider all that they have compared to others around the world.
Say NO to Allowance
It’s just too easy for kids to get the wrong message on this one. It shouldn’t be a given that they get money for doing daily tasks which every member of a functioning family needs to be doing. Daily tasks are jobs like making beds, setting the table, loading/unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming/sweeping, putting clothes away and in the hamper. But you could have a list of bigger chores that you could assign a monetary amount to—say, picking weeds, washing a car, shoveling snow, organizing a small area of the house, doing laundry. You can pick chores that are age appropriate and pay them accordingly—not exorbitantly! But don’t underestimate your kids’ abilities which will adversely affect their own self-esteem down the road.
Instead of Saying Yes…
Say, “Yes you can as soon as you’ve…” When kids ask for screen time, sugary snacks, or any other daily perk imaginable, be prepared to answer with this. Why? It is a positive response that is also very realistic. Delayed gratification is good for the soul! “You may have a small sugary treat as soon as you’ve had a piece of fruit or some veggies.” Or “You can certainly have some screen time as soon as you’ve gotten your room in order and done some daily tasks.” This re-enforces the idea that kid’s need to be contributing to their own health and well-being as well as the whole family’s before satisfying their desires. And don’t forget to flex that NO muscle! Kids won’t shrink like delicate flowers if they’re told no. Not only can they handle it, you’re preparing them for their future. Learning to navigate a “no” is so important for a child’s development.
Tap into More GRATITUDE daily
Gratitude is the perfect antidote to entitlement. Have your kids make a daily gratitude intention that they write on a post-it note for everyone to see. Remind them to think about that person or thing when they hit a struggle or an obstacle. It’s fun if the whole family participates over breakfast. Then, at dinner time, discuss how everyone did. Ask questions about why they chose what they did. How did it help their difficult moments? And were there opportunities to express that gratitude? If you’re thankful for outdoor time, did he/she get enough of it? If you’re grateful for your sister, did you send her a note about how cool she is or help her with a task? And start giving thanks before each meal. These actions help ritualize gratitude into our days.
While all kids will feel the pull to selfishness and entitlement regularly (that’s normal), they’re looking to us to offer a firm foundation of strong character that they can always fall back on and build upon. We can do that by lovingly forming their behavior and habits with little actions and intentions which, overtime, lead to real transformation. You’ve got this, “Overwhelmed!”
If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at Hello@FamiliesofCharacter.com. If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together!
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