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How to Stop Entitlement in Your Children
As a Christian mental health therapist and a mom of two, entitlement is a topic that I discuss often!
The definition of entitlement is the fact of having a right to something. So then a sense of entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
As a whole, our society has shifted to an entitlement mentality. The result has then become adults and children who have terrible work ethics. They also struggle with responsibility and maturity. Plus, a poor understanding of finances and money management. In reality, they’re skill level is not much higher than an infant or toddler demanding things.
Harsh. I know.
But I see my clients struggling tremendously. They either do what they can to maintain an entitlement attitude which doesn’t benefit them. Or they have to learn a crash course in responsibility because their relationships are not going well and/or their finances are in shambles.
This is not what we want for our children!
So below are tips and tools to use to teach your children to avoid a sense of entitlement!
Needs versus Wants
Exodus 16:21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.
The definition of need is a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism. For a human that is food, water, shelter, and clothing.
The definition of want is to have a strong desire for or to have an inclination to.
To help teach the difference between need and want with my young clients, we will make a chart with two columns. I have the child list of the needs in his life and then all of his wants. When the child comes up with something they believe is a need but is actually a want, I ask, “What was life like before you had…?” “Were you able to survive?” The answer is always “yes” so we put it under the want column. The children are usually a bit dismayed by how little the “needs” category is in comparison to their “wants”.
Another powerful example of need versus want that I have recommended families do is to look up the type of food and amount of food that a third-world country consumes in a day. Then for one Saturday or Sunday I tell the family to replicate that amount in their home.
I have also recommended “no electronics” for a week for the whole family to abide by.
There are multiple other examples and experiments that can be done within the home so teach (and remind us parents) the difference between needs and wants!
Teach the Concept of Money
Luke 14:28 Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?
If a child doesn’t understand the concept of money it is then understandable for them to ask for multiple items in the toy section, clothing section or junk food aisle. They don’t get how much money the items actually are in reference to how long it might take for you and/or them to make that money working. They also then don’t understand the priorities of money – tithing, bills, food, etc, then extras!
My husband and I bought Financial Peace Jr. for our son. Our daughter is a little young but we’ll start it with her soon, too. I’ve recommended it to my clients as well. It’s great at teaching the importance of tithing as well as paying for “needs” first with wants being last. It also talks about the importance of saving and only buying the items you can afford.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Chores are important for our children to complete to help them understand responsibility. There are also two kinds of chores that both serve a purpose.
Obligatory chores are the jobs and tasks that are expected of your children just simply because they are a member of the family. Every family may have a different opinion as to what they put on their child’s obligatory list. Our kids (age 8 and 5) are required to make their beds (with help), put their clothes in their hamper, take their dirty clothes to the laundry room on laundry day, help sweep, help vacuum, help unload and load the dishwasher, help set and clear the table, help clean bathrooms, pick up toys and keep their rooms clean(-ish).
In our family we use these Melissa and Doug responsibility charts. We have two, one for each child. They hang on the wall on our staircase. The chart has pre-made chores but also empty magnets to be able to add in your own. Some of the magnets are also focused on manners and/or social skills. Again, these are chores our children are just expected to do. We may set up or designate when they need to complete the chore and on what days.
Paid chores are then jobs and tasks that your children can choose to do to earn money. These are jobs that someone has to do but aren’t required for the house to run smoothly. For example, the dishes have to get done or you will eventually run out of clean dishes which is why dishes are part of the obligatory list. But, picking up dog poop is something that needs to get done but not imperative.
It is recommended to make paid chores a choice because your child is going to need to make the choice to work when they are older. The natural consequence of working is having money. Versus if you are trying to force your child to do paid chores, it becomes difficult to know if they are completing the job because they don’t want a negative consequence or because they are choosing responsibility and gaining the reward of getting paid.
Proverbs 11:25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Volunteering teaches compassion and empathy for others without monetary gain. It reinforces God’s desire for us to love and care for others. Sadly, compassion and empathy is also waning as far as our society as a whole is concerned. People are much more concerned about what or how they are going to benefit from a situation rather than doing something positive just because it’s good.
Volunteering is also important for children to be in situations where other people are less fortunate than them. These situations are teaching opportunities for parents to help their children recognize the blessings they have in their life and to be thankful for all that they have.
Every city and town has volunteer opportunities at the local level at homeless shelters or food kitchens. Most churches also have compassion ministries in their area as well as missions trips. See what your town and church offers. I would recommend the whole family participate in the volunteer event to encourage conversation afterwards.
Tell Your Child “No”
The entire book of Job is a hard and beautiful lesson on handling distress and disappointment (to put it mildly)!
As parents we want our children to have more than us! We want them to be successful and happy. But we also can run the risk of aiding their sense of entitlement if we give in to their every whim! I promise you your child will survive without the latest smart phone, video game system, pair of shoes, and junk food item!
It is important for your child to experience distress and disappointment so they can learn how to handle and manage the emotion. If they don’t and they are catered to throughout the childhood they are going to have a rude awakening once they move out. This is also why so many young adults aren’t moving out! They don’t know how to take care of themselves or be responsible!
We don’t like to cause our children distress! I know! It also would be way easier to just give in and do things for my children because it would definitely be faster and likely less stressful. But I know they aren’t learning anything if I do that.
I sincerely pray that this post meets you where you are today and helps you to address some of the ways that your child may be struggling with a sense of entitlement.