Preventing Entitlement, Cultivating Gratitude
How often do see children at stores asking for things? Toys? Candy? A special item? If mom or dad says “no”, the child will beg, cry or, worse, tantrum. If mom or dad says “yes”, the child is temporarily happy, until they come upon the next thing they want. The child is learning they can get what they want just by asking – nothing else required.
How often is this us with our children?
Parents are constantly challenged by their children’s requests and it can be difficult to NOT raise an entitled child (or a spoiled brat).
We are literally programmed as parents to give our children what they ask for – when our babies are born they cry: for food, to be held, to be changed. And we do it – because
it is the right way to care for our new babies.
But as they get a little older and start talking, they ask for specific things that they want – not just need. Every time they go to the store, they ask for whatever they want in the moment – maybe a new toy, candy, an item of clothing. We want them to be satisfied, so we often say “yes”, thinking it is only a few dollars and avoiding a tantrum in the store.
What we don’t realize is that we are reinforcing the programming and taking it beyond meeting our children’s needs. We now are teaching our children that we will take care of everything (their needs and wants) – and they don’t need to earn anything.
Out of love, we often overinvest in our children’s outcomes to ensure their success, comfort, and happiness. We don’t realize that by giving in to most of their requests, we deny them the opportunity to make their own decisions, learn from their own mistakes, and build their own resilience. We remove their opportunities to feel the pride of earning what they want or meeting their own needs.
We create an environment where our children feel entitled. When they grow up into young adults, they won’t have the resilience necessary to get through obstacles, and they experience greater struggles.
Some early signs of an entitled child are:
Needs a treat or toy to get through the store.
Expects a reward or bribe for good behavior.
Never fully satisfied – always wants more.
As the child gets a little older, more issues can arise:
Doesn’t help around the house without being asked or bribed.
Blames others when something goes wrong.
Believes the rules don’t apply to them.
Expects to be rescued from their mistakes
Can’t handle disappointment.
The good news is we can consciously choose to parent differently. We don’t need to
give in to every request. We don’t need to resolve every problem. We can allow our children to experience the feeling of disappointment. We can give them a safe space to make their own mistakes and learn that they can fix them. We can let them experience the pride of earning what they want and the power of effort, determination and diligence.
Cultivating gratitude in our families is a powerful way to turn what we have into enough. We can model gratitude for all we have in our own lives – our family, our jobs, our friends, our homes, the activities we do. By teaching our children gratitude, they can appreciate what they already have.
Using these techniques, we can raise our children to be capable, responsible and resilient adults.