One day, I was telling a woman named Ashley how my daughter always wanted to borrow my clothes, which many see as a form of flattery. I do, too, unless I have to dig through the laundry on her bedroom floor when I want to wear them. That story led to a conversation on entitlement.
“Oh, I know what you’re talking about,” she said. I wondered what she could possibly be referring to since her three kids were just preschoolers. “I wanted to take my little girl on a special mommy-daughter date, so I arranged a babysitter for the boys. I couldn’t wait to tell her about the morning I had planned. I pulled her aside and said, ‘Guess what? Mommy is going to take you on a special date. We are going ice skating, and then we are going to have hot chocolate.’”
Without missing a beat, her four-year-old said, “Is that all?”
As my friend retold the story, I could hear the pain in her voice. She immediately saw the entitlement for what it was and explained to her daughter that she should be grateful for whatever they did together. “Okay,” her little girl said and went off to play, without even understanding that her innocent question revealed her humanity.
Entitlement winds its course through my home, and the more I’ve become aware of its subtle infiltration, the more I see and hear it blatantly. This is all I get? There’s nothing else? From ice cream serving sizes to allowances, the opportunity to demand more is present.
Is that all? I believe these three little words sum up the tone for those of us in most Western cultures. No one teaches us to ask that question or expect more. It’s in our nature.
Just as Romans 3:23 says, “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (NLT). We are sinful and selfish at birth, and babies run parents ragged through long, sleepless nights demanding their needs be met immediately. But at some point, we grow up and begin to understand that the world doesn’t automatically cater to our demands like our parents did. We as parents have to examine the question for ourselves, so we can say to our children with conviction, “Yes, that is all. We don’t need more.”
As discouraging as the task of defeating entitlement in our lives may seem, I’m convinced it can be done. We can turn the tide in our homes and go against the climate in our culture by teaching a more powerful learned behavior—gratitude. It might sound simplistic, but I believe the cure to our kids wanting more starts with teaching them to be thankful for what they already have.
Ask God to reveal to you your own entitlement issues. It’s the best place to start.
In what areas of your life do you struggle with entitlement? Do you put expectations on your spouse or friends or even your children?
Keep a gratitude journal, getting kids to participate too. Or write down the highs from your day and put them in a container at your table. Choose random times to pull out the slips of paper and reflect on the good things in your life.
This is the perfect age to begin teaching gratitude. Toddlers and preschoolers are all about mimicking our behavior. We can show them gratitude by displaying it to our spouses and to them.
Color pictures and give them as thank-you notes to others.
Write blessings on sticky notes and put them on a mirror or fill up a whole window as a family with jotted-down gratitude.
Begin the process of connecting work with reward. Consider putting a job board in the kitchen. It’s a great way to begin teaching kids the correlation between hard work and earning money, and it’s a great way to counteract entitlement.
Make your expectations clear. If you’ve noticed an attitude of entitlement in your tween/teen, talk with him or her about your expectations. Don’t believe the lie that it is too late. If your teen isn’t contributing, let him or her know what you expect.
Don’t engage in a battle. You might need to give reminders and reinforcements of your requirement if it’s new. If your older child won’t cooperate, use Dr. Kevin Leman’s strategy that B (something your son or daughter wants to do) doesn’t happen until A (something you want him or her to do) is completed.
Give your tween/teen the gift of listening. At this age, more than anything, your child wants you to hear him or her (which is different from understanding or even agreeing with your teen).
This is an excerpt from Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.
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