Entitlement is the buzzword of this parenting generation. And while most parents know they do not want to raise an entitled child, they also have no idea what is causing this growing problem among youth. No one looks at the face of their precious baby and could ever imagine them being spoiled or bratty. But when the terrible twos hit, many new parents find themselves questioning if they really know what they’re doing as parents.
Are we, by chance creating an entitled little one without even realizing it?
Well, before you find yourselves worried you’re raising the next poster child for childhood entitlement, let’s take a step back. You are still at the very beginning of your parenting career if your children are still young enough to rock and swaddle at night. But it’s never too early to start healthy parenting patterns that combat entitlement. And it begins with first recognizing what entitlement is.
What is Childhood Entitlement?
Childhood Entitlement is the feeling that the world owes you something.
For a child, it would mean believing that the things they want – like candy, toys, and staying up late with no bedtime – are actually things they need. According to Jean Illsley in her book “How Much is Enough,” when children are left with parents who give too much to them, do too much for them, or do not expect enough of them, entitlement continues to grow.
However, author Matt Haam teaches an easy way to stop this negative pattern by promoting what he calls the “gratitude cycle” – gratitude, growth, and humility— within our homes. The more we practice these simple but profound strategies, the more we raise children responsible for their actions and grateful for what they have been given. Here are some of my favorite tips to do so:
How Do I Stop It From Happening?
Children with high self-esteem are more responsible and less entitled. Because high self-esteem promotes caring for others and being grateful versus believing everyone owes you something. Children with high self-esteem can learn from their mistakes instead of blaming others. An easy way to build self-esteem in a child is to use statements that show your love for the child. For example, “I am so glad you are my son/daughter” or “I love being with you.” You aren’t proud because they did something for you. You are proud of them because they are them.
Gratitude diminishes entitlement. So make it a regular daily practice with your children to have them identify one thing they are thankful for each morning when they wake up, at mealtime, or before bed. Then, have them explain to you why they like it. And then share something you are thankful for too. Another great way to practice gratitude is to buy thank you notes and have children send notes when someone does something nice for them. It’s hard to overlook the good around you when you take the time to notice it.
Give Age-Appropriate Chores
Parents make the mistake of assuming chores are about kids making a parent’s life easier by helping around the house. (WRONG.) But if you’ve ever looked at a basket of clothes folded by a child, you realize it just doubles a parent’s work. The reason parents give chores to children is to teach our children responsibility and accountability. Two to three-year-olds are already ready for simple responsibilities like making their beds, putting clothes in the hamper, and helping pick up their messes. There are always simple ways to help children begin to build responsibility around the house.
Set Consistent Boundaries
Children have enough friends. What they need are parents. So set your rules for what’s okay and what’s not and stick to them. For example, if you tell your child they are expected to hold your hand in the parking lot, be consistent with your expectations. Children need to see that your boundaries for them are based on their safety and well-being instead of their emotional demands.
Admitting and owning fault is one of the easiest ways for children to learn accountability. And this starts with us as the parents. When we make mistakes, we need to model what an apology looks like. This helps our children see that apologies are healthy and a necessary part of life. In addition, admitting that no one is perfect helps children be realistic about their shortcomings.
Teach Ownership of Mistakes
Children tend to play the blame game every time something bad happens. This is why stopping this pattern before it starts is so important. So set a simple pattern of how you help your children acknowledge their own role in problems. First, ask each child to say what their role in the fight or disagreement was and what effect that caused. Then ask them to share what they would do to make it go better for them the next time.
Follow Through with Consequences
Children need to know there are consequences when rules are broken or disrespect occurs. When children are warned there will be a consequence, but a parent does not follow through, they begin to learn they call the shots instead of the parent. This teaches them, “I can do what I want without any consequences.”And this leads to childhood entitlement. So if you warn a child they will go to timeout if they continue doing something you’ve asked them to stop and they continue to ignore you, make sure to follow through.
Being a parent is hard. The constant pressure to do the right thing can be debilitating sometimes. But making an effort to raise grateful, responsible, humble children will be one of the best things you can do for yourself and them. You’ve got this, mama!