Entitlement is defined as the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something as well as the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).
To some degree, entitlement manifests itself in the heart of every child, as demonstrated by the fact that one of the first words a child seems to figure out how to say is “Mine.”
My seventeen month old daughter can only speak a handful of words, and yet she clearly thinks that she is entitled to her older sister’s toys, making loud (and, if I am honest, often humorous) protest demonstrations when I don’t let her take her desired toy.
With small kids, the coveted items are often toys, tv time, a certain colored bowl or cup their sibling was given instead of them (what is it with kids and their desire for particular eating or drinking items?!) or a certain type of food that makes them willing to throw a complete tantrum when it is denied them.
We may realize that when we give in to these irrational demands and desires we are feeding their belief that they do, in fact, have a right to these items or desires and that they actually deserve them.
But, if you are like me, some days I am so weary by the end of the day that I am tempted to say, like comedian Jim Gaffigan, “What do you want? A helicopter to Cuba?! Fine! Just stay in your room!”
And yet, even in my weariest of moments, I know that this is in direct opposition to what I want to teach my children and instill in their character. So let’s chat about some ways to cure our kids of an entitlement mentality.
1) Nothing is free – I know, this is a shocker. But even things that say “FREE! Take one!” are not actually free. Someone paid for them. Hey, in a sense, even the library isn’t free – our tax dollars pay for it! When they are given a gift, it is a blessing to them and I want them to understand that it cost something for the person who gave it to them.
2) If you want something, work hard for it! – There is no substitute for hard work. While this applies to having money for that new game or dress, it also applies to areas such as sports, friendships, and school.
Am I going to be able to sink a free throw with my eyes closed if I don’t spend hours practicing? Will I be able to give a perfect violin recital if I don’t practice regularly? Will I ever have a deep friendship if I don’t knock on someone’s door or give them a call and ask them to spend time?
3) Some things are truly yours, some things are truly mine – I believe that it is important for even small children to have a few things that are truly theirs. Then they have the opportunity to take care of those items, the freedom to share or even give away those things if they would so desire, and therefore learn about personal ownership.
It’s also equally as important for my three girls to know that Mom’s jewelry box is off-limits to them. They can’t play dress up with my pearl necklace. If one day, when they are older, I decide to allow them to wear that necklace on a special outing, that is my decision. But they can never demand something that is not theirs.
4) We can always have two things: a thankful spirit and a content heart – My children will work hard for many things in their lifetimes, but they will not succeed at everything they work towards achieving. This is part of life. Sometimes, we have to raise our hands to Providence and accept that our idea, desire, or dream is just not working.
Whether you got an A on that test you studied so hard for, or into the college you wanted, you can be proud for the effort you demonstrated, settling in your heart to be thankful and content with what you do have and what has worked out well.
What are some ways that you help guide your children away from an entitlement mentality? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Hard Work photo credit: http://lifeloveandlaughterinalargefamily.blogspot.com/2012/09/think-quotes-its-friday-harvest-of-hard.html