Attitudes of Entitlement: How to Combat Them in You and Your Kids

Understanding Attitudes of Entitlement

In my previous post, Attitudes of Entitlement:  What are they and why should I care?, I made an attempt to describe what attitudes of entitlement were and why they should be of concern to parents, teachers and communities.

There has been a lot written lately about the effects of the increasing trend of attitudes of entitlement in the government arena.  These outlooks are grim and face the same challenges that we as parents face on a much larger scale – mainly lack of motivation to work coupled with the sense of being owed something by either employer, parents or government.  I am not going to address that here on my blog today though in many ways how we handle this issue at home with our own kids will eventually affect what happens in the political/governmental realm.

Today I am going to look at ways that we as parents can help our children learn to take responsibility for themselves, their work and their belongings.  The home is the ideal place to teach the real economy of the world – the harder and smarter I work, the more successful I’ll be.  Not necessarily immediately but over time.   If I work hard on my schoolwork, I will have more time to play.  If I don’t spend my money on frivolous things, I will have money in time of need.  If I work alongside others in an understanding way, they will be more inclined to work with and help me.

Teaching our kids to become responsible for their own belongings, from their treasured iPads and {yes, even} gym socks to their bank accounts will go a long way in helping them to become productive as they grow into adulthood.  Not to mention how much easier this makes life for everyone around the house.  No one likes a whining, complaining person camping out on their ‘rights’ when we are all trying to work together as a team to get ‘the job’ done.

Practical Solutions

Create a strong family culture

The pull of our material culture is strong.  If our kids are gong to swim against the tide, we need to create a culture within our own family that is stronger.  You can shout at your kids and argue and force them to comply with your rules, but it is far better in the long run to create real opportunities for kids to experience what a healthy working environment looks like {whenever possible}; an environment that they feel that they are a valuable part of.  One that they want to be a part of.

Redefine wants and needs

Teaching your kids to understand the difference between wants and needs is a good place to start.  This may seem obvious but interestingly, having grown up in our affluent society, these lines have really become blurred.

Needs are the things that we must have in order to survive, like food, water, clothing and shelter.

Wants are things that we can live without, even though we may have a strong desire for them.

All kids have a right to have their needs met.  The tricky thing for us as parents is where to draw the line in the want category.  When your kids want something that you know that they don’t need, ask them, if they want it or need it.  Financial planners counsel people that are trying to get out of debt in this way.  If the item is a want – they are counseled to wait until they can afford it.  Period.  Finding ways that our kids can earn money for wants will go a long way in combatting feelings of entitlement now and the devastating effects of out-of-control debt later.

Practice thankfulness

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  –Cicero

It has been said that attitudes are caught not taught.  By modeling {and requiring} thankfulness in our homes, we can go a long way in teaching our little guys what an attitude of gratitude looks like.  Attitudes of entitlement are characterized by a lack of gratitude.  There is something alomost supernatural to making a habit of thanks in your daily life.  When my younger kids {prewriting age} are struggling with negativity, I will literally have them sit down and name as many things as possible that they are thankful for.  This always turns their attitudes around {and mine too!}.  My older kids {ages 13 and 14} have started Gratitude Journals where they write down 3 things every day that they are thankful for.  I am endeavoring to count 1000 blessings on this blog on my 1000 Gifts Page.   I can honestly say that I have seen first hand how dramatically a positive and thankful attitude can transform your life.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. —Melody Beattie

Get out and serve

“Service is the only door out of the dungeon of self.”  G.K. Chesterton

Nothing cures selfishness better than getting out and helping others in greater need than ourselves.  Find ways to serve as a family.  It is not as hard as it seems.  From your elderly neighbors to the local homeless shelter,  there are so many who are looking for help.  Most churches have some sort of missionary program.  For those of us living in Southern California, there are numerous opportunities to travel right across our border into Mexico to serve.  Living and working in third world communities is another life changing experience for kids and adults alike.

Teaching financial responsibility

The best and most comprehensive book that I have read on teaching kids a realistic work to rewards scenario is, The Entitlement Trap, by Richard and Linda Eyre.  They have a web site that has a complete overview of their ‘Family Economy’ which is ‘something of a microcosm of a real workplace and market in each of our homes’ which helps to prepare kids to handle the real economic world in the future and to be more responsible and motivated in the world in the meantime.

Beginning around age 8, parents set up a fairly simple way to check each child’s weekly assigned work and money is deposited into their checkbook that they then use to buy things that they want and need {from clothing to toys}.  The book includes all of the instructions on how to establish this system of initiative-building responsibilities that teaches kids to earn money for the things they want.

A Christian Worldview

God doesn’t owe me anything, but He gives me all good things.  I don’t deserve a break today but occasionally I get one.  I don’t owe it to myself to have things that I want but sometimes I can have them.  My kids don’t deserve to get everything they want but occasionally they do.  Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, our tendency towards self-centeredness grows.  So humble yourself before the Lord and realize that without God you are nothing.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6:35-36

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Marianne Sunderland

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  1. Thank you!!! I just ordered the book on Kindle!

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