How to raise grateful children in an entitled world

Over the past decade or so, the world has drastically shifted in regard to entitlement and the way we perceive life around us. This is primarily due to social media, the changing dynamics of our relationships and interactions, and what is being fed to people through media. So if you are reading this, we challenge you to first look deep inside yourself and ask whether you walk around feeling entitled – as if you deserve privileges and special treatment because of your job, bank account, or otherwise.

If that is the case, then be open and willing to examine your own life first before wondering why they may seem to have the “entitlement syndrome.” Ask yourself if the behavior your kid’s display are behaviors and actions that reflect you as a parent. Hence, check your own heart first, as entitlement begins with you as a parent.

Comprehension of privileges

All parents are guilty of rewarding or “bribing” their child into doing something for a treat or something special. Whether it is a piece of candy while potty training or getting dessert if they eat all their vegetables, this incentive seems like a win-win scenario. Your child complies with what they are being told to do, hence they get a candy.

However, if you keep repeating this reward system repetitivly, your child will come to expect the candy, rather than view it as a reward. And when you suddenly remove that reward, your child will begin whining, crying, perhaps even throwing a tantrum, creating other forms of unwanted behavior.

The problem here is the failed expectation setting.

I want you to think about this: entitlement begins when we forget that our extracurricular activities and things that we have are actually privileges in life, not expectations.

  • A shipment that takes several days after placing an order online
  • Slow food service at a restaurant after having ordered
  • No WiFi service at the cafe

All these things have become so ingrained in society – expedited shipping, free WiFi, and fast turnaround on serving your food, that these incentives that companies used to gain a competitive edge are now simply considered norms – as they have fused into cultural expectations.

To begin shifting your child’s mindset (regardless of age), and perhaps you as an adult may need to do this exercise on your own first, however, sit down as a family and openly list by writing down the privileges your family gets to enjoy.

  • Tennis lessons
  • private kindergarten
  • swimming classes
  • visits to the cinema
  • getting ice cream
  • streaming Netflix

Whatever they may be, list them out and speak about them. While this may sound completely insignificant, this simple exercise will have an impact on your children. At the very least, it reminds them of their privileged life vs what others may not have. It shows that you as a family are fortunate enough to do or have certain things.

It is our job as parents to teach and convey to our children the important difference between wanting something and needing something, as well as privileges and expectations.

Daily gratitude

Having worked together as a family and listing all the privileges you enjoy, no matter how long or short that list may be, your children can now visually see all of those things that they can appreciate. However, just like motivation comes and goes, the same is true for gratitude.

As we go about our busy days with work, school, friends, relationships, and activities, we tune back to that “normal life” and forget about the fact that we are privileged to carry out a certain activity or thing. Even after you have done the exercise, your kids will probably be arguing about something as small as who gets to pick something on Netflix.

This is why, just like when training a move repetitively in sports, one must train the mind repetitively to be grateful. That is why it is important to take the time to practice gratitude every day. Not just on major holidays.

Gratitude starts with you as a parent. If you want to raise children that are grateful, you need to display that gratefulness graciously by genuinely modeling it.

Here are a few thoughts on how to do that:

  1. Write. In a notebook, list the things you are grateful for every day. Write down three. When you think about what you are writing, there is a powerful connection between what is being written and the effect it has on your brain.
  2. Talk. Take the time to talk about gratefulness every day. Whether at the dinner table or as a family while driving somewhere. Read your journal out loud or ask your children to read what they wrote. Speak about what you have been grateful for the day and ask them the same. Thank them for something they did, like putting the dishes away, or acknowledge that you appreciate them following directions you gave earlier.
  3. Read. Whether it’s a spiritual or religious book, read offline. Not scrolling through Facebook. Take the time to read and improve your skill set. Teach your children to take the time and read and dive into stories and appreciate that moment.

Gratitude must become ingrained into your family culture if you want to raise kids that are appreciative. You must incorporate the above aspects of “spiritualism”, thinking, and talking about gratitude in your home regularly, hence, daily.

Teach your children all about finances and money

This is a massive one when it comes to entitlement, and the way society today portrays success and status. The problem is many people do not even know the full cycle of money, the value of it, how to go about with it, and utilize it to the fullest. Most understand that it needs to be earned and can then be saved or spent, however, to raise grateful children in an entitled world, you need to teach your children about the value of money.

The big problem in nearly every country is that schools will only teach the face value of what money is. This is 1 euro or this is a 10 dollar note, however, beyond that, the system is broken. Children do not learn how to work for it or what to do with it once they have earned it. That is your job as a parent if you want your child to be more grateful and less entitled.

Children need to understand not only the value of money, but that money does not equate to entitlement. Understanding that money is used for needs, then for wants, is important. Working for money, instilling a sense of accomplishment and drive, to earn that money and then to give, save, and spend that hard-earned money, closes the loop of entitlement and having whatever I want attitude because my parents can afford it.

Therefore, regardless of whatever tactic you may use at home, giving your children responsibility, showing them ways to earn money, saving it, or spending it at an early age will go far more in life than simply giving or getting them whatever you or they think they need. Helping them understand these basic principles, rather than feeling like everything should be handed to them, will have them walk through life more appreciative of life itself – hence, gratitude.

Put them to work

Today, everything is handed to many children, especially in privileged households, and even parents do not necessarily think about the concepts of this and what it conveys in regard to entitlement and gratitude. However, one of the best ways to raise kids without entitlement is to put them to work, in other words, “chores”. Children are capable of doing a lot of things, even at an early age, whether it is cleaning up their Legos or tidying up their room or setting the table, or mopping the floors. Putting them to work, teaches responsibility, and the difference between entitlement (expectations) and privileges. Carrying out a chore does not necessarily mean a monetary reward. However, it will instill duty and accomplishment into your child.

Regardless of how you carry this out in your household, whether with a star chart, or a cash payment for certain activities, the important thing is that they actually do the work – “earning their keep” and maintaining responsibility.

Expectation setting

Everyone has some sort of expectation setting. Things like:

  • I worked hard all year, so I deserve a vacation
  • I worked out an hour today, so I can eat that piece of cake
  • I completed all my homework so I can watch TV

Yet, let’s set the record straight. We deserve nothing.

This is where the problem begins. The mentality of “I deserve” is something that permeates our culture across generations. However, this is a mentality that needs to be rethought.

Setting expectations is incredibly important when it comes to raising grateful children without the entitled factor. Teaching your children to work for things now that they will want in the future goes further than simply giving it to them. This includes gifts, for example at Christmas. Set the expectation straight that albeit you wanting to give them the entire world, they don’t need it. And this has nothing to do with the display of love and affection. The same goes for things in daily life. Whether screen time or toys or money to go out with friends. Talking and setting the right expectations are key.

Parenting like gravity

You may be thinking, what exactly does this phrase mean? It is quite simple, yet many parents fail at this. It simply means to be consistent in the consequences you hand out for the same offensive behaviors your child repeats. This is the same for siblings and regardless of whether your children are great negotiators or constantly disobey, or carry out behaviors, you do not appreciate, dishing out the same consequences of the same level consistently will have your child realize there is no room to bend rules with you. This means a no is a no and a yes is a yes.

Gravity remains the same, and this also goes for raising entitled children who always get their way. Parenting like gravity also includes the fact that as a parent, you need to stop handing out unrealistic consequences of grounding you for a year or taking all your toys away. No, you won’t. However, (expectation setting up top), setting consequences that fit the offense, and consistently following through with your parenting helps your child understand realistic expectations and the consequences they have. This helps them understand other scenarios too. Whether later in school or in their work life. It also shows them that you as a parent are consistent, build trust, and cuts back on unwanted behavior without a major fuss.

Serving others

While the above points are important to go through consistently, with some things like gratitude and appreciation daily, raising grateful children in an entitlement world also comes with teaching them to serve others. This is important because it shifts the focus off ourselves and towards others – regardless of what that “service” may be. Remember that entitlement is always self-seeking.

It is easy to get caught up in our first-world problems, like not having enough spots for swimming lessons, however serving others shifts the mind from us to them. This is virtually anything from

  • Sharing your lunch with a friend
  • helping an elderly person carry their groceries to the car
  • greeting people in your building and saying hi
  • volunteering at a nursing home
  • giving some food or talking with a homeless person

Doing and teaching this to your children will instill humility and a sense of community. Create a servant’s heart in your child, not for selfish ambition, but to learn and comprehend that what your child has, regardless of what that may be, others are not as fortunate, and looking after the interests of others, selflessly, creates a grateful mind.

Takeaway

Entitlement is something that can be changed. The earlier you begin tackling the topic, the more immersed and appreciative of life your child will be. However, this does not mean that you or your children should not have a sense of accomplishment. Psychologically speaking, it is also healthy to at times feel entitled.

It is a normal part of a child’s development to think that they are the center of the universe. Yet, it is up to parents to help recognize one’s self and equally to recognize and respect the importance of others. It is important to recognize that, for instance, if you feel like you are being mistreated or disrespected to demand that you be treated with compassion or feel that you deserve better than what you are getting. This is called a balance of self-respect with a respect for others.

The author Diane Barth puts it well:

“The belief that we have the right to take care of ourselves and our family, the right to be respected by others, and the right not to be hurt by them are important to psychological well-being.

But the feeling that we are entitled to go to the head of the line or to be given special treatment at all times is not only not healthy, but it is not a particularly productive way to be in the world.”

Therefore, go through the above-mentioned points and see where you and your children stand in life. Do you think you are entitled? What can you do to shift that mindset?

What are things you do for both you and your children or family to ensure you are raising grateful children? Let us know in the comments below.

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