How to Raise a Responsible, Self-Aware Child in an Age of Entitlement

Child helps parents do dishes after mealAs parents, we always want to do what is best for our children so they grow and develop into healthy, happy, responsible, self-aware adults. Every day, parents are tasked with making numerous large and small decisions which significantly influence how a child develops. Talk about a big responsibility, right? So it is understandable factors such as stress, time, guilt, and exhaustion sometimes lead parents to turn to unhelpful strategies to address different situations and meet various needs. The problem is, over time, these unhelpful parenting strategies often accumulate and lead to children developing unwanted behaviors and attitudes. These behaviors and attitudes may include a sense of entitlement.

In recent years, many parents and non-parents alike would agree there has been a rise in children with entitled attitudes. Most of us know at least one kid who fits the bill. These are the kids who won’t lift a finger to help, who seem to think the world revolves around them, who are frequently heard saying “I want it now,” and who rarely show gratitude or empathy. And while it might be nice to be able to place the blame elsewhere, this rise in entitlement may be due in large part to parenting choices. For her part, Donna Jones, a contributing writer for the Christian website Crosswalk, believes entitlement is not only a function of giving our kids too much “stuff,” but also not providing them with the things they really need, like guidance, wisdom, and direction.

As a therapist, I often meet with parents who are fed up with their child’s behavior and entitled attitude. They are confused and frustrated by their child’s behavior because they feel they have always been there for their child and have given them everything they could have ever wanted. And that, right there, might be the problem. Parents these days are often too permissive. There is a fear of saying no to kids, making them mad, or letting them fail. There is also a sense it is the parent’s duty to make a child “happy” at all times.

These parental attitudes may lead to kids being raised with lower expectations, fewer boundaries and rules, and parents who will swoop in and fix any problem they have. As a result, kids may indeed be growing up to believe the world really does revolve around them and that rules and consequences don’t apply to them.

As parents, it is important to remember that our decisions influence the type of child we raise. If we want to raise responsible, unentitled children, there are things we need to do.

1. Teach Empathy

Empathy is an important skill for children to learn. Developing empathy in your child helps them to understand, respect, and value the viewpoints of others. Being able to see things from another’s perspective can go a long way toward helping your child put their own needs and wants into perspective.

2. Teach Patience

While advancements in technology have been helpful in many ways, they have also caused us to grow accustomed to instant gratification. Many kids already struggle with patience, so this increased availability and immediacy of information and resources can reinforce an “I want now, I get now” mentality. As parents, it is important to teach kids the value of patience.

How can you do this? Set limits and create opportunities for kids to look forward to something. For example, maybe your child can’t get their ears pierced until they are 13 years old, or get video games until they are 10. On a smaller scale, you can create a schedule that has your kids wait until after homework or dinner to play with their toys. Again, the lesson is we can’t always get what we want when we want it.

3. Teach the Value of a Dollar

We love to see our kids happy. What makes our kids happier than getting what they want when they want it? While it may be hard to resist the urge to splurge on your kids, it is important to teach them the value of a dollar. Helping kids understand the value of money helps them to become less entitled. There are many ways to teach this value, but here are two helpful tips:

  • Have your kids start earning money at a young age. Able-bodied/minded kids should probably have a certain level of unpaid responsibility at home. However, it can also be helpful and rewarding for them to have optional responsibilities that allow for the earning of money. This may teach them that obtaining money takes work. It may also give them some financial freedom to save or to buy certain things they want. This can be empowering for kids and give them a sense of pride.
  • Give a shopping allowance. How many times have you seen children screaming and crying at the store because they desperately want that game or toy? Should we blame them? Not really. Even adults get disappointed when they want something but can’t afford it. The difference is kids have not yet learned how to manage those strong emotions and tend to communicate their disappointment with tears and yelling. One way to help avoid this is by giving your child a set, small amount of money when you go to the store and allowing them to make decisions about how they spend it (or whether to save it). By doing this, you are encouraging independence, empowering them to make their own choices, and again, working to prevent the “I want, I get” mentality. It is also important to facilitate a conversation about decision making and problem solving as they decide how best to spend their money.

4. Instill a Sense of Responsibility

There are so many ways to teach responsibility. Here are some examples:

  • Give age-appropriate chores at home.
  • Encourage participation in extracurricular activities.
  • Get your child involved in volunteer opportunities.
  • Allow your child to make age-appropriate decisions.
  • Give your child age-appropriate independence.
  • Don’t overdo for your child.
  • Set age-appropriate expectations.
  • Hold your child accountable for their actions and choices.
  • Encourage commitment, follow-through, and appropriate responses if your child must break a commitment.
  • Teach the difference between privileges and rights.

5. Teach Your Kids to Be Grateful

It is so important for kids to recognize and value the things, people, and opportunities they have. You can do this by modeling courteous behavior, showing others respect, and giving back to society. You can help your child gain a broader perspective of the world they live in by getting them involved in giving back. A good way for kids to do this is by volunteering and donating unused or unwanted things.

6. Set Limits and Enforce Rules

As mentioned above, permissive parenting may be one of the biggest contributors to an entitled attitude. Kids benefit from rules and limits. While saying “yes” in the moment may feel better for you and prevent meltdowns, ultimately you may be doing a disservice to your child. It is important for children to experience disappointment and frustration so they can develop the skills necessary to cope. When rules aren’t enforced, kids may get the message they can make their own rules.

As parents, we want to protect our kids, make them happy, and prepare them for the world. These desires can often lead to parenting strategies that might feel good in the moment, but ultimately foster a sense of entitlement in children. As parents, it is important to remember we play a crucial role in whether our child grows into an entitled adult or a responsible, kind, and socially conscious one. By following some of these tips, you may be able to help your child develop important life skills and values.

Reference:

Jones, D. (2016, June 20). 5 ways you are teaching your kids to be entitled. Retrieved from http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/5-ways-you-are-teaching-your-kids-to-be-entitled.html

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Katelyn Alcamo, LCMFT, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 7 comments
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  • Loretta

    Loretta

    July 10th, 2017 at 7:31 AM

    Mine learned the most about how good they had it in this life by observing first hand how much different they lived from other people across the world.
    They have been able to do a lot of traveling and have been on mission trips near and far.
    I will not say that this always kept them grounded, but it did go a,long way toward helping them see that no matter what they believe that they are lacking, when it comes to so many others, we are blessed in what we do have.

  • Ellis

    Ellis

    July 10th, 2017 at 4:31 PM

    No matter how much you have or don’t have I think that kids should be taught that we are all in this together and that means everyone doing what their fair share is. This starts out with small things at home and then translates into the bigger things as we go older and go out into the world. If kids are given the feeling that they never have to work for anything that they have gotten do you really think that they will ever want to?

  • maddiE

    maddiE

    July 11th, 2017 at 7:58 AM

    ENTITLEMENTS? NO WAY, WE WORK FOR WHAT WE GET

  • AB

    AB

    July 11th, 2017 at 1:52 PM

    Was hoping for an elaboration on how to teach empathy. The other sections have actionable suggestions, but not that one.

  • Kate

    Kate

    July 12th, 2017 at 6:51 AM

    Hi AB,
    That is great feedback. Here are some tips that are helpful in teaching kids empathy.
    1. Be a role model: Be aware of how you are interacting with your child and others and make sure that you are modeling respect, care, and kindness.
    2. Teach kids about feelings: Use everyday opportunities to teach kids about different feelings. You can read books, use TV shows, yourself, others, etc. to teach different emotions. Help them identify how people are feeling based on their body language, facial expressions, and words. Help your child identify their own emotions by labeling them and empathizing with them.
    3. Teach perspective taking: Again, use books, TV, and real life situations to teach your kids how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. For example, if they take a toy from a friend, ask them to identify how their friend is feeling based on their reaction and work to help them come up with a way to work through the situation. You can also ask them to reflect on how they feel when a peer takes their toy.

    Hope those are helpful!

  • Sierra

    Sierra

    July 13th, 2017 at 1:09 PM

    If you have the means then I think that even just traveling to another part of your city or state can be a real eye opener for many kids, especially for those who have never had to want for anything in their lives. It gives them a real opportunity to see the way that others live and hopefully will give them some true vision that they are not lacking in too many ways when it comes to how others even in such close proximity to them live.

  • Thomas

    Thomas

    July 17th, 2017 at 2:15 PM

    I will admit that my wife and I have pretty much always given our children anything that they want or ask for. She and I both grew up very poor and we have had a chance to do more with our children than what we had so we have done it.
    On one hand it feels good to know that they have never had to yearn for something that was so out of reach when they were young like we did. On the other hand, I think that it taught both of us a lot about working hard, and I am afraid that my own children may have lost that work ethic that I have always tried to live by.
    As you can see I really do struggle with maintaining that right balance.

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