I think you’ll agree with me when I say that we live in a day and age where many people live their life like they are entitled to more.
We see it in politics where special interest groups are inventing all kinds of new “rights”. It’s evident in professional sports where players are expecting annual salaries far beyond what any normal working person makes in their lifetime.
It should be no surprise that we find the same attitude in our kids.
Did you know that the average child watches over 40,000 commercials a year? This is an investment of 17 billion dollars. Thankfully, you as a parent can reverse this pattern of thought and behavior in your children.
In this article, I will share with you steps you can take to foster gratitude in your kids and keep them from living like they are entitled.
You Are Not Alone
I want to start by saying that you are not alone in your struggle as a parent to teach your children not to live like they are entitled. For many years, our kids have been the captive audience of marketers who have done all that they could to blur the lines between their “wants” and “needs”.
This has never been more evident to us than over the last 4-5 years as our boys entered into middle school and high school. On numerous occasions, Zachary and Trevor have come home and told us that everyone has a smartphone at school.
They have told us again and again that they are looked at as the weird one in their class because of it.
We also felt that same kind of pressure as parents when it came to playing travel baseball. At $2000 a pop, travel sports are just not in the Reynolds’ budget.
A Valuable Lesson
Here is one of the biggest lessons we have learned through both of these experiences: Just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean it’s healthy or necessary for your family.
Did you know that Bill Gates was recently interviewed and asked what he thought about kids owning smartphones? He did not let his kids have a cell phone until they were 14.
For more on kids and media, read my post called How to Better Manage Your Kids Screen Time.
And regarding travel ball: We used to live across the street from a guy who pitched for the Colorado Rockies (the MLB team). He told us that travel ball was 40-60 games a year and most kids got burnt out by midway through high school because of it’s demanding schedule. He never played travel ball, and he made the majors!
This statement bears repeating: Just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean it’s healthy or necessary for your family.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your children is a life-long process. As a parent, it sometimes feels like carving a statue. You are molding your kids one little scrape at a time, and some days you see more of the finished product than others. Here are the things we do on a regular basis to cultivate gratitude:
1. Expose them to the world.
This is rather easy in our family given that we have been in full-time ministry our whole lives.
We also have family who live overseas and minister in difficult places. Zachary, our first born who is 16, is going on a mission trip to Madagascar for 8 weeks this summer. Believe me, a trip like that has a way of changing anyone’s perspective.
I went on a similar type trip to Matamoros, Mexico, when I was his age. My most poignant memories from that time are the little shacks that people there called their houses. Without question, I immediately realized how good I had it and how I sometimes lived like I was entitled to more.
As a wise person once said, there is a direct correlation between a person’s perspective and their level of entitlement.
2. Teach them to work hard.
Cheryl and I have made it our mission since our kids were very young to teach them to work hard. We started by working hard ourselves so that they could see what it looked like. Each of our kids is given daily and weekly chores to do.
These include vacuuming the house, dusting, changing out garbages, sweeping, taking the garbage out and bringing it back in, emptying the dishwasher, putting away dishes, clearing the table after dinner, mowing the lawn, and various other things.
We have chosen not to pay our kids to do these things. On occasion, we will give them a job to do in which we will pay them. Usually, this happens as a result of one them wanting to buy a certain item and not having enough money.
Rather than just give them the money, we create a path for them to earn it.
3. Be careful not to overinflate their egos.
There is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to this.
Why? Because every child is wired differently. Some children are naturally more meek and gentle while others are bold and courageous.
Cheryl and I have joked for years about how different our children are from one another. Without giving too much away, all I will say is that we have one of each and one that is somewhere between the others.
With our “bold” child, we have to remind him on occasion that he will have to work just as hard as anyone else to get what he wants in life and that no one is going to treat him extra special because he’s good looking.
No matter what kind of personality your child has, they will always need encouragement and affirmation.
4. Follow through on consequences for wrong behavior.
This is so important! Have you ever noticed that entitled people act as if they are above the law?
We want to make sure that our kids understand that there are consequences for their actions no matter how rich or famous they will be. Following through with consequences at home is one way we help our kids avoid living like they are entitled. Want to learn more about discipline?
Read my post called How to Better Parent Your Strong-willed Child.
When your kids start getting older, it’s not a bad idea to use a situation reported in the press as a teaching moment for them. As someone who lived in Chicago for many years, one of the best stories for this was the city manager of a little town called Dixon, IL, who embezzled $53.7 million.
Obviously, she was finally caught in her tracks, but it took 20 years!
5. Teach them what God’s Word says about being entitled.
The Bible is the best antidote for anything you or your children will face. While the Bible doesn’t directly use the word “entitled”, it uses a much stronger word that is actually the root of entitlement: pride!
As my title suggests, we live in the “me generation”. While this is true, mankind has always struggled with the deception of pride. In fact, one of the most descriptive verses about Satan uses the word “I” five times in a very short verse.
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:13).
The bottom line is that pride is a sin that all of us have to put to death each day of our lives. Pride has a way of blinding us from reality and taking our eyes off of God.
In fact, do you know what the opposite of pride is? The most common answer among Christians is humility. Actually, this is not true.
The opposite of pride is humiliation, and this is exactly what will happen to those who embrace pride. An entitled person says, “I am the center of my life!” A humbled person says, “Jesus is the center of my life.”
6. Raise them to be counter-cultural when necessary.
Have you ever sat and thought about the expectations our culture has for your kids? Try it some time. If you are a Christ-follower, you will find that there are a number of differences.
To clarify, we are not raising them to be weird. We just want them to hold to their beliefs and this will naturally make them different at times. As we learned earlier in this article, just because the majority of people are doing it, it doesn’t make it right in God’s eyes.
As you forge ahead in the coming months and years, I hope you will implement these practices into your parenting. Your kids don’t have to grow up with a chip on their shoulder believing that the world owes them everything.
With God’s help, you can cultivate and even celebrate a spirit of gratitude in your children. Without question, your kids will grow up to make the world a much better place.
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