Avoid raising a self-centred child and stop indulging a sense of entitlement at home
Raising a child in the 21st century is not easy. Especially with the constant demands that society place on us. Falling into the entitlement trap can happen so easily. Perhaps you have been oblivious to the fact that you are already in that trap and didn’t see it coming.
As you read the following points listed, think about whether one or even more of these are familiar to you.
Do you have to bribe your children to do something?
Do they expect you to pick up after them or to help them with everything?
If you ask them to do something, do they expect you to reward them?
Does your child manipulate the situation to get what he/she wants?
Must you always remind them to say please or thank you?
They want something because they see their friends have it.
Do you struggle to say “no” to your children? And if you do say “no”, do they become rude, whine and sulk until you change your mind?
Do they expect you to buy them something every time you go to the shop?
Even after you bought them what they wanted, are they still not satisfied and request more?
Are they angry when they lose a game and think that they always deserve to win?
These are all entitlement issues and I’m afraid it starts at home.
I know for a fact that my children have this false sense of entitlement. How do I know this? Well their birthdays are a couple of months away and they are already making a wish list of their “wants” by scanning through catalogues for the latest in technical devices, clothing and toys. They obviously feel that they are deserving of a gift that is expensive. The same applies for Christmas.
Here’s the surprise, we all think that entitlement issues start when children become teenagers. It might peak at this age but it starts when they are much younger.
During the toddler stage, a child starts to develop logical reasoning. As they grow, we give and they accept. Eventually they sense this entitlement to want more and we give more. If we somehow don’t give in to what they want; they act out and threw a tantrum.
The above is all normal child-like behaviour as they grow and develop in each stage of their life. Often children grow out of it when parents set limitations and boundaries on these wants.
Parents’ role in entitlement issue
The problem emerges when these “wants” become constant and no limits or boundaries are being set to curb this kind of behaviour. Parents often feel that they need to overcompensate for the choices they make in life. And overcompensating helps to rid of the guilt they have. Examples of this is when parents work full time and can’t spend quality time with their children, when parents are going through a divorce, the child experienced some form of trauma or when they think they can simply buy their children’s love.
Looking back at my childhood; money wasn’t freely available. There was no money for expensive family vacations, clothing brands or other lavish material things. My parents worked hard to provide for my sister and I. They ensured we felt safe, had a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in and food to eat. And even though they felt guilty for not being able to provide what other parents could for their children; they explained this to us.
Instilling values of love, respect, responsibility, compassion, humbleness and showing appreciating for the little that we had. My parents always told us that “success doesn’t come easy, you need to earn it by working hard for it”.
Telling my children about how my childhood was won’t make them understand. As they didn’t live through that experience. You see, children don’t have an adult perspective on life. They don’t have life experience. What they do experience is what we as adults, society and the media present to them.
As parents it is our responsibility to fix this behaviour by teaching our children the correct way and stop indulging this culture of entitlement.
I want my children to understand that the world owes them nothing. but that it’s about the contribution they make in this world. If they are able bodied and healthy; they need to work for what they want and earn their worth. That their present circumstances does not define their future. Self-pity will get them nowhere in life. When they have no ambition and job in their adult life, that I will not support them.
They need to empower themselves, take responsibility and shape their lives. They need to have some purpose in life and make a valuable contribution in this world. I want them to know that they are not entitled to any freebies, social grants, benefits, promotions and awards. Selfish expectations, manipulation, superiority, not playing by the rules and demanding privileges will not earn them success.
Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give to our children. We tend to want to give them better than what we had growing up. However there should be a balance. We need to ensure that we equip our children with valuable life skills that will empower them as they grow older so that they can take it forward into adulthood.
Principles to teach to stop entitlement
Lead my example
Our children model our behaviour. If you are self-centred, competitive, don’t play by the rules, impatient and have a sense of entitlement; chances are your child will develop these personality traits as well.
Gratitude goes beyond being thankful for what you receive. It is about being grateful for everything that is happening in your life, the good and the bad. Fostering gratitude in our children is so important. It teaches them to appreciate what they have and to give thanks for all their blessings. Teach them to give thanks when you sit at the dinner table, when they go to bed at night, before and after they’ve written an exam. They can keep a gratitude journal and write down what they are grateful for.
Giving back teaches children to share and show kindness towards others. Life is not just about receiving but it’s about giving as well. Encourage this by letting them help with community projects by reaching out to others who are in need. Let them donate their unused toys, clothing and books to a shelter or children’s home.
It teaches our children not to be self-absorbed but to pay attention to what is happening around them and to listen with understanding. Life does not just revolve around them and their feelings but that they need to display empathy towards others. Having empathy will teach them to be sensitive to the feelings of those who are experiencing pain and suffering.
Let your child help around the house by giving him/her household chores. This will teach them responsibility and important life skills. Knowing that they are making a contribution to household tasks will give them self-confidence and a sense of purpose. You can decide whether you want to link an allowance to chores.
Win some, lose some
Some children are very competitive, however we need to teach our children that they can’t always win. As hard as it may be, they need to realise that there are no rewards for losing. The earlier we teach them this, the better. As they grow older, they will learn how to cope with defeat. Failure should be seen as a process of learning as well as making progress to develop and master a skill. Sometimes children will never master a particular skill even with lots of practice. This is also ok as they might be good at something else.
Financial responsibility and patience
If you do give your child an allowance, teach them how to save and be financially responsible. If your child really want something that is expensive, let them save towards it and purchase it with their own money. This way, your child will learn the value of money and how much things cost. This will also teach them patience as it will take them some time to save up for their purchase. They will also learn to appreciate things more. It might even make them realise that they don’t want to splurge all their money on such an expensive item.
Respect should be taught from a young age. Remember that you are not your child’s friend but the parent. There should be clear boundaries on how your child speak to you. In saying that, you need to respect your child when you discipline him/her. You don’t want your child to call you out on foul language you used or your behaviour. Once again children model how we speak to friends, family and service providers. If we are demanding and disrespectful, they too will adopt this kind of behaviour.
Forget the blame game
There is always two sides to a story. Stop blaming others for your child’s misfortunes or behaviour. This happens so often where parents shift the blame to the teacher, coach, friends or family. Discourage self-pity and allow them to sort out their own problems. Stepping in to fight your child’s small battles will hamper their development. They will not learn to communicate effectively to solve their own problems. Children need to learn to own up to their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. Obviously when your child is being bullied or there is an allegation of abuse then you will step in.
The best gift is time
As working parents there is just not enough time in the day to get to everything. But avoid overcompensating with material gifts to make up for lost time or the guilt you feel. Set aside time to play and communicate with your child. This can be over a weekend by going to the park or working together in the garden. Make bedtime special by having a fun routine or just have a conversation at the dinner table. Making time means giving your full attention to your child and not looking at your phone, tablet or laptop.
Avoid keeping up with the Joneses
Comparing yourself to others, buying things to keep up with others or trying to maintain your social status will just bring you discontent. Remind your children that it doesn’t mean because other children have it, they must have it too. Explain your financial situation to your children. In doing this, you don’t have to reveal what is in your bank account or how much you earn. But be honest with your children and talk to them about budgets, affordability and cutting back. This will give them a clear understanding of the family’s financial goals and priorities. Example: having the latest cellphone, driving a brand new car or going on expensive holiday trips is not a priority as money is being invested for their university or college fees.
Don’t put your child on a pedestal
If you do praise your child it should be realistic and sincere. Praise only when necessary and direct it at your child’s efforts. Overpraising for every single achievement can result in developing narcissist behaviour whereby they think they are better than others. On the other hand, overpraising could also put pressure on your child to excel at all times just to make you happy. Good feedback becomes an expectation for achievements and when they fail and you don’t praise or approve, they are left with so much disappointment. Instead of praising; encourage and motivate on a regular basis.
This is what my children are entitled to
Love, respect, time, education, to be treated equally, to have a safe environment, protection against violence and sexual exploitation.
Address entitlement issues before it is too late.