Positive Parenting – Part Five
Raising Entitled Children
When we had only been parents for a few years, we told our firstborn that we would treat her to an ice-cream. It was a hot day in Australia and the perfect way to cool her down.
We bought her a fluffy, vanilla flavoured, soft serve in a cone, and predictably, as it was such a scorcher of a day, the ice-cream had already begun to melt before we had a chance to give it to her.
I did what every parent would naturally do, and quickly licked around the base of the cone to make sure that our three year old didn’t instantly wear the sticky treat.
What followed was the most horrific tantrum we had ever seen!
Kicking and screaming at me for touching her ice-cream, let alone eating it! Her tiny back arched in her car seat, face puce-coloured in utter rage.
In this situation, we would all agree that I was in the wrong. It was her ice-cream and I had no right to eat it before she did.
And the easiest and quickest solution would have been for me to keep her ice-cream and buy her another.
Well actually, no. That’s not what we did.
In fact, I told her if she didn’t stop her screaming, I would throw it out the window.
I didn’t count until three, I didn’t threaten her over and over. I just told her there would be consequences to her actions.
The tantrum didn’t wane. Not all the way home, or the following hour.
It was epic.
But the thing is, we didn’t want her to be ungrateful. We wanted her to know that her behaviour wasn’t acceptable.
Yes it was an ice-cream, but if we had let it slide, that sort of behaviour would have gone on and on.
Different object, same heart.
So, two things happened.
One, she never, ever, ever repeated that pattern again.
And two, she also never forgot mummy chucking her ice-cream!
That three year old is now 20 and still remembers!
So here is the thing- we didn’t want to raise a child that felt entitled.
We desired for our child to be grateful for what she had, and that meant dealing with something as small as an
ice-cream. And for sure, we didn’t ever want to see that pattern repeated and be the parents who feared touching their kid’s ice cream, or toy or book or however the next scenario played out. And believe me, it would have played out again.
That would make us bound to her behaviour and frightened of her kicking off again.
We wanted to teach her through life lessons and that day – it was ice-cream.
The seeds of entitlement are sown over the years, in a million little parenting decisions, such as our ice-cream scenario.
-1 Ensuring your children are never sad
This is allowing your child to have their own way all the time. It may be giving in to them when they see a toy they want, whilst you are busy doing grocery shopping. Or allowing them to dominate a conversation you are having with a friend. The quickest and easiest way to avoid a conflict is to let them have what they want. However, it places enormous pressure on parents when their child is unable to cope with a “no”. What happens when they are older and they realise that the world actually doesn’t stop for them? Dropping everything to appease them makes them constantly the centre of attention, which isn’t an endearing quality to have.
The Solution: In order for your child to not try and gain your attention in negative ways, try allocating specific time each day to be with them, on their terms.
This will look different in every family, but in ours, we make sure each of our six children, have at least 15 minutes with either my husband or myself.
This gives them space to talk, play or simply sit beside us and be together.
It also teaches them that they don’t need to play up to gain our attention.
-2 The Entitler
When children feel entitled, it is a difficult mind-set to change. Like most things, this starts in small ways, but soon can get out of control. It might end up looking like fixing multiple meals because your kids won’t eat what you cook, or constantly picking up toys, clothes or dirty dishes on their behalf. Because, in the moment, it’s easier than dealing with the fall-out and poor behaviour.
If you find yourself annoyed because your children expect you to go out of your way, all the time for them, it’s a big clue that you need to change your parenting style.
The Solution: Explain to your children what is expected of them. Such as, “I will only wash clothes that are in the laundry basket. Not on the floor in the bathroom or in the corner of your room”. Believe me they will soon tire of wearing dirty, smelly clothes.
For your little ones, show them where the toys go. From a very early age they are able to do these small tasks on their own. I was always amazed when my children had been to daycare and one day, I witnessed all of the small people packing away their toys, of their own accord. At three years of age!
Set your children up for success by asking them “Now, what can you do to help you remember?” Then follow through and don’t step in and do it for them!
If your children can’t remember their packed lunch for school, or their sports kit for outdoor play, it may be time for you to step back and allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. The truth is, if you find yourself frantically helping your kids finish tasks that they should have already done (such as a school project) , you aren’t really helping them.
You are rescuing them. And there comes a point when they need to be accountable for their own actions.
The Solution: Tell your children you will no longer be rescuing them. And even though all you may want to do is protect them from getting into trouble at school, or feeling left out because they are unable to play outside, they need to learn to be responsible.
Work with them and help them to find their own ways of remembering certain things. However, when the situation arises, don’t become involved if they have forgotten. It is so hard to do, but you will soon discover your kids will make giant leaps in terms of being capable of handling responsibility and following through on a task.
We have all done this because we love our children and want to bless them. However, if your children begin to call the shots, such as deciding on watching a movie that is not age appropriate (but all his/her friends are allowed), it’s easy to give in. It is our job though, to set the appropriate limits – because we are the grown ups.
Entitled children are known for thinking of themselves as above the rules and deserving the best of what life has to offer. This mindset can be changed by sticking with the limits we set, and ignoring the inevitable protests and negotiations.
The Solution: Allow your children the freedom to be in charge of certain positive things. This means giving them the ability to make decisions on various things. It might be choosing a certain meal for dinner, or an activity they would like to engage in. When children have more control over some aspects of their lives, they are less likely to play up when you say no or enforce limits in other areas.
If you find yourself going over and above in your efforts to make sure your children have the best of everything, it may make them regard these standards as the norm. If you set the bar high on lavish gifts, expensive clothes, the latest tech products, they will feel entitled to these things, and carry that into adulthood.
We all love nice things but children don’t really need them. Cutting back on these indulgences will make for happier, more contented kids down the road.
The Solution: Take pleasure in the small things and model this thought pattern to your children, encouraging them to express gratitude for what they do have, rather than focussing on what they don’t. Research shows that grateful people are happier overall. Involve your kids in daily gratitude rituals and help them appreciate what is most important in their lives.
Often, the smallest of tweaks can make a huge difference in the lives of your children, as well as their hearts.
We all want our precious tribe to be happy, not only as little people, but in adulthood as well. This takes hard work, especially when they are young, and it’s so tempting to let things slide and give them what they want. Instant happiness!
However, we all know that there is a nasty kick-back to instant happiness and self-gratification, so look at the long-term benefit and blessings, rather than the short-term ease of giving your children everything they want in the moment.
We learnt that parenting is a bit like owning a credit card. Using it when we want something and then paying it back over a very long period. We have been in this situation with our spending and I can honestly say, paying off a debt where I can’t actually remember what I spent it on, was not at all pleasant.
Parenting can be the same. Giving in to your children because it’s temporarily easier, isn’t the wisest move long-term. Because believe me, you will be paying for it years after. In fact, the older children become, the harder it is to change their ways. It’s all they have ever known.
Be the parent who takes advantage of every situation, to correct poor behaviour.
And as they grow up in that environment, the parenting becomes so much easier and your children become utterly delightful adults in every way.