My husband is a great example of self control and hard work. His philosophy is “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Mine is more like “shop ’til ya drop,” so you can imagine the kind of compromising we had to do when we got married. I have actually learned to appreciate this quality a lot. He has always worked for the things that he wanted and will not buy something until we actually have the money for it. We’ve talked a lot about how to instill this work ethic in our own children. How do you teach your kids that they must work hard for the things that they want, while still providing for them (and occasionally spoiling them) as a parent?
I’m sure you can all relate to seeing (or possibly being) a flustered parent in the grocery store who’s child is screaming, “But I WANT that candy/doll/toy/apple….” and you can fill in the blank. I believe this scenario is happening more and more. Kids are filled with the idea that they are entitled to anything and everything. James Leiman, a child behavioral therapist, calls this false sense of entitlement: “I am, therefore give to me.” This false sense stems from many things including media, friends at school, the need to be “cool” and to have what everyone else does. I believe much of this “entitlement syndrome”, is either fed or cut off by parents. I don’t think that you need to love your children any less to change this (every parent wants to make their child happy), but maybe just change the way you are showing your love. Leiman’s article proposes that limits need to be set as far as what you give to your kids. He also talks about the need to have your children work for money and things they want instead of just expecting to be given things. In my profession I have met many children who had rarely heard the word “no” from their parents. Nothing was off limits to them and you could tell they knew this by the way the talked, treated others, and demanded everything. Not a pretty sight! Parents need to realize that it’s ok to say “no.” It does not make you a bad parent, in fact, I’d say those who help their children learn self control are giving them a much greater gift than whatever that child may want at the time.
Knowing that it’s much easier to say all of this than actually do it when the situation comes, I’ve thought of a few questions to ask ourselves so we can act with flying colors (even if our child is not):
1. What will you say when your child wants something they cannot have?
2. What will be the consequence if your child throws a tantrum?
3. How will you react to their tantrum?
4. What are some ways they might be able to earn money for something if they really want it?
5. Are there any “entitled” moments in your life that may be sending your kids the wrong message?
Just like we’ve learned to “Just Say No” to drugs. Making a plan beforehand helps me put away my
anger outrage emotions at the time and react with confidence and grace (of course those are the verbs used to describe most angry parents…right?).
I’ve also found a book, The Entitlement Trap, that targets this problem.
“The Entitlement Trap explains why this generation of kids lacks initiative and the motivation to do their best and then lays out an extraordinary parenting plan for setting up a family economy that gives kids real ownership of their own spending money, their own clothes and toys and electronics, and finally their own bodies, goals, values, choices, education. The perception of ownership, with kids as young as 6 or 7, causes kids to take care of things, to love responsibility, and to reach their full potential.”
This book comes out in September but they are giving some great benefits away if you pre-order now. I am securing my copy and when I read it I will most definitely let you know how it is!