We were outdoors with a group of parents the other evening, engrossed in an activity, when one parent suddenly expressed her frustration that her child wanted to buy an icy pole from the shop and she didn’t have any money on her for it. As we continued with our activity, most of us replied, “Just say no”. This parent expressed their concern for their child that this child would miss out as the child’s friends were all going to get an icy pole. Several minutes later, this parent left the activity and disappeared for awhile. A short time later, this child appeared with an icy pole.
I believe at the heart of our concern for our children to not miss out, to feel part of the group, to be included, to not ‘suffer’, we are instead creating a generation of people who feel entitled. Entitled to anything they want. Entitled to fit in and not miss out. Entitled to be given whatever they ask.
Fellow parents, this is not healthy. I don’t know about you, but growing up we missed out on a lot. Did it harm me? Not necessarily. In fact, I believe that in some cases it made me a lot better person.
Fellow parents, your children need to know what it is like to go without. To occasionally be the ‘odd one out’. To not always fit in. To be told “No”.
We cannot bring our children up modelling to them that everything they ask for they will get. This breeds entitlement. Parents, choose your battles but choose them wisely.
Dr John Townsend in his book “The Entitlement Cure – Finding Success in Doing Hard Thins the Right Way” says “Entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment.” (p 19). Over the following pages, he then goes on to explain and expand that definition by stating that there are many faces of entitlement that will always have at least most of the following characteristics:
- An attitude of being special
- An attitude of being owed, of deserving something
- A refusal to accept responsibility
- A denial of one’s impact on others
The current prevalent philosophy of praising your child for everything and rewarding every child only serves to foster entitlement. Everyone, especially kids, need to realise that the world is not an equal place, that you need to do the hard work to succeed, that you don’t get everything you want. Praising your child for something that takes no effort or for something that is expected or part of their responsibility is helping to foster entitlement. If they haven’t had to put in extra work then please don’t praise them for it. Instead, look for attitude and character qualities and highlight these. Dr John Townsend kept telling his own children that “you may need a lot of things but you don’t deserve anything” (p140).
Dr John Townsend emphasises that we should be teaching our children to take responsibility, to do the hard things, to keep those inconvenient appointments/commitments, to face our fears, and to say sorry and apologise. Often we are the people who enable our children in their entitlement by our negative modelling and our bailing our children out and not letting them suffer the pain of their actions. Consequences are an amazing learning event.
One of the qualities that I believe helps combat entitlement is gratitude, being thankful for the big and the small. Is your family known for thankfulness? What steps could you take today for that to begin to occur? Most weekday mornings our home schooling begins with a time of soaking (listening to God whilst background music playing), reading the Bible and prayer. In our prayer time, I encourage us all to identify several things we can thank God for before we begin to ask God for something. How often do you thank God for things? How often do we thank each other in the family for the little things. When we focus on thanking each other and God for the little things, we end up realising that our life is full of great things. Our focus shifts. When we focus on being thankful, it shift our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have.
Where are you currently at in your parenting in regards to trying to give your children everything so that they never miss out? Where are you at in your modelling thankfulness and teaching your children to be thankful?