Every week in the month of November we will be featuring an article on cultivating gratitude and thankfulness. To see the full series, click HERE.
One day, I was telling a woman named Ashley how my daughter always wanted to borrow my clothes, which many see as a form of flattery. I do, too, unless I have to dig through the laundry on her bedroom floor when I want to wear them. That story led to a conversation on entitlement.
“Oh, I know what you’re talking about,” she said. I wondered what she could possibly be referring to since her three kids were just preschoolers. “I wanted to take my little girl on a special mommy-daughter date, so I arranged a babysitter for the boys. I couldn’t wait to tell her about the morning I had planned. I pulled her aside and said, ‘Guess what? Mommy is going to take you on a special date. We are going ice skating, and then we are going to have hot chocolate.’”
Without missing a beat, her four-year-old said, “Is that all?”
As my friend retold the story, I could hear the pain in her voice. She immediately saw the entitlement for what it was and explained to her daughter that she should be grateful for whatever they did together. “Okay,” her little girl said and went off to play, without even understanding that her innocent question revealed her humanity.
Entitlement winds its course through my home, and the more I’ve become aware of its subtle infiltration, the more I see and hear it blatantly. This is all I get? There’s nothing else? From ice cream serving sizes to allowances, the opportunity to demand more is present.
Is that all? I believe these three little words sum up the tone for those of us in most Western cultures. No one teaches us to ask that question or expect more. It’s in our nature.
Just as Romans 3:23 says, “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (NLT). We are sinful and selfish at birth, and babies run parents ragged through long, sleepless nights demanding their needs be met immediately. But at some point, we grow up and begin to understand that the world doesn’t automatically cater to our demands like our parents did. We as parents have to examine the question for ourselves, so we can say to our children with conviction, “Yes, that is all. We don’t need more.”
As discouraging as the task of defeating entitlement in our lives may seem, I’m convinced it can be done. We can turn the tide in our homes and go against the climate in our culture by teaching a more powerful learned behavior—gratitude. It might sound simplistic, but I believe the cure to our kids wanting more starts with teaching them to be thankful for what they already have.
When I realized I was more than half the problem in this whole entitlement thing, it was a wake up call. Kids naturally want what they haven’t earned, especially if we are handing it out for free.
But what we have is an entire generation of young adults who got everything they ever wanted with little or no work; we have a cultural norm and it’s a problem.
Here are 9 things we can abandon to make room for gratitude:
Often we give into our kid’s requests out of guilt. We need to stop feeling guilty for not giving our kids everything they want.
I think it’s good for our kids to hear us say, “We can’t afford that” Or “We will have to save for it.” Because that’s real life.
3. Birthday Party Goody Bag (Mentality)
We take our kids to parties so they can give a gift, but they take a small one home so they won’t feel bad? It’s okay for them not to be the center of attention.
4. Making our day-week-month, our world about our kids
Child-centered homes don’t help children in the long run.
5. The desire to make our children happy (all the time)
Typically when our kids are unhappy, it’s because we are standing our ground and that makes for much healthier kids in the future.
6. Made Up Awards
Rewarding everyone who participates in every area only fosters an inflated self esteem. It’s okay to lose, they learn through failure as much as success.
7. Fixing all their problems
Fixing all our kids’ problems is really only creating more challenges in the future.
We could all probably fill a half dozen trash bags with just stuff. Bag it up and give it to someone who needs it.
9. Unrealistic Expectations
We don’t have to give our kids everything we have. It’s okay to make them wait for things in life.
It’s okay to toss out these things. Go ahead, give it a try.
by Kristen Welch, author of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
“But everyone else has it.” “If you loved me, you’d get it for me!” When you hear these comments from your kids, it can be tough not to cave. You love your children—don’t you want them to be happy and to fit in?
Kristen Welch knows firsthand it’s not that easy. In fact, she’s found out that when you say yes too often, it’s not only hard on your peace of mind and your wallet—it actually puts your kids at long-term risk. In Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen shares the ups and downs in her own family’s journey of discovering why it’s healthiest not to give their kids everything. Teaching them the difference between “want” and “need” is the first step in the right direction. With many practical tips and anecdotes, she shares how to say the ultimate yes as a family by bringing up faith-filled kids who will love God, serve others, and grow into hardworking, fulfilled, and successful adults.
It’s never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation and create a Jesus-centered home in which your kids don’t just say—but mean!—“thank you” for everything they have.