Sure, you mean well, but is your parenting style turning your little sweetie into a rascal?
Once upon a time, parents feared their children wouldn't have enough. Now we fear our kids have way too much. You want to give your child every advantage you never had, but where is the line between investing in their growth and happiness and raising an entitled brat?
The main difference is noted in their attitude. A "spoiled" entitled child believes they have the right to get whatever they want (whenever they want it) and act as if it's your job to provide it. And it's not just that they want things, they also want attention and recognition showered upon them (earned or not) as readily as the latest toy. That shiny new something at the store AND all of the attention at someone else's party ... an entitled child feels deserving of it all. Of course, all children want things from time to time (and will hope for them, ask for them even), but an entitled child expects to get what they want ... immediately. They believe they are owed certain things.
So, what's a well-intentioned parent to do? We want our children to have a strong sense of their worth and value and to ask for what they want in the world, but we also want our kids to be grateful, responsible, independent adults someday (and an overwrought sense of entitlement is not appealing or helpful to them at any age).
Not sure if your current parenting approach is cultivating a confident yet grateful kid or inadvertently creating a full-blown entitled brat? Check our list of potentially problematic behaviors to see how your child (and your parenting) is measuring up:
1. Does your child expect a reward every time they're asked to do something?
It would be easy to blame the well-meaning YMCA for instilling the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality in modern children, but how often to do you also dangle a reward in front of your children to motivate them to complete homework or basic chores around the house? Or, perhaps you promise them a gift for doing something nice for others? In life, there are tasks to be done simply because they need doing. And we treat people kindly because it's the right thing to do. Kids need to learn that not every stick has a carrot attached. If your child won't do anything without something in it or them, you might be creating an entitlement issue.
2. Does your child have the final say in basic family decisions?
Is dinner decided based on what your child wants to eat? Does your child always cast the deciding vote on what your family's weekend activity will be, where you go on vacation, or what show you watch on TV? If so, your child is probably entitled. We're not saying your child should have zero say, but asking their opinion should not equate to them having ultimate veto power. Their preferences can always be considered, but their choice should not consistently be more important than mom's or dad's (a.k.a. the people paying for it, driving to it, and/or cleaning it up).
3. Does your child always ask for more, more, more?
Remember when you told him he could play on the climbing wall, but only for 15 more minutes before you needed to leave? Was he satisfied and left willingly (with a word of thanks)? Remember giving her the doll of her dreams, only to hear constant begging for the special dolly party dress that was sold separately? If you let your teen stay up late to finish his online game with friends, does he log off when you requested or does he always push the envelope and try to sneak (or negotiate) more time? An entitled child who believes they have a right to everything is rarely ever satisfied. Enough is never enough.
4. Does your child understand and practice delayed gratification?
Delayed gratification is a difficult, but powerful, concept to teach a child (adults even struggle with it). But, developing the discipline to wait for something, instead of possessing it instantly, pays huge dividends right now and in their future. Often, waiting for something makes us appreciate that thing more when we finally do get it (and we often take better care of what we appreciate). Also, a bit of waiting can also reveal to a child they really didn't want or need the item after all (they call it an "impulse buy" for a reason). Often parents cave to their child's every whim so the child won't be "frustrated" or "disappointed", but not always getting what you want helps us appreciate what we have.
John Wooden, famous UCLA basketball coach and inspiration for several movies said, "Discipline yourself and others won't need to." What an alluring quote for a parent. A self-disciplining child? Yes, please!
5. Does your child understand the value of a dollar?
Your child might not think money grows on trees, but do they actually grasp how much effort it takes to earn the money your family spends? Most parents don't have any conversations (let alone regular conversations) about money with their child. It ranks right up there with the other talk we try to avoid with our kids (sex/relationships—another place where a sense of entitlement won't serve them very well). But, taking opportunities to show your child the value of a dollar is worthwhile.
If there's a toy or game they've asked for, you might show them how many extra jobs around home it will take to earn it. If your teen wants to play a game with a monthly fee or likes downloading the latest movie, help them set an monthly budget for technology purchases. Is that same teen old enough to have a weekend job? That will show them firsthand the value of hard work. Let them pay for their own movies and help them explore the realities of their financial situation (example: If they have $80 and want to spend $10 a month on movie rentals for 12 months, figure out a practical plan—cheaper or fewer games, less months, etc.—and then stick to that plan no matter what. If you just give them the money to cover the rest of their "want", they've learned nothing).
Raising a child today is hard; raising an "un-entitled" child is even more difficult. But, you can do this. Don't bother beating yourself up for the times your child has ruled the roost. You're not alone. Many modern parents are trying to figure out the best way to strike a non-bratty balance. Instead, congratulate yourself on your awareness and desire to raise a child free from a sense of entitlement. That is an investment in their future and yours that you should both be grateful for.
Have you noticed entitlement behavior in your child? What approach has helped you deal with it? Share your strategies below.
Need help teaching your children to be grateful and not entitled? Check out Scott & Bethany's latest Money Smart Kids video. Scott & Bethany Palmer are financial experts, authors, TV/radio personalities and sought after speakers. Their mission is to help people improve their relationships through a better understanding of their approach to money. Their new book The 5 Money Conversations To Have With Your Kids At Every Age and Stage hits shelves December 2014, pre-order here.