Raising Entitled Kids
We teach our kids about fairness, healthy boundaries, and how to stand up for themselves. Each of these things are most valuable when taken in context, balancing the needs and wants of the individual with the needs and wants of those around him/her. If context is not also taught, we may, despite our best intentions, raise entitled kids . . . kids who consider what is fair to them without regard to whether that is also fair to others, what conforms to their boundaries without regard to the boundaries of others, what constitutes standing up for their rights without regard to how that may impact the rights of others. To avoid raising entitled kids, we should do the following.
- Lead by example. We should make choices that are appropriate for ourselves and the context in which the choices are made. We should speak with our kids (in an age-appropriate manner) about our considerations and why these considerations are important. For example, we may say, “I am dissatisfied with the way our car was repaired, but I understand that the dealership has a lot of customers to consider, and if they do something for us, then they set a precedent for how they handle other customers going forward. If they’re unwilling or unable to do what I want for every customer in the same situation, then I understand that it’s reasonable not to single us out for special treatment. I’m still not really happy about the situation, but I understand why they did what they did, and I accept that. I will not fuss about the situation because I believe the dealership did what they needed to do, even though I believe it disadvantaged us.”
- Teach context and problem-solving skills. As our kids are making their own choices, we should teach them to think about context rather than themselves only. For example, we may say, “I understand that you want to play with that dolly, but that is Paul’s dolly. If you just take it from him, you hurt his feelings and make him feel like you don’t value that that dolly is his. I know you wouldn’t like it if someone just took something that was yours. If you want people to treat you kindly, then you should be kind to others as well. That’s not to say that you can’t ever play with Paul’s dolly, but you should ask his permission. That way, you let him know that you value that the dolly is his and you care about him enough not take the dolly away from him without his consent.”
- Ask questions of our kids. “Who will be affected by your decision?” “What short-term and long-term consequences will this choice cause you and others to experience?” “Of those consequences, which are good outcomes and which are not-so-good outcomes?” “How likely are the good and not-so-good outcomes?” “Is there a way to balance the needs and wants of all involved or at least reduce the likelihood of the not-so-good outcomes?” “How strongly do you feel about moving forward as you wish?”
When we notice that our kids are evidencing signs of entitlement, then it’s time to act quickly. The steps above can be useful proactively and reactively . . . as long as we catch and redirect our kids’ entitlement-based words and actions promptly. As our kids’ entitlement-thinking becomes habit, it becomes more difficult for us to reorient our kids to more contextual-thinking. If we wait until our kids’ teen years to respond to their entitlement-thinking, our task’s difficulty increases and our likelihood of success decreases.
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