Raising kids who aren’t entitled requires discipline on parent’s part, too

Kids aren’t born feeling entitled or spoiled. They learn it from well-intentioned parents who don’t realize they’re teaching it by giving in to their kid's demands.

“Kids today are so entitled!” Parents throw up their hands and roll their eyes, as if they have no influence on their children’s expectations for what the world owes them.

The reality is, kids aren’t born feeling entitled or spoiled. They learn it from well-intentioned parents who don’t realize they’re teaching it by giving in to demands.

The world offers a lot of temptations in the form of material goods. Who hasn’t looked at what someone else has and wished they had it, too? So when kids start talking about the latest and greatest whatever, it’s tempting to give in to their demands because:.

  • We’re in a hurry.
  • We want to make sure our kids feel equal in their peer group.
  • We don’t want to deal with the conflict that’s created by saying “no.”.
  • We have lots of other reasons, which result in kids who believe they should always get what they want.
  • The Positive Discipline program’s Significant Seven provides guiding principles for raising kids who expect to be contributing, responsible members of the family.

    Positive Discipline is based on the work of psychologist Alfred Adler, who believed that human behavior is motivated by the need for belonging and significance.

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    Dr. Jane Nelsen, one of the founders of Positive Discipline, differentiates these two values by explaining that belonging is about helping children “feel loved,” and significance is about “helping develop capability and responsibility through contribution.”.

    How do we grow these beliefs in our kids and avoid feelings of entitlement?

    1. Expect them to do chores

    Regular chores provide kids opportunities to contribute to the family’s positive functioning. Start when they’re two or three years old. Of course, you’ll need to do the job with them at first, but over time, they’ll be able to do it independently.

    Be careful not to fall into the trap of doing things for them because you want it done fast or you want it done right. “Let me do that for you!” Can gradually turn into the expectation that you SHOULD do it for them, and that’s a step toward entitlement.

    2. Ask for and expect their help

    Beyond regular chores, make helping each other part of your family culture. My son’s friend, Ben, came from a large family and he told us once that, “At our house, you help unless it’s your birthday or you’re dead!” The jobs aren’t necessarily fun, but the time together builds connection as a family value, in addition to hard work.

    3. Expect them to earn money for what they want. You provide what they need

    Aside from birthdays and holidays, kids should earn the money to buy what they want. Provide a list of jobs they can do and agree how much money each task is worth. My husband and I didn’t clean our bathroom for seven years because our younger son offered to do it for $5 a week. Talk about win-win! It took many weeks of cleaning to earn enough to buy a video game, but anything he bought with the money he earned, he valued more highly because he knew how hard he had worked for it.

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    Yes, you’ll probably get, “But so-and-so’s parents bought it for them!” Stand strong in your values. They’ll be miffed at you, but that’s OK. They don’t need to agree with you. They need to learn from you.

    4. Be a role model

    Talk about your budget, what you would like to buy, what you can afford to buy, and how hard you worked to earn it. Pay off your credit card every month and live within your means. When adults live in excess, that excess tends to trickle down into purchases for kids that they don’t need. You can be sure that they’re watching and learning.

    Nelsen explains, “Children need a balance of both love and responsibility for healthy self-esteem and a healthy sense of contribution to society.” Parents play an essential role in helping kids internalize those important values, which means keeping an eye on the big picture of who you want your kids to be as adults and parenting toward that big picture through the challenging moments.


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