If you’re like me, you desire to raise children who are considerate and caring towards others, who grow up to be productive members of society. But sometimes we can find ourselves unknowingly creating an environment that fosters entitlement in our children. Living abroad in Africa helped me realize I wanted to raise my kids to be sensitive to the needs of those around them–and that there are many ways to do this. While living in Africa, I noticed how kids in the developing world were expected to contribute to the family, often by collecting firewood or cooking or by caring for their siblings. With all the comforts of the United States that our families are privileged to enjoy, it is easy to slip into entitlement.
Here are five ways to know if you’re raising entitled kids.
1. Do you do everything for them?
Maybe your kids believe they don’t have to clean up after themselves because you will do it for them. If you find yourself picking up their toys or cleaning their rooms, you might be enabling them. If they make a mess, they need to learn how to clean it up. Don’t be afraid to expect more from them; though changing your expectations for them might mean a battle in the short-term, it will benefit them in the long run, and their future spouse will especially appreciate it. Expect them to contribute to the family in some way.
2. Your kids think they don’t have to work for things they want.
Are your kids constantly asking for things that you then buy for them? This is one of the biggest ways we can unintentionally foster entitlement. They might subconsciously think why work when it can be given to me? In order to be successful as an adult, your child will have to learn the value of a good work ethic. Think about how you can create an entry point for your children to learn the value of working for something they want. If they are too young to get a job, maybe they can do additional chores around the house or serve someone who could use their help. One of my mom friends hires a twelve-year-old neighbor as a mother’s helper once a week.
3. Do you say yes when you really want to say no?
Do you make multiple meals because of your child’s picky eating habits? Do your kids bother you with the same request until you eventually give in? Practice setting practical boundaries. Create consequences for your kids when they badger you. Help them understand the value of saying no, and teach them how to say no, by sticking to it.
4. Do you fix their problems for them?
You might think you’re helping your kids by fixing their problems, but what will help them even more is to learn how to problem solve on their own. You can offer guidance and support, but encourage them to think about how they can solve their own problems. Recently, friends told me about the time their teenage son overslept and missed his bus. When their son wanted Mom to drive him to school, Dad said, “Absolutely not. Mom didn’t create the problem, and she’s not responsible for fixing it. You missed your bus. What are you going to do?” School was three miles away, and after walking to school that morning, their son never overslept or missed his bus again.
You can offer guidance and support, but encourage them to think about how they can solve their own problems.
5. You have never done a service activity with them to serve others.
Show them how to care for and serve others who are less fortunate by serving together as a family. This can also create special family memories and strengthen your family as a whole.
Readers, which of these is most challenging for you, and why?
Cassandra Soars has published various national magazine articles on a wide range of topics, including life in Mozambique, Africa, where she lived for five years. Her first book Love Like Fire: The Story of Heidi Baker is available on Amazon.