If you keep up with the news, you likely read about the recent college admission scandal that made headlines—wealthy parents paying high sums of money to ensure their children get a spot at some of the top Universities in the states. As a result, the topic of entitlement, and the direct implications that can transpire in the lives of the children involved, has been brought forth as an important issue to consider. It’s with growing awareness that American’s are recognizing what may feel like a phenomenon of entitlement in today’s youth— an epidemic that thrives off the of the belief that one is owed something without putting in the work or possessing a sense of gratitude.
As a family law firm, our attorneys are no strangers to the transition process that many parents undergo in some form throughout their divorce—deciphering how to effectively raise kids amidst a different parenting schedule and as a single adult. It’s not uncommon for parents to want to spoil their kids after a divorce—whether that be because of decreased visitation time, or as a tactic for earning favor in their child’s eyes, it’s a temptation that most if not all parents will have to navigate. While it’s no crime to want to make your time with your kids as special as possible, there’s a fine line between encouraging confidence in your love for them, and encouraging a sense of entitlement that can be the result of years of pampering.
As a parent, one of your biggest concern is seeing your child thrive. “We want the best for our kids and none of us intends to raise an entitled child, but often in our loving attempts to do the best for our kids, we over-parent,” says Amy McCready, author of “The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World.” The result, says McCready, is a form of robbery from our children of their opportunity to do for themselves, learn from their mistakes, and overcome adversity.
So, what are some parenting strategies to be aware of if you want to find the balance between caring for and catering to? McCready gives five pieces of advice on how to encourage good character in your children, and in turn help to avoid a sense of entitlement:
- Create the expectation that as an active member of the family, your child can and should help with tasks around the house. Regardless of potential moans and groans, stay consistent in your requests. Creating the healthy habits of assigning your kids responsibilities can help teach them that their contributions matter, while indoctrinating them with life-skills that will help them down the road.
- Kids can be real masterminds when it comes to figuring out how to get what they want. If your gut tells you that the answer should be “no”, don’t let whining, crying or begging deter you from having the courage to be the “bad guy” in the effort of being a good parent. By establishing boundaries and sticking with them, you can teach your kids that life won’t always go the way they hope for or envision, and that’s okay.
- Relinquishing control and allowing your kids to learn from their own mistakes is perhaps one of the hardest things a parent has to learn to do, but a crucial step in helping your child establish independence and their own unique sense of self. “Trust in your kids’ ability and turn over the reins so they can learn from their successes and failures… you’ll be there to support them—but they’ll feel so much more empowered by handling things on their own without you intervening or rescuing,” says McCready.
- As easy as it can be to hand off money to your children upon their request, doing so without boundaries can create an expectation for immediate gratification and a lack of appreciation for the value of a dollar. Setting an allowance for your kids from a young age can help teach them the importance of fiscal responsibility, delayed gratification, and curate an appreciation for the process of budgeting, saving, and donating.
- Teaching your children the importance of gratitude is an invaluable lesson that has been proven to help reduce depression, manage stress, and create an optimistic attitude. You can help teach children how to be grateful through certain rituals at home (for example, going around the table before dinner and saying one thing they’re grateful for), and participating in acts of kindness for others that essentially un-centers their universe and puts the focus on serving. McCready advises that you should model for them that gratitude takes practice, and that the world doesn’t owe them anything.
Keeping these tools in mind, remember that you have the power to help mold your children into adults who understand the value of hard-work, taking responsibility for their actions, being fiscally aware, and practicing both graciousness and gratitude. If the “entitlement epidemic” is one that concerns you as a parent, remember that the first step starts with you. No child is born with a sense of entitlement—it is a learned trait—and you, as a parent, have the power to turn the currents of this movement, and direct your children down a path of greater character.