“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” – Brene Brown
I’ve written a lot about gratitude and the positive effects that it has on people’s lives. When we feel and express gratitude, we actually feel happier. As author Brene Brown writes, the flipside of gratitude is entitlement – and we are living in the middle of an entitlement epidemic. In her book, The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, Amy McCready writes about the harmful consequences of entitlement and the ways that parents can combat the growing epidemic.
You’re reading this book – and I wrote it – because there’s a force that can rob from our kids not only their imagination, energy, and determination, but also their ability to live rich, fulfilling lives. It’s the force of entitlement, the idea that life owes us something, and it’s wreaking havoc on our kids’ generation. Children of all ages feel entitled to receive the best of what life has to offer without working for it, to have their whims catered to by their parents and a path paved for success. They believe the world revolves around them – who wouldn’t, when everywhere you turn you see a selfie? Over-entitled kids become over-entitled adults with the same childish attitudes, only on a greater scale. It’s a big problem, because kids who feel entitled to call the shots all the time are unable to handle it when things don’t go their way (like in the real world). What’s more, they’re just plain hard to live with!
But entitlement is not the end of your kids’ story. Imagine a home in which kids take responsibility, contribute to the family, work hard, give back, and manage their own finances and feel grateful for what they have. These kids are happy and confident and will be well prepared for whatever adulthood has in store. This is the potential you see in your children – and this can be their future.
So, how can you ensure that your children have this wonderful, confident, and happy future? McCready has several suggestions that she calls her “Un-Entitler Toolbox.” This toolbox is made of time-tested and research-proven parenting methods to help your children gain their own toolbox for persistence, grit, and ultimately happiness.
Spend “Mind, Body and Soul Time” with your child. This time with your child should be distraction-free – that means no phones and no other children. Let the child decide what he or she wants to do with you for 10 minutes each day, and stay completely focused on that activity and the child during the time.
When those 10 minutes are over, you should tell your child how much you enjoyed your time together. Give the time a name like, “Together Time” or “Just Us Time” so that the child can expect it and appreciate it. McCready also notes that many parents say, “Who has time for 10 minutes a day for each child?” And McCready’s answer is that this time creates bonds and a sense of belonging and meaningfulness. These feelings save lots and lots of time later with power struggles and arguments. They also allow the child to feel control over what happens to him or her in the future – which in turn reduces entitlement.
Stop giving in to your child’s demands. We all want to say yes to our children whenever we can, but giving your kids everything they want leads to entitlement. So, think about something that you give into that is particularly bothersome. Maybe you don’t like making breakfast every morning just because your 8 year old won’t eat a cold breakfast. Maybe you think your children can go to the supermarket without buying a treat every single time. Start small. Institute a rule such as, “I will make breakfast on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but I won’t be making it on Mondays and Fridays anymore since I just feel too rushed in the mornings.” Your child will be frustrated and disappointed, but if you hold firm, they just might figure out a way to problem-solve and become more independent.
Empower your kids to do things on their own. If we do everything for our children, they will never learn to do things for themselves. Give your children chores, allow them to contribute to the family – by having set responsibilities, and don’t reward your children for completing their responsibilities. If they get external rewards, they will not feel as much pride in their accomplishments. Let them feel proud that they did what they did – not because they received something in return.
The less entitled, the more grateful your children will be. Plus, once your children understand that the whole world does not revolve around them, they will be able to recognize their inevitable failures as exactly what they are – opportunities to try to succeed the next time!