How did we get entitled kids? How did our kids become entitled? And what does that mean about us as parents? I could tell you in the generation that I was born, in the Gen X. We had to work for everything if we wanted something. I remember my best friend and I mowing lawns, washing cars, and pulling weeds just to get money so we could go and buy candy or whatever. That’s how driven we were; we realized at a small age that if you want something, don’t let your parents stand in your way by saying, “We don’t have the money.” Go make the money, and that’s exactly what we did.
It was almost like we were setting ourselves up for that entrepreneurial mindset. But what happened when I heard all the time, “I don’t have the money, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the money”? I heard that so many times in my life that when I had children, the one thing that I was never going to say to them was, “I don’t have the money.” Even if it put me in $84,000 of credit card debt, I knew my kids were never going to hear that.
I wanted them to have soccer. I wanted them to play sports. I wanted them to have the best clothes. I never wanted them to feel like I didn’t have the money. And what happened? I made it too easy. They didn’t have to work for stuff, I just gave it to them. I felt so bad for my own childhood, so I was trying to actually resolve what I felt in my childhood by giving too much to my kids. Never teach them about value, and never teach them about gratitude.
Now I will say this: there are skills that I learned along the way, and my kids were teenagers by the time I learned them. It’s not too late to teach your kids this. I was able to actually step into gratitude and teach them gratitude, but I also got to role model what gratitude was. The appreciation and contribution of going out and giving food to the homeless and serving people on Thanksgiving and Christmas before we even had Thanksgiving dinner and before we even opened up Christmas gifts, we were out in the community serving to show my kids that there are people that have less than us and how we could appreciate giving them. What does the spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas actually mean to you? Is it really about just taking, taking, taking, or is there an element of lighting up when you get to give?
So here’s some tips that you could write down if you feel your kids have gotten a little bit of an entitlement feeling. Number one, teach them the value of what they’re asking for. When they ask for something, just ask them, “What does it mean to you? What does it mean to you to have it? Is there something you think you’ve done to deserve it? What’s the value of this and actually what does it mean for you if I said no? What if you don’t get it, what does that mean to you?” Create the conversation with your children so they at a younger age can start to understand the value of things. Not just because I want it, so I get it. We have an opportunity to shift what we have already created and we have an opportunity to create something that’s in the making. It’s up to us, so the first thing is to teach them the value.
The second thing I would say is gratitude. What are we grateful for? What does it mean to be grateful? What would it mean if we didn’t have this, and what would it mean if we did? What’s the difference? What’s that two-millimeter feeling of not having versus having? Maybe it’s a 10-millimeter feeling, right? The third thing is contribution. Teach your kids at a young age to give beyond themselves. Let them notice what it feels like to light up knowing that they gave their own time for someone else to feel good or for someone else to receive; that will help them even more.
Teach them these three things, and you watch. I challenge you to just do this for a week and see what happens. Just for one week, what happens? If anything, your conversations will change, and you might just see a difference in your child just in the way that they start talking about things or what they’re asking for.
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