Kids are filled with a sense of entitlement these days. Luckily, the answer is a simple solution you can read about here.
Our 9 year old decided that he wants–no, needs to own a fidget cube.
My Mom had bought small fidget spinners for my older two boys, and she offered to get one for him, too. But he wanted a slightly different model for himself.
Trouble is, he had spent all of his money on a giant Lego set months ago and hadn’t refilled his piggy bank since then.
Part of me wanted to plop down the money for the toy and let him have it. After all, it’s only a few dollars.
Even in our #yearofno it wouldn’t be much to spend. (More on that in a minute.)
And who can turn down a cute face asking for such a small thing?
Instead, I began to think about this moment on a larger scale. Just one little moment like this seems insignificant.
Was there really a lesson on the sense of entitlement to be learned here?
The One Thing That Stops The Sense of Entitlement
Since we began our #yearofno in order to get out of debt, I’ve heard a lot of questions. “How’s it work?” “What are you doing differently?”
But the question I’m asked the most is “How did you get your kids on board?”
At first, this question totally baffled me. Why would I ask permission from my kids?
But more and more, I get it.
We live in a world where our kids expect to get everything they want, and to get it now.
Any TV show you want on demand without commercials. (What are commercials, Mom?) Candy or stickers at every stop while you run errands.
And parents that are so busy, they can hardly keep up.
Who hasn’t occupied their kids with a screen in a pinch?
But for the most part, I try hard to keep entitled behavior at bay. It’s not a fight I’m willing to lose.
So when we decided to quit buying anything but necessities for over 2 years, we got our kids on board right away.
We did it by saying no.
I didn’t buy the thing they ask for. I don’t take them every place they want to go. There’s no way I’m going to let them eat fast food every time they ask for it. I’m not buying a new app each week.
Frankly, I’m not willing to leave my future in the hands of little people too young to understand the consequences of their choices.
Is that child abuse? Several people have said that it is!
But I’ll stand my ground. And I’ll tell you why you should stand your ground, too.
Why “No” Is Hard
Why do parents have a hard time saying no to their children? Is it because they think the best way to show love is to give a child everything they want?
Or because they can’t stand the inevitable whining that comes with saying no?
Is it because they feel peer pressure to keep up with what the other kids at school are wearing, seeing, doing, owning? Or because they want to give their kids better than what they had?
I’m no robot. I’ve felt the pressure of every one of those scenarios. But I’ve found that caving into a yes for any of those reasons always leads to regret.
Why You Must Say No Anyway
A few reasons come to mind…
How many adults struggle with self control? All of us do from time to time. If adults have trouble with it, how can we expect our kids to know self control?
How does your child’s sense of entitlement effect your life? Probably in more ways than you realize.
If you have nothing in savings, but your kid owns the latest tablet or phone, you need to realign your priorities.
If you have no retirement plan, but you took your kids to Disney World, ditto.
With no savings, you’re in for a tough future. Don’t expect your kids to bail you out. They’ll be busy working hard to give their kids even more than you gave them.
(Or, let’s be honest, still sleeping on your couch because you never expected them to get a job.)
Work Yourself Out of a Job
“Parenting done right means working yourself out of a job.”
When I first read that quote, I stiffened a little. No mother on Earth wants to become totally unnecessary.
(I mean, we’d adore using the bathroom in privacy every now and then… but let’s not get too extreme.)
But when I thought about it, I realized its truth.
I still need my own Mom and always will. But she gave me the lessons I needed to be able to survive on my own.
You teach your children to walk, feed themselves, use the bathroom, and get dressed. But that’s just the beginning.
Teach them to…
- Solve their own problems whenever possible. (No, I can’t do that for you. What happens when you try it?)
- Wait. (No, I can’t buy that gadget. How could you earn the money yourself?)
- Be patient. (No, you can’t play with toys during church. We’ll play together later.)
- Stand up to peer pressure. (No, I won’t buy you a phone plan when you’re in elementary school. I’m sorry your friends all have phones, but that’s not how our family does things.)
How to Start Saying No
I read a parenting book called The Well-Behaved Child. Many would call it old fashioned, but certain important lessons have been lost between generations. And one of his “old fashioned” points gave me an “aha” moment.
Think about basketball. If your child hits another player, does the ref pull them aside and ask if they meant to do that?
No. He points to them, reads their number, and gives them a foul. No second chances. No discussion on what the child feels about what just happened.
And that’s life in a nutshell!
Here It Comes…
I know what you’re thinking! If you tell your child no, he or she is going to whine. And I don’t mean a little whine.
There will be full blown dramas fit for Hollywood.
You’re probably right! But the truth is, I’ve been telling my kids no for ages…and they still whine. But the Hollywood moments are fewer and farther between!
To be honest, if you’re the type to give in to whining, you’ve created some serious work for yourself. Your kid knows just how to play you.
So let them have their fit, but who says you have to participate in it? Tell them to keep their fit in a certain room and they’re free to come out when they’re finished.
Just remember that the only way to break the whining habit is to let your children know with certainty that whining will never result in them getting what they want.
You’ll have to prove to them over and over again that you’ve quit the habit of giving in to whining before they take you seriously.
Timing Is Everything
Don’t wait for the meltdown moment to tell your kids no. Practice saying no every day. Does that sound like a negative thing?
Then reframe the way you talk about it.
My kids want to eat snacks and play with toys during church. Instead, I remind them, “Out of an entire week, I ask you to sit still and be quiet for just one hour. That’s not asking too much.”
Then it’s just a matter of not bringing snacks or toys with you to church.
That can be hard. You’ll probably miss important parts of church that you’d rather be paying attention to, because you’ll be redirecting children instead.
But keep doing it! Eventually, they’ll adjust. (Probably sooner than you expect.)
Another example… On the advice of parents whose kids are older than mine, I’ve decided that my kids don’t need access to social media until high school.
That’s hard for all of us. I want them to be able to interact with their friends. And that’s how most kids interact these days.
But it’s not worth the trouble that comes with social media. Kids who aren’t old enough to understand the responsibilities of such a powerful tool simply shouldn’t have it.
Both children and parents have to practice this “no” on a regular basis in a world that accepts technology so quickly.
But it’s given us real world chances to talk about technology as we ease our kids into new situations.
Why is this YouTube video ok, but that one isn’t? What happened to this child in the news when he posted something to Instagram?
No kid is going to say, “Yeah, Mom. I see your point about social media. You’re so smart!”
But it will plant a tiny seed in their minds to ponder on as they go through life.
Parenting is hard, 24/7/365 work. There are no breaks. No one is perfect, and we all get tired sometimes.
But every time you skip the consequence you gave your child, you’re adding a layer of confusion. Sure, kids love skipping out on punishments.
And you might feel like you’re showing them love by backing down.
But kids don’t like the feeling that their parents aren’t reliable.
So follow through on punishments every time. But balance that out by making sure you’re spending quality time together, too!
If you do just one thing, think out the proper consequence for their behavior (good or bad) and always follow through. And forget the whole notion of “just this one time”.
What Are the Best Things In Life?
- Family you can count on. (Prove it, Mom and Dad!)
- True friendships (not superficial groups of peers).
- Good health, money habits, and relationships from learning to say no to every little impulse.
- Knowing how to work hard and problem solve. (Important for everything!)
- Forgiveness. None of us are perfect, and we’re all trying to do our best!
The Fun Part
Do I say no to my children every single time? Of course not! It’s fun to have ice cream before supper or grab tickets for that special event. But the secret is, those things are fun treats. Done every day, they start to lose their sparkle.
Learn to say no to your children and give them the best instead.
While I silently wrung my hands and reminded myself not to interfere with my boy while he struggled with his desire to buy something he couldn’t afford, he got busy and solved the problem.
A few chores later, and he was able to buy that fidget with money he’d earned himself!
By the way, I strongly recommend you have your kids do chores regularly. Grab this free printable list of chores for kids by age!
Give your kids a chance to prove to both of you that they can do it.
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How do you deal with the sense of entitlement in your kids?