A few steps you can take to help children feel empowered instead of entitled
As parents, we inherently want what is best for our children, which includes them growing up to live responsible, fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, a rather vexing phenomenon — known as entitlement — has presented itself over recent years, making it increasingly difficult for us to instill sound values in our children.
We all know an entitled child. Chances are we may very well have one living under our own roof.
Entitled children are me-centric and rarely show any empathy or gratitude. They seemingly believe they are entitled to have everything their way without lifting a finger to earn it. While entitled children are not ever easy to live with, they tend to grow up to be even more demanding, high-maintenance adults with similar childish behaviors, albeit on a much bigger scale.
Being mom to a very strong-willed teenage daughter is taxing to say the least. As a first-time parent, I was probably in denial for most of my now 22-year-old first-born’s teenage years. Being brought up very sheltered myself, I was blissfully unaware of many of the evils that lurked outside in the great big world.
When my daughter Sarah turned 13, she started dating a boy that was a year older. I thought she was too young, but she threw a tantrum and made it very clear that she was entitled to have a social life. The same year we bought her an art set for her birthday. She threw it on the floor, ran to her room, and slammed the door shut because she wanted a cellphone instead.
The next three years were a living hell for our family. The more we tried to guide Sarah in the right direction, the more she rebelled.
She wanted the best of everything but was not willing to do even the smallest of chores to help around the house. Luckily, we stuck to our guns and did not give in to her increasing demands.
Saying ‘no’ to Sarah was not always easy. She would shut us out completely when she didn’t get her way. If supper was not to her liking, she would make herself a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea and go to her room. Eventually we prohibited her from doing that. If she was not going to eat with the family she would go hungry. For nearly four years we fought with our daughter almost on a daily basis. Our undying love for her never changed and we continued to care for her, but we did not give in to any of her ultimatums.
It was shortly after her 17th birthday that the big breakthrough came. She wanted a car and her father made it clear in no uncertain terms that she would have to work for it. The next day she went out and got a job as a part-time server at a restaurant. Our rebellious daughter changed in front of our eyes, turning into the hardworking, kind, and caring individual she is today. It wasn’t an easy path to walk with her, but if I had to do it again I would not change anything.
We have the power to shape and mold our children through our parenting approaches.
It is for this reason that I urge all parents to make use of the following guidelines to avoid raising an entitled child at all costs:
- Teach your child patience and empathy
Empathy is one of the most vital skills you can teach your child. If a child is able to practice empathy, he will be able to respect and understand the opinions of others which, in turn, will put his own needs and desires into better perspective. Due to the instant gratification offered by technological advancements, many children fail to learn the virtues of patience.
The best way to foster patience is to not give in to your child’s demands but, instead, to set limits and generate expectation. If, for example, you don’t want your child to go to the mall alone with friends until she is 13, stick to your guns and make it something to look forward to. Do not be swayed by temper tantrums and empty threats and remember that no one benefits from always getting what they want when they want it.
- Instill a respect for hard work
Schooling your children on the value of hard work is one of the biggest (and longest-lasting) gifts you can bestow upon them. It is very unfortunate that many parents have become so centered on giving their children exactly what they want that they have completely lost sight of what their children actually need. With enough praise and encouragement, you may be able to evoke a healthy respect for hard work in your child from an early age.
While there is an increasing belief that no child should be forced to work, it is important to be able to distinguish between household chores and child abuse. Equipping your child with valuable skills such as how to change a light bulb, fix a leaking pipe, sew on a button, mend a broken zipper, tend to a vegetable garden, and cook a basic meal can be of immense benefit to them later on in life.
- Inspire responsibility
Irresponsible children tend to grow up to be even more irresponsible as adults. Luckily, there are a number of simple ways through which you can empower your child to be more responsible throughout his entire life. As already mentioned, assign age-appropriate chores at home and offer suitable praise when they are completed to your standards.
Give your child a voice, allowing him to make certain decisions that are appropriate for his age. Explain to your child that he is responsible for his own actions and that he will be held accountable for them at all times. Always try to incite commitment, encouraging active participation in extra-mural activities such as art classes, music lessons, sports, as well as age-appropriate community volunteer programs.
One of the biggest concerns for parents is the uncertainty of what the future holds for our children. By empowering them to live responsible, wholesome lives from a young age, we give them the best chance at being successful, responsible, and most importantly, happy adults.
Read more from Jane Sandwood on her author page
You may also enjoy reading The Kindness Contagion: Cultivating Lovingkindness in Our Children, by Christopher Willard