As parents, we have the unique responsibility and great challenge of helping our kids reach their full potential as successful, productive and well-balanced adults. That’s quite a mighty task, and one that should start in early childhood. Life lessons as young children are ingrained in our sense of self and carried throughout our lives. Although kids are inherently “me” centric, there are certain strategies to avoid raising entitled kids. Here are a few you can employ in your household:
Enforce Rules and Set Boundaries
Many common behavioral problems in children stem from a lack of rules and boundaries in their lives. While we often hear that “rules are meant to be broken,” when it comes to kids, they need the stability of knowing they should not break rules and when they do, there are consequences. Children will naturally test the boundaries, which is when it is important for parents to stand their ground. This means saying “no” often. It may make you uncomfortable and your child sad. But parents are not supposed to be their children’s best friends. If you give in to every request or exception to your own rules, you are teaching your child that rules really are bendable and they can manipulate the system in their favor. That’s not true in life and should not be true in your relationship with your child. That’s not to say treats and rewards aren’t warranted, but they should be earned and doled out on special occasions.
Teach Responsibility Early
Showing your kids the value of hard work and team work is a critical part to avoid raising entitled children. This means that everyone in the home should have responsibilities. Some call them “chores,” others call them “family contributions.” Whatever tag you give them, do assign them starting in toddlerhood. Young children should learn to play their part in familial responsibilities – no free loaders on board. Increase responsibilities to an age-appropriate level as your children grow older. If you set high expectations, your kids will likely want to meet them and often exceed them. This sense of hard work and team work will remain with them as they enter the workforce, new relationships and other meaningful activities in their lives.
Don’t Fix Their Problems
As new parents, you are responsible for every aspect of your baby’s life. You really do have to fix all of their problems. However, as they become more cognizant of the world around them, it’s time to teach some independence and stop coddling them. This is a hard lesson for many who follow attachment parenting. But allowing your kids space to figure things out for themselves will teach them great problem-solving skills for the future. There will be many scary and challenging situations they must face in their lives. Practice facing them early by encouraging kids to speak to peers, teachers and others about issues directly, rather than through you. This form of peaceful resolution can give them great pride and empower them to continue to stand up for themselves with confidence.
In a world of instant gratification, it’s easy to spoil your children. This goes for tangible items like toys and video games, and other things like sweets and television time. Develop a reward system that allows your kids to work towards goals and special rewards. Life doesn’t owe them anything but working to achieve a desired result is possible. Be especially aware of how much money you give your kids. You should not be an open bank, but rather encourage your kids to understand the value of money, saving and how much life costs. Be strict about allowance when your child is old enough to understand it. Also, help them save up for something they may really want.
Kids that realize the world is so much bigger than their bubble tend to be less entitled. Practicing gratitude by pointing out all you have to be thankful for in your lives is a great step in the right direction. Also, take time for random acts of kindness and give back when possible. Children who appreciate what they have and learn to help those around them will find more happiness, less stress and maintain a healthier outlook on life.