In this article, I will explore four easy steps parents can take to help them raise a non-entitled child. I have observed these steps in my capacity as Christian counselor for children, and while they are not fool-proof, in today’s world they will go a long way toward ensuring that your child will develop a healthy and grateful outlook. Helping your child adopt a non-entitled outlook will foster a sense of wholeness and happiness that won’t be determined by unrealistic expectations.
What Does Entitlement Look Like in Children?
Entitlement is about focusing on what someone thinks they deserve rather than what they’ve been given or earned. Entitlement feeds the idea that a prize should be awarded for behaviors that are often expected such as going to class or eating dinner. Entitlement robs the enjoyment of earning a prize through hard work. If a child gets a prize without working for it, it doesn’t hold value and will only tide them over until the next prize. This doesn’t mean that you can never surprise your child with a special treat or gift. But it is important to explain to your child why you are giving a gift to them such as it made you think of them or you wanted to show your love to them. A non-entitled child understands that his or her rewards are earned through good behavior, not because such rewards are freely given.
Step One: Set the Expectations
Decide what is expected from your children as a member of your family and what behaviors will be rewarded as going above what you expect from them. One way to do this is to have a chore chart to list your expectations. You could also have a family meeting to discuss general family expectations. Including children in the conversation is a great way to get more ideas and to let them know that they are a part of the discussion. It’s important to remind them that their feedback will be heard and taken into consideration and that the parents will make the final decision.
Step 2: Model Gratitude
Children are watching you and how you behave for clues to shape their own behavior. If you model gratitude, they will see this. It can be as simple as saying thank you to the cashier at the grocery store or at Starbucks. Or verbalizing your gratitude for another person’s action such as “I’m so thankful that your dad did the dishes so I didn’t have to do them today.” Gratitude views the world 180 degrees differently from entitlement. Instead of expecting things and feeling smug when we get them, gratitude brings joy in the moment. We are able to receive gifts and good moments when we are on the lookout for them. A non-entitled child will look on the world with gratefulness—an outlook which has been proven to increase our overall happiness.
Step 3: Cultivate Gratitude
Be on the lookout for things to be grateful for and then name those things out loud. You can turn it into a game with your children to see who can name more things they are grateful for. How would that change your car time if you said something like “Today I’m thankful for this sunny day. I love the feeling of the warmth on my face.” or “Today I’m thankful for a free swing at the playground so that we didn’t have to wait.” This is a great habit to start with your family. Once you get in the habit, you will see how easy it is to continue. It not only helps your children to be more appreciative, but it also helps them to recognize what someone else has done for them.
Step 4: Coach patience
Children aren’t naturally patient and it is a skill that needs to be modeled and taught. The great thing about this is that we have many opportunities to practice patience every day. Parents can talk to their children about developing their “waiting muscles” and praise them for waiting. The ability to wait is a skill that takes time and practice to achieve. In fact, you may still be fine-tuning your own waiting muscles as a parent.
Christian Counseling to Discourage Entitlement
After reading this article, maybe you have already started to identify times where you have modeled, cultivated, and coached gratitude and patience to your child. Or maybe you recognize there is room for improvement on what you are already doing to raise a grateful child. Delaying gratification is not something that is popular in our culture, but it is something that you can model and teach your children. As a Christian counselor, I would love to work alongside you and strategize together. You can raise a grateful, non-entitled child. It starts with choosing to be grateful and sharing that with your family.
Images cc: freedigitalphotos.net “Parents Enjoying With Child” by imagerymajestic 12:36 freedigitalphotos.net “Cute Girl” by arztsamui