Escaping Entitlement :: Teaching Kids to Be Grateful

Any time there is a chance that my children will get gifts I cringe because I know what might be coming. And that is…nothing. They seem to think that receiving gifts is not out of the ordinary. Especially from those closest to us. I am always so embarrassed and try to understand what I’m doing wrong in raising entitled (read: spoiled) kids.

It all came to a head when an Easter gift was given and there was no second glance. There was an, “ok thanks” but it didn’t seem heartfelt. After the gift-giver left my husband and I sat down with them to explain to them how embarrassing that was for us. That they have everything they could possibly need and most of what they want – that there are so many people less fortunate than we are and that they need to be grateful for what they have.

It was a very sticky situation because we were the cause of this.

We were the ones giving them all the things they need (and most of what they want). We were allowing the behavior, if only by not enforcing rules and limits. But it wasn’t like we weren’t teaching them how to act and behave. And that should be enough, right? WRONG!

Of course I ran to a parenting Facebook group to ask for suggestions. Boy did I get some responses. It seems like this is an issue no matter the age of children, toddlers to teenagers. We live in a society of want and greed and once you start it’s hard to stop. After getting talked off the ledge, I went to my Facebook page and asked for suggestions, because who better to ask than my friends who I know and trust?

Here are some of the suggestions I received.

  • Make your kids do without. If things get bad, take their coveted items away. If it gets worse, make them do without, even some items that they consider “essentials”.
  • Send thank you notes any time they receive a gift
  • Volunteer or do community service. This may be especially powerful if they see other children in circumstances that are much worse than their own. 
  • Open their eyes. Introduce them to other cultures and countries that are much less fortunate than we are. Even if we can’t go there, make them do research. Learn about the cultures and what are important to the people that live there.
  • Have purposeful discussions about things we have and get to do that others do not.

The thing that came up the most was to be more grateful ourselves, as parents. Make a point to think of one thing you are grateful for every day. Not always want (and get) the next new thing. When asking for something from our kids use please and thank you. Let them know you appreciate good behavior and the things they are doing (even if it is a required chore). And heck, just let them know you’re grateful that they are your kids! Some of my friends with kids older than my own said that as they get older they will mimic you and your behaviors. So if you’re living a grateful life, your children should follow. 

I’m not going to say that this will be a one and done type of thing. I’m sure we’ll have to fiddle around with some of each of these and on a continuing basis because I think an entitled attitude can and will come back quickly if you let it. My kids aren’t perfect by any means but they’re usually pretty good humans, so as we try to change our attitudes and behaviors hopefully theirs will follow.

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