Parenting children is complicated. We love our kids and we want to help them in any way we can. We want them to feel happy and carefree, but we also want them to be self-sufficient and humble. As parents, we give and give and give, and we hope that one day our kids will acknowledge and appreciate this fact (haha, yeah right). So, how do we provide for our children in the best way we can without raising them to be entitled?
7 ways to avoid raising entitled children
- Say no. And mean it. Saying “no” is a way to teach children that things don’t always go their way. Sure, they might want something – a toy, candy, a pair of shoes, or even a new car, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get it. The word “no” is only effective if you say it and mean it. Even if your kids take you saying “no” as a challenge to ask until you change your mind, you have to stick to your guns and don’t give in. The short-term pain you endure will more than pay off by having children who understand the meaning of the word “no.”
- Make them work for it. Children have a hard time appreciating the value of a dollar if they’ve never had to work for it. If you have teenagers at home, they should be working. They don’t need to find a full-time job and start paying rent but they’re old enough to find a part-time gig or a side hustle to earn some spending money. Kids need to understand where money comes from and it comes from work.
- Make them pay. Once your kids are working, make them pay for things. Their clothes, cell phone, or gas for the car. This is a way for them to start connecting the dots between time and money. Sure, you can have that $200 pair of shoes but are they worth 20 hours of work? If you have young children, you can achieve the same end by having them use their birthday or “Christmas” money to purchase that shiny, new object rather than just buying it for them. The experience of having to part with their own money is a critical component to helping them understand the value of a buck.
- Expose them to diversity. If your kids go to private school and see all of their friends driving up in BMWs, returning from family vacations in the Maldives, and wearing $300 jeans, this will become their normal. How could it not be? It’s what they see day in and day out.
If you want your kids to have a more realistic vision of the world around them, show it to them. Set up opportunities for them to volunteer and help the less fortunate, have straight-forward conversations about how most other people live. Better yet, lead by example. Forgo the designer jeans and stop buying the newest iPhone every time it comes out. Show them success in life isn’t defined by the toys you possess.
- Teach empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. To be able to feel what it’s like to be in another person’s position. If you don’t want to raise entitled children, teach them empathy. Help them feel what it’s like to struggle with money. Talk to your children about how their friends may feel if they’re bragging about their cool new $200 earbuds while their family is struggling to just pay the bills at home. Don’t rely on them to connect the dots. Help them.
- Teach gratitude. “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” – Epictetus. If only we could instill this mindset in all of our children. Not to mention all adults.
Teach your children to be grateful for what they have, to never take for granted their good fortune. Research shows that an attitude of gratitude leads to more positive emotions, improved health, the ability to deal with adversity, and the ability to develop strong relationships. Grateful people also make better friends, spouses, employees, and co-workers. So, do yourself and your children the great service of teaching gratitude.
An easy way to get started is to teach your children to say “thank you.” I know that sounds obvious but have you encountered young people lately? There’s a serious lack of “thank you’s” being offered these days. That’s not the fault of the children, it’s our fault as parents. Good manners – and a grateful heart – are distilled down from parents to our children. Another way is to teach gratitude is to go around the dinner table before eating and have everyone share one thing in their life they are grateful for. It’s a simple but powerful habit that can have a positive, lifelong impact.
- Teach them money is a tool. At it’s most fundamental level, money is simply a tool to help accomplish goals and meet life ambitions. It’s a means to an end, not the end itself. It’s important to teach our children money is not something to be worshiped or hoarded. It’s perfectly fine to want to “make a lot of money,” but we must always keep in mind what money’s role in our life should be. There’s nothing wrong with “being good with money” as a source of confidence in our lives but it should never be a measure of our self-worth.