Do you believe that kids should be raised with no illusions about being handed anything in life? Do you believe that when you earn your way in life, you appreciate it more and in the process become a better person? Most parents feel that they are doing all the right things to raise kids who appreciate what they have and understand that they can’t have everything just because they want to. Yet most parents make some common mistakes which contribute to children growing up with the sense that something is owed to them. It could be small acts or daily displays of spoiled-ness, or a bigger one like parents bribing schools to get their undeserving child into it.
Here are four common things to keep in mind:
1. Teach children to cope with not getting their way or losing
It’s important for parents of younger kids to understand that children under the age of four haven’t developed a cognitive mechanism that allows them to imagine someone else’s experience, and this makes it harder for them to have empathy. Parents must actively teach them that they will not always get their way. They should explain to kids that not getting their way may feel bad, but it is expected. When you don’t allow your child to have what they want, for example a toy, you must then give them space to grapple with what it feels like to not get their way, and show confidence that you expect them to get through it. It can be a pretty powerful lesson, particularly when it’s repeated often as a natural part of growing up.
2: Give them enough household responsibilities
Teaching responsibility is a huge task of parenting and it’s a great antidote to entitlement, especially when it comes to helping out around the home. The tasks don’t need to be huge. And you can start them pretty young. Simple things like having them bring their plate to the kitchen, wiping down the table; things your three year old can do. Having age-appropriate chores is not burdensome; it shows that you are a helpful member of the household. Even if they complain, carry on. Say, “Just because you don’t want to do it doesn’t mean you don’t have to.” Fostering a sense of competence through basic responsibilities at home can help boost kids’ sense of confidence in a way that they carry with them throughout their lives, and help them grow into responsible adults.
3: Boundaries are really important, be consistent
It’s hard to be consistent if you’re wishy-washy on what your boundaries actually are. Do a bit of a gut check: What are some of the lines you really want to hold? What boundaries are important to you and your parenting partner? How consistent are you really about keeping those boundaries in place? This can be for small daily habits to bigger expectations about how you’d like your child to behave as a citizen of the world.
Sometimes if you’re exhausted and you give in, you shouldn’t worry. Think of it in a balanced way and give yourself a break. But in general, you must be able to stick to your rules or boundaries 75% of the time. Know that strictness can really help keep children’s sense of privilege in check, but you can be compassionate and strict at the same time.
4: Model the behaviour you’d like to see
Kids absolutely watch how their parents and caregivers behave toward others, and they do a major amount of learning that way. The first thing you always want to do is look at how you treat other people. Every now and then, simply ask yourself: “Am I proud of how I’m behaving right now?” We’re all going to make mistakes. But our kids are watching, and they are learning how to behave from us.