Helpful Tips on Combatting Entitlement in Kids
Good, I’m not the only one that struggles with the entitlement mentality in my kids, or me. My earlier post on this subject generated quite a bit of feedback from many who are facing similar issues. At least I know I am not alone in this struggle to counter the selfish, materialistic culture we now live in each day.
As I heard the comments and thoughts from different people on the previous article I got to thinking about the specific things my wife and I do to discourage entitlement and encourage giving; both in our kids and in ourselves. So I thought I would share some of those things in an effort to pass on the tips and practices that have helped us. I hope these thoughts are helpful to you and something you can use to build on for your own family.
But I hope you will not just look at these ideas as something good for your kids. I will continue to reiterate this for my sake and yours, we must model the character traits and qualities we want to see developed in our kids. So these ideas are just as appropriate for us as parents as they are for our kids.
1. Keep it in the box: Approximately 90% of our kids’ toys are in a single toy box kept in their rooms. We have a box for each child intentionally in order to limit the amount of toys our kids keep. A few things are kept in their rooms, but the majority is in that toy box. So when the box is full and more toys come into the house (via Christmas or birthdays) we sort through the toy box to find what we can give away in order to make room for the new toys.
It seems today that many families seek houses big enough to hold everyone’s toys; mom and dad included. So rather than having an adequate house that meets our needs we have huge houses that cost more than we can truly afford or need. The by-product of this is mom and dad working more hours, sometimes two jobs, spending less time at home in the great big house that holds all our “stuff.” Entire rooms are dedicated to toys of all kinds and yet the quality of life as a family has gone down. By limiting the amount of “toys” we allow into our houses we can eliminate distractions from things that really matter; spending time together, talking, learning new skills, serving our neighbors and community, serving our faith community at church.
2. Don’t forget the list: Just as it is financially wise to go to the grocery store with a list (that’s another article altogether) it is also wise to have a “gift list” for our kids and ourselves. We keep an ongoing list of “needs” and “wants” for our family so that when birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas rolls around we have suggestions for our friends and family. This not only helps “keep everything in the box” but ensures that our kids get the things they need, such as clothes, shoes, bedding, and other items.
Family and friends always ask “what do your kids want,” or “do your kids need anything” when it comes time for birthdays and Christmas. They honestly want to know so that they give a gift that will be a blessing more than a burden. So we communicate with our family and friends and share our ongoing list with them so they are blessed by giving something that is truly appreciated and we are blessed by receiving something that is really needed. There’s nothing wrong with getting (or giving) things that are just for fun, but it is financially helpful to your family and wise to make sure that needed items such as clothing and shoes are also known.
3. Top it off: Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes families make is going through the year and its gift days, birthdays, holidays, without setting a limit on how much they will spend. We don’t buy a house or a car without planning ahead, setting a budget, and sticking to the plan. Neither should we go a whole year randomly buying gifts regardless of the price. By deciding beforehand how much we will spend on birthday presents, anniversaries, and Christmas we ensure that we won’t go into debt or get out of control with spending.
I can’t help but think that many people don’t stick to a gift giving budget because it would limit the things we can buy for each other and our kids. Having a limit is not a bad thing. Our kids need more than anything to see that we are responsible with our money, that we don’t give in to the consumer entitlement mentality of self-gratification when we desire something. Just because I want a new 85 inch HD flat screen television doesn’t mean I need one. Having a gift giving cap ensures financial peace of mind as we plan for gift purchases rather than letting them surprise us all year long.
I hope these practical tips for fighting the entitlement mentality are helpful for you and your family. As we seek to model the traits and characteristics we want to see in our kids we will have greater success if we have a plan. Once we have a plan we need to stick to the plan. Financial freedom and peace of mind through proper stewardship of resources is something rare in our culture, but its worth far more than all the “toys” this world has to offer.