How to Free Your Kids from Feeling Entitled

I grew up the eldest of four kids.

We had plenty, but there was not a lot of excess. My parents were very careful with their finances.

Christmas was wonderful, but gifts were carefully chosen, not overdone, and sometimes purchased with creativity.

I still remember one particularly moving Christmas.

My younger brother had begged and longed for a bike—his first real big two-wheeler. He couldn’t wait to see what Christmas morning brought. Anticipation and excitement pulsated throughout our home the night before, and by dawn’s early light, we kids were standing by the living room door waiting impatiently for permission to enter.

My brother’s face burst into joy when he saw his bright red two-wheeler.

He was way too excited to notice that the tires were a bit worn, the paint obviously fresh and small rust marks treated. It was his, and it was perfect!

Until . . . later in the day, his best friend Tom, who lived across the street, came over with his new bike.

It was bigger, shinier, and still had new tags and stickers in place. My little brother’s shoulders began to sag as he looked at his bike and compared it to Tom’s.

Someone else had something bigger and better.

And he was disappointed.

Mom and Dad were quick to point out the special features of both bikes and sent the boys off to ride, not allowing the differences in the bikes to become an issue.

Instead, they had us all rejoicing that both boys got bikes.  

We Live in an Entitled Culture

Over the years I’ve wondered how my parents really felt.

They probably felt sad they could not do for their kids what our neighbors could. They may have wondered if my brother would feel as loved as his buddy. And I imagine they were a bit embarrassed when the neighbors saw what my brother got—obviously a second-hand gift.

Perhaps you, as a parent or grandparent, are feeling a bit sad as Christmas approaches because you cannot give your children everything they want.

If this is you, be glad!

And if you are able to do all they want, don’t do it!

We live in an entitled culture. And it’s dangerous.

To keep our kids happy or to avoid disappointing them, we give in excess. This is bad for us and bad for our kids.

Why?

They are going to live in a world where they will not always be able to have whatever they want when they want it. If they don’t begin to learn this lesson while they are young, they will have a very miserable life as an adult.

Our kids have to learn to wait.

That thing they wanted now might have to be a gift of the future.

A wise parent teaches his children to wait while they are young. This prepares them for adulthood.

True happiness comes from giving not getting. This is true in marriage. It is true in sibling relationships and in every other relationship we have.

Kids Feeling Entitled? Here’s what we can do: 

  • Don’t be afraid to disappoint your child. You’d be surprised how many “must-have toys” are misplaced or forgotten after a week.
  • Shop second hand or on Craig’s list.
  • Make a family policy not to buy anything advertised on TV. Kids will want everything they see on commercials. Tell them, “We don’t buy what we see on commercials.”  (Ok, this might be a little severe, but do make some kind of family policy.)
  • Refuse to fall into the guilt trap or the comparison trap. I feel guilty because I can’t get… or I can’t do for mine what “they” can do for theirs.
  • Remain upbeat no matter what your child’s reaction is. Help them to be thankful. Remind them of all the good things they received.
  • Remind your kids that we are rich, not poor. The majority of us have a roof over our heads, a real floor to walk on and food to eat. Show them pictures of kids in the Third World, or drive through a poor neighborhood in your town.  Talk about what you see and how you might help.  This will give them perspective and a heart to serve others.  

As I reflect on my brother’s second-hand bike what has stayed with me over the years was that Mom and Dad were not ruled by “the lack.” Instead, they chose to be upbeat and grateful. They knew that someone else would always have bigger and better and more.

But what we had was the most precious – an understanding of the gift of Jesus and the love for one another.  

How to Free Your Kids from Feeling Entitled

Kids feeling entitled is quite common, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Entitlement is a learned behavior — inadvertently taught by many parents. Discover how you can raise grateful, happy kids instead of whiny kids who feel the world owes them everything. It’s easier than you might think!

We hope you’ll join us for this inspiring AND practical conversation on wise parenting by listening below or HERE on the FAITHFUL LIFE podcast!

FAITHFUL LIFE podcast

Matt and Lisa Jacobson, authors of 100 Ways to Love Your Husband and 100 Ways to Love Your Wife, are the hosts of a weekly podcast to talk about what it means to be a biblical Christian in marriage, parenting, church, and culture. Matt and Lisa offer deep encouragement, along with practical steps and true-life stories, as we grow in walking the faithful life together.

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