I recently told my daughter in law that it was my job to make sure her children believe they are the center of the universe and it’s her job to make sure they know they aren’t. I was joking—kind of. She is ready to deliver our third grandbaby and I already have a pretty good track record of making the first two think the world revolves around them. If I had treated my kids like I do these littles, they would probably be unemployed and still living at my house expecting me to do their laundry! Can I get an amen from the grandmas out there?
As parents, how do you go about making sure your kids don’t grow up with an air of entitlement? Your job is to raise responsible adults who are self-sufficient and hard working. In our daycare and preschool programs we see the fruits of this problem all the time. We have kids who won’t clean up their own messes because someone will always do it for them. We have kids who boldly announce that it’s their birthday and remind us that we owe them a birthday treat. We have kids who feel like the rules don’t apply to them and expect us to always rescue them from their mistakes. Maybe you see some of these traits in your own child, but aren’t sure how to reverse that line of thinking. I have a few ideas for you!
First, cultivate a servant’s heart. The whole time my boys were growing up, the family joke was that they would be “happy to help” with anything anyone needed. That’s actually what I’d tell people—“My boys would be happy to carry that to your car. My boys would be happy to stay and stack the chairs when the event is over. My boys would be happy to mow your lawn.” You get the idea. They even caught on and would say, “I’m sure I’d be happy to help trim your hedges, wouldn’t I, Mom?” Were they always “happy to help”? Ummmm….not always, but I didn’t allow back talk or eye rolling or deep sighing from boys that were instructed to help. To this day, they will go out of their way to help others when they see a need.
Second, don’t buy them something every time you go to the store. (That’s the grandma’s job anyway!) When the boys were around 3 and 7, we were in Walmart and my younger son was asking for a pair of roller skates. I had already told him “no” but he asked again. His brother ended it by reminding him that they were with Mom, not Grammy. Wanting something is ok. Saving up for it by doing extra jobs is a great lesson in how to spend money wisely. Just because all of their friends have one doesn’t mean that your kid has to have one too. And if you say, “no”, mean what you say. Don’t give in because you are exasperated and don’t want to hear the begging anymore. The correct answer to “No, we’re not getting anything today” is “Yes, ma’am.” If you’ve already gotten into this bad habit, rough roads are ahead when you try to break it. Hold on tight and let them know that there’s a new sheriff in town.
Third, expect them to do their part. When the boys got old enough to stay home when I went to the grocery, they knew that when I pulled in the driveway they had better come out and help carry in the groceries. (This feature of child rearing is one that I miss terribly on grocery day as an empty nester.) If they wanted to eat the food—and they DID want to eat the food because boys are always hungry—they had to do their fair share. When they were old enough for yardwork, my husband saw the opportunity to train them to help and eventually turned those jobs over to them. (He misses this particular feature of child rearing, too!) I promise you won’t ruin their childhood by expecting them to contribute to the household chores. Start this young by putting hooks where your preschooler can reach them and having them hang up their own coat or put their shoes in a designated area. Your child’s teacher will thank you for training them to take care of their own things!
Finally, model the kind of human you want them to become. Let another car go in front of you in traffic. Hold the door for strangers. Help an elderly neighbor drag their trash cans to the curb and back. Not only are you making an impact in someone else’s life, but you are living by example. As the old saying goes, “People won’t always believe what you say, but they’ll always believe what you do.”
Hi! I'm Janet and I've been the Director of the Before and After School and Smart Start Preschool Programs at the Troy Rec since 1994. My hubby and I have been married 30 years and we have two grown sons. Each of them is married and blessing us with grandchildren left and right. Life is good even when the nest is empty!