Amid an era of instant gratification, combating entitlement in children becomes paramount. Discover actionable strategies to nurture empathy and gratitude, cultivating a generation of compassionate individuals.
Navigating Entitlement: Raising Children Amidst an Age of Instant Gratification
The level of entitlement oozing from my three kids hit me squarely in the face this past year.
We had a problem.
I had made dinner for my family. It was a typical night but when they were all done eating, my three kids got up from the table and began heading their own ways.
There I sat with a clenched jaw staring at the three plates and three water cups still sitting on the table, not to mention forks and pieces of food that had been pushed off plates strewn about on the table.
It was a total mess.
They had left without a backward glance or thought of offering to help clean up, let alone say thank you for the dinner I had made.
What I did receive at the dinner table were grumbles about the amounts of broccoli I’d served and a pit in my stomach about how unappreciated I felt.
I sat back down and began thinking about this ungrateful, entitled behavior and there were more than several instances I could also recall in the near past this had come up too.
I called my husband back into the dining room and we had a talk about what we had been allowing and how we were going to course-correct the sense of entitlement that was running rampant through our house, and amongst our kids.
Maybe this story resonates, or maybe not, but I will also share other examples of entitlement that can show up at home as well as practical steps to mitigate the behavior now so it’s not a larger problem down the road.
But here’s the thing.. when I began talking with a few friends who also have practices in town and see families, this is a much bigger problem than I initially thought. So many parents are experiencing this too!
The Entitlement Problem: Lack of Gratitude and Appreciation is a Breeding Ground for Entitlement Behaviors to Grow Quickly
In an era characterized by instant gratification and the age of indulgence, the challenge of entitlement behaviors in our children takes on a new significance.
Dr. Anna Lembke’s insights in her book “Dopamine Nation” shed light on how our current times promote a culture of immediacy, where desires are met promptly and effortlessly applicable to both children and adults. This environment can inadvertently lead our children to exhibit entitlement behaviors, as they become accustomed to having their wants met instantly.
As parents, it’s vital to recognize the implications of this age of indulgence and understand why prompt intervention is crucial.
This article delves into the world of entitlement behaviors, exploring how children’s interactions with their parents reflect the broader trends of instant gratification.
By addressing these behaviors early on, we can help our children navigate this challenging landscape, fostering empathy, gratitude, and responsibility before the patterns of entitlement become deeply ingrained.
Entitlement: Kids Actions Towards Parents & Family Members
Children may unintentionally exhibit a sense of entitlement towards their parents, as well as siblings and other family members, with an undertone of privilege and ingratitude, like my dinner story I shared above.
Here are some specific scenarios that might help you recognize entitlement in action at your home:
Not Appreciating Efforts:
Your child shows little to no gratitude for the meals you prepare, even if it’s a favorite dish. They might make negative comments about the food or simply take it for granted without acknowledging your effort.
Example 1: Your child dismisses a handmade meal you’ve prepared with a simple “I don’t like this,” failing to recognize the time and care you invested in cooking.
Example 2: They leave the table without a word after a meal, not bothering to thank you or acknowledge the effort put into providing nourishment.
Your child refuses to participate in household chores or clean up after themselves, assuming that these tasks are solely your responsibility and want nothing to do with helping out.
Example 1: Your child outright refuses to tidy up their play area, asserting that cleaning is something only parents should do for them.
Example 2: When asked to help with setting the table for dinner, they respond with a clear refusal, asserting that they have no role in contributing to the family’s routine.
Demanding Immediate Attention:
Your child interrupts your conversations or tasks demanding your full attention, often without considering that you might be busy or engaged in something important. You could be in the middle of a conversation with another person and it’s as if they hadn’t noticed and began speaking and asking for your attention.
Example 1: Your child interrupts your phone call by loudly insisting on having a snack, seemingly unaware that you were in the middle of an important conversation.
Example 2: During a busy moment when you’re addressing urgent emails, your child continuously tugs at your sleeve, demanding your attention for a trivial matter.
Your child enters your personal space, uses your belongings, or asks for things without seeking permission or acknowledging your ownership. Sometimes they’ll do this even though you’ve asked them not to do these types of things.
Example 1: Your child enters your home office despite being asked not to, browsing through your documents and using your computer without seeking permission.
Example 2: They borrow your personal belongings, like your phone or jewelry, without asking, and continue to do so even after being told it’s inappropriate.
Expecting Special Treatment:
Your child insists on receiving special treatment, privileges, or rewards without earning them, believing they deserve these things simply because they are your child, and might be incredulous to working towards them if you offer that as a solution.
Example 1: Your child throws a tantrum when not given a dessert before dinner, insisting that they should have it because they “deserve” it.
Example 2: During a game with friends, they demand to win simply because they believe being your child grants them the privilege, even if they didn’t play well or follow the rules.
Action Steps for Parents: Nurturing Gratitude and Responsibility
Dealing with entitlement behaviors requires a balanced and thoughtful approach. Here are action steps you can take to address specific scenarios and guide your child toward empathy, gratitude, and a sense of responsibility:
- Practice Empathy: Gently ask your child about their thoughts on the meal. If they express dissatisfaction, acknowledge their feelings without judgment.
- Share Effort: Explain the effort and care that went into preparing the meal. Encourage them to find something positive about it.
- Rotate Responsibilities: Involve your child in meal planning and preparation occasionally. This can help them appreciate the effort that goes into providing for the family.
- Set Clear Expectations: Establish a chore chart with age-appropriate responsibilities for everyone in the family, including parents.
- Model Behavior: When doing chores, mention how it contributes to the family’s well-being and expresses gratitude for everyone’s efforts.
- Celebrate Contributions: Praise your child for completing their responsibilities. Reinforce that each person’s efforts are vital in maintaining a happy home.
Demanding Immediate Attention:
- Establish Communication Norms: Teach your child that it’s respectful to wait for an appropriate time to interrupt and ask for attention.
- Explain Boundaries: Discuss why respecting your time and space is important. Share examples of when they’re engrossed in an activity.
- Offer Alternatives: Suggest ways they can occupy themselves while you finish your task, like reading a book or working on a puzzle.
- Communicate Ownership: Explain the concept of personal space and belongings. Discuss how respecting each other’s belongings is a sign of empathy and consideration.
- Create Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for personal spaces and belongings. Teach them to ask for permission before using something that belongs to you.
- Encourage Sharing: Encourage sharing in appropriate contexts. Explain that sharing fosters positive relationships and a sense of community.
Expecting Special Treatment:
- Discuss Privileges: Have an open conversation about privileges and rewards. Explain that certain privileges are earned through responsible behavior.
- Reward Effort: Recognize and celebrate your child’s achievements and responsible actions. Emphasize that special treatment comes as a result of their positive efforts.
- Encourage Contribution: Engage your child in family decisions and activities that promote a sense of belonging and investment.
By addressing these scenarios with empathy, patience and proactive strategies, you can gently guide your child away from entitlement and toward a more balanced and considerate mindset, helping them break free from entitled behavior and become more empathetic, grateful, and responsible.
Remember, cultivating these qualities takes time and consistent effort, but the rewards are truly worth it as you watch your child grow into a compassionate and appreciative individual.