Note from Daniel: This is a guest post by Veronica Wallace.
Do you ever fear that your children are entitled?
Entitlement is the opposite of gratitude.
When children and teenagers feel entitled, they become upset when they don’t get what they feel they deserve.
But when their lives are filled with gratitude, they express appreciation for the many good things they know they don’t deserve at all.
Here are 30 ways to fight entitlement and develop gratitude in your children.
1. Don’t just make your children say “please” and “thank you”; explain to them why it’s important to do so sincerely
Many children and teens say “please” and “thank you” without sincerity.
They say it out of politeness, because their parents have trained them to use these “magic” words.
But warmth and sincerity matter more than politeness.
Encourage your children to say “please” and “thank you”, and explain to them how these words must come from a place of genuine gratitude.
Only when your children mean it each time will they cultivate a spirit of thankfulness.
2. Expect more from your children
When you don’t expect anything of your children, they’ll expect everything of you.
Needing to earn something and being grateful to others for what you’ve earned is key.
Chores and responsibilities are powerful tools that will prevent your children from becoming entitled.
3. Establish boundaries
Creating boundaries is essential so that your children understand that resources aren’t infinite.
Work with your children to establish boundaries related to spending, responsibilities, toys, electronic devices, etc.
Show your children how you establish boundaries in your own life too.
4. Give your children privileges that are tied to demonstrated responsibility
As far as possible, tie new privileges to demonstrated responsibility.
This will enable your children to understand that they’ll reap what they sow.
For example, when your children keep to their curfew timing consistently for one month, their curfew timing could be extended by 15 minutes the following month.
5. Try role-playing with your children
Children and teenagers who have not been practising gratitude may have a hard time expressing it when the opportunity presents itself.
Role-playing scenarios in which your children could express gratitude will help them to turn gratitude into a habit.
6. Reduce the abundance in your home
Children and teens who have less tend to be more grateful for what they have.
That’s why you don’t see many picky eaters around when food is scarce.
Be careful not to spoil your children by giving them whatever they want – a lack of abundance will help them to be grateful for what they have.
Reducing the abundance in your home will mean that you’ll need to make sacrifices too. But these sacrifices will be worth it when you observe your children becoming less entitled.
7. Explain the difference between wants and needs
Your children might want ice cream, but they need to eat balanced meals if they want to grow up healthy.
Help them understand the difference between wants and needs in various areas of life. As time goes by, they’ll be more appreciative whenever they get something they want (but don’t need).
8. Believe that your children can change
Many parents have already decided that their children are spoiled and entitled.
So every instance where their children behave in a way that seems mildly entitled confirms this belief.
If you want your children to become more grateful, you must believe that change is possible.
Keep your eyes open to observe any progress that your children are making as you apply the tips in this article.
9. Model the desired behaviour for your children
Like it or not, your children will emulate you.
They’ll also be quick to point it out if they think you’re being hypocritical.
So take a good look in the mirror.
How often do you act entitled? How often do you express gratitude? Do you complain a lot?
Change your own behaviour and attitude, and you’ll see a change in your children.
10. Encourage your children to keep a journal
Journalling is an excellent way to learn about your feelings and cultivate mindfulness.
Encourage your children to journal every day or week about the things they’re grateful for and the life lessons they’re learning.
Of course, if you encourage your children to do this, then you should do it too!
11. Distinguish between owed and given
Children and teenagers may think that they’re owed everything.
Have conversations with your children about what they deserve and what they’ve received because of the love and generosity of others.
12. Serve others as a family
Be the kind of person who goes out of his or her way to help others out. Encourage your children to do the same.
Talk about why serving others is a crucial part of life, and serve others together as a family.
As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
13. Perform random acts of kindness
Do something nice for a family member, a friend, or even a stranger.
Get your children involved in performing these random acts of kindness too.
It’s impossible for your children to become kinder without also becoming less entitled.
If you’re not used to performing such acts of kindness, it will feel strange at the start. So be sure to begin by taking tiny steps!
14. Talk about money and how much things cost
Children sometimes think ATMs are magical machines that dispense money.
Explain to your children how much various things cost, e.g. groceries, electronic devices, restaurant meals, cars, houses.
Talk to them about the dangers of accumulating credit card debt, and explain to them how you’re being intentional about living within your means.
Teach them to ask the question, “Can I afford it?” But teach them that it’s even more important to ask the question, “Do I need it?”
After all, just because we can afford something doesn’t mean that we need to have it.
15. Create gratitude rituals
For example, once or twice a week before a family meal, you can go around the table and ask every family member to share one thing they’re thankful for.
16. Don’t lecture or nag your children about gratitude
Instead of lecturing or nagging, have casual family discussions about gratitude whenever relevant situations arise.
Gratitude is a value that must be both taught and “caught” – caught through the day-to-day interactions within the family.
17. Talk about things in the past that you’re grateful for
It’s helpful if you occasionally talk to your children about things in the past that you’re thankful for – even things that seemed bad at the time.
For example, you might be grateful that you didn’t get your initial dream job, because the setback propelled you down an even more meaningful career path.
There are even cancer patients who talk about receiving the “gift” of cancer.
They call it a gift because it taught them to live more intentionally and purposefully.
18. Teach your children to practise mindfulness
Mindfulness allows your children to fully experience their own emotions and to become more self-aware.
In turn, this fosters gratitude.
Performing deep breathing exercises and focusing on doing just one activity at a time (e.g. eating a meal alone without doing anything else like using your phone) can help to develop the mindfulness habit.
19. Ask your children open-ended questions
To better understand how and what your children are feeling, ask them open-ended questions.
This will enable you to have meaningful discussions with them about what gratitude is and how to cultivate it.
20. Develop a family culture of empathy
Help your children to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
Ask them about why they think other people reacted the way they did in various situations.
The more often they try to empathise with others, the better they’ll understand the feelings of others.
Empathy and compassion are wonderful tools that enable gratitude to flourish.
21. Limit screen time
When children and teenagers indulge in screen time, their focus is largely on themselves.
During screen time, these are the typical questions that they’re asking themselves:
- What fun do I want to have?
- Which apps are the most entertaining to me?
- What videos do I want to watch?
- What should I post on social media?
- Which games do I feel like playing?
Of course, screen time isn’t all bad. But you can see how it promotes self-centred thinking.
In contrast, empathy, compassion and gratitude are focused on others.
So it’s important that you have a family discussion about setting limits for screen time for everyone in the family – including you!
If you show that you’re intentional about limiting your own screen time, your children will be more open to having limits on their screen time too.
22. Help your children to develop a growth mindset
A growth mindset is one that’s focused on the process and on learning from both your successes and failures.
A growth mindset for students is instrumental in developing internal motivation to excel forward. As your children begin to see every challenge as an opportunity, they’ll become more thankful for the obstacles in their path.
23. Be charitable
Donate to charities and volunteer on a regular basis.
Involve your child in these activities, so that they’ll be exposed to the many needs that exist in society.
As a result, they’ll become more compassionate and less entitled.
24. Live a life of love
Be a person who is always showing love toward others.
Gratitude is a key component of love, and vice versa. One can’t exist fully without the other.
In practical ways, show love and concern for your family, your friends, and strangers.
The more love your family shows toward others, the more gratitude you and your children will express.
25. Empower your children to become independent
When your children are dependent on you for almost everything, they’ll feel entitled to everything they get.
If children and teens are too dependent on their parents, they feel powerless yet entitled. This is a bad combination.
Let go of the reins bit by bit.
Allow your children to gain confidence as they make more decisions, and take full responsibility for those decisions.
The more problem-solving abilities they develop and the more mature they become, the more they’ll appreciate the resources they have access to.
26. Do things that require more time and effort, and less money
When your children see you spending money, it can often seem too easy to them.
By tapping a few times on your phone or swiping your credit card at a store – just like that, you’ve made a purchase.
Your children don’t see the hard work that went into earning the money that you’re spending.
This disconnect subconsciously breeds a sense of entitlement in your children.
That’s why it’s better to do things that require more time and effort, and less money, whenever possible.
When your children see the effort that goes into organising a camping trip or helping a neighbour move to a new home, they’ll understand the value of hard work.
Over time, as they develop a stronger work ethic, they’ll become more grateful.
After all, have you ever met someone with a strong work ethic and a positive attitude who was also entitled?
27. Find a mentor for your children
It can sometimes be difficult to discuss issues related to entitlement and gratitude with your children.
That’s why it’s beneficial for your children to have a mentor.
Children and teenagers are far more likely to thrive when they have a mentor or coach.
A mentor can help your children to reflect on their weaknesses and develop a more holistic perspective. This is essential in order for them to mature and grow.
28. Write thank-you notes
Nowadays, it’s rare for people to send handwritten thank-you notes.
Be one of those people who does it. It’s a thoughtful gesture that doesn’t take much time.
Encourage your children to write thank-you notes to their teachers and friends at the end of each semester, or whenever the opportunity arises.
There many recommendations listed in this article.
Try out a few of these methods at a time and see which ones work best for you and your family.
The more consistent you are about experimenting with the tips, the greater success you’ll see.
30. Start small
Don’t try to implement all of these tips at once – that would be too overwhelming for both you and your children.
Start small and be patient. Write down and track exactly which tips you’re implementing each week.
Day by day, you’ll observe positive changes in your children as you develop a family culture of gratitude.
Cultivating a spirit of gratitude is a lifelong process.
There are times when all of us could be more grateful and less entitled.
Through the process of teaching your children about gratitude, you’ll sometimes feel frustrated.
When this happens, remind yourself of how thankful you are to be a parent, to have the daily opportunity to lead and empower your children.
Being a parent is challenging, but it’s also a privilege.
This is a privilege to be grateful for! 🙂
Veronica Wallace is a childhood educator, writer and blogging enthusiast. She loves applying her knowledge of writing to new content pieces.