Raising Grateful Kids in An Entitled World

When my family moved a few miles away to a smaller town last year, we swapped a huge school district for a smaller, more rural one, a push mower for a broken down riding one that my hubby fixed and city sewage for our very own septic system (just don’t play in the sprinklers). And while we are still close to The City (and by city, I mean Target and Chick Fil A), it was time we two-stepped over to the other side–and became a boot-wearing family.

grateful

On the way to the Rodeo a few weeks ago, one of my kids had a nasty, ungrateful outburst and I was half tempted to leave them in tennis shoes (the horror), but grace won out. Outfitting our children in cowboy boots was quite a splurge (hubby and I already had some).

After a fun day, we drove home, and this same kid’s ugly attitude showed up again with a bit of entitlement thrown in and it went downhill from there. There was dysfunctional family activity (so glad my life isn’t a reality show) and my husband asked for the boots back. This sort of broke my country heart, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

We didn’t buy the boots, so we could return them. As a matter of fact, my hubby couldn’t find the receipt at first and I bit my nails because THIS PARENTING THING IS SO HARD. We wanted our child to share the joy down to their feet, but it was the heart that needed the immediate attention.

The said child cried and begged and promised and fretted. And then pulled the grace card: “Why can’t you show me grace?”

I piped up and said, “Buying you the boots in the first place was grace” and then I recounted the earlier behavior.

My husband put the boots back in the box and stuck them on a high shelf in the laundry room and said,”If you want the boots, you’ll have to work for them.” He pointed to the huge mulched areas in the front yard and then the back. “You have 3 days to pull every weed. I won’t remind you, it’s up to you. It’s your job if you want it. It pays in boots.”

And that was that.

I wanted to high five my man and sob with my child, all at the same time. Because, lo, the weeds were many.

Our big yard is muddy and wet and full of weeds and I grimaced at the job, wondering what my child would choose. I was a silent cheerleader on their behalf. And my heart soared when I heard the front door click and I saw my offspring in old clothes sit down for the long hours ahead.

For the next two days, I watched my child work hard and get hands dirty and heart tender.

When my husband handed back the boots and I heard a true apology on my kid’s lips, I knew we had all won. “You earned these. I won’t take them away again.” A certain little cowhand is walking high around here and those boots means twice as much this time around. Hard work pays off and changes us in the process.

We live in an entitled world and whether we like it or not, children in our culture are consumers. It has become a global issue because they are a captive audience and the average kid views up to 40,000 commercials a year and business pour up to 17 billion into that advertising. Source. If you still doubt, just walk down the Easter aisles in your local store. Because only a consumer-driven society could take a Savior on a cross and turn it into a four aisles at the grocery store.

“Marketers want to accomplish two things with our children:

  1. Awaken and amplify their desire to consume
  2. Blur the line between wants and needs.” Source

And this combination is creating a generation of children who aren’t grateful, who expect everything to be handed to them and don’t really know how to work and this breeds the greatest enemy of all: discontentment.

Just look at what our culture has done with holidays. They’ve turned it all into hoopla and not only is it confusing to our kids to live in a world of made-up celebrations, it muddies the waters of the Holy ones and their true intent is lost.

If “true godliness with contentment is great wealth” (1 Timothy 6:6), then discontentment leaves of spiritually bankrupt and completely empty.

Honestly, I don’t blame the kids. As parents, we often foster this mentality with our own actions. We compare ourselves (and our homes, cars, etc) to what others have, we let media (and ultimately, advertising) influence our home by not limiting screen time and we have a hard time deciphering between needs and wants.

Fighting the entitlement battle  in our home is hard, but here are some things we are doing to try and live counter-culturally in this area:

  1. We are Asking for Hard Work- I think many kids in our culture (my own included) don’t know much about hard work. I grew up in a house that worked. We cleaned and did yard work every weekend and everyone helped clean up the kitchen every night. A few weeks ago, we spent most of the day in the yard. And the more my kids complained, the more I realized how much we had neglected giving them hard, dirty work. My kids get their own laundry basket and take over washing, folding and putting away their clothes when they turn 8, they take turns helping clean up in the kitchen and their rooms, but it was clear to me that a little hard work was needed. I’m excited to say a truckload of dirt and rock are sitting in our driveway right now, waiting a few hard workers. Oh parenting, you do come in handy. (Phil 2:14-15)
  2. We aren’t Making Unrealistic Promises-We regularly tell our kids not to expect us to pay for college. While we hope to help in some way, we don’t have plans to pay it for their college education in its entirety. We expect them to work hard now, focus on their gifted areas, get scholarships, part time jobs, etc, to contribute. We try not to make them promises that only enhance the entitlement attitude in our culture or promises we don’t know if we can keep.
  3. We are Sticking to Consequences-If we suggest a consequence, we commit to seeing it thru as often as we can. I’ve come up with some stupid consequences in my day and have regretted my rash tongue. But something clicks in our kid when they understand we are serious about some things.
  4. We are Limiting Media-Hushing the voices of our culture that is telling our kids all the stuff they need comes in part by tuning it out. Media specifically targets our children to want a lot of stuff they don’t need. We have a TV and computers and devices, but besides filtering them, we turn them off. My kids still complain about it, which reinforces exactly why it’s important.
  5. We are Exposing Them to the World-I’m a firm believer that an entitlement attitude is in direct correlation to perspective. When you’re only looking and thinking about yourself, you can only see what you want. But when you remove the blinders and see needs around you and in the world, it alters your perspective. Exposing our kids to other cultures and how most of the world really lives, stirs up gratitude like nothing else.
  6. We are Extending Grace-Living by a bunch of strict rules and do’s and don’ts isn’t the answer. Being flexible with your own rules is not only necessary, it’s healthy for your family. And let’s face it, who doesn’t need extra grace? We are on the same team.
  7. We are Examples in our Mistakes-Ouch. This is the hardest. When I compare and complain, I’m leading by example. When I am thankful and gracious, they are watching. As I make mistakes, I’m offering them the greatest lesson. It’s important to admit when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness when we hurt our kids.
  8. We are Raising them to Be Different- I Peter 2:11 Our society has low expectations of kids. We expect toddlers to get what they want and teens to be rebellious. Instead of helping our kids fit in every area of their lives (an impossibility, really), we are encouraging them to go against the flow, reminding them we’re supposed to be different than the world.  They are normal kids and have longings to fit in-we all do. We just aren’t going to compromise our beliefs or lives to do so in every circumstance.
  9. We are Relying on God- By far, parenting is the hardest job. And honestly, there are so many days, we don’t know what to do. Our kids belong to God. He loves them more than we do. He wants to guide us down the hard roads.

Our family certainly didn’t need new boots, even though we plan to wear them for years to come. But walking a mile in them taught us a great lesson in gratitude. Some days we feel like we’ve lost the battle against entitlement in our home; we are still in the trenches, trying to figure this all out. But as we reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and turn our attention to The Cross, it’s thankfulness for His sacrifice and our chance at New Life that I want them to grasp the most.

repost from archives


Comments

  1. 3

    says

    Wow! So well said. We are ALL in the trenches on this one. The battle is RAGING! Thank you for outlining what I think every single day. It is so nice to know that we are not alone in this particular fight!

  2. 4

    says

    As of mom of many (11) who seems to have the only children in the neighborhood who ‘labor 6 days’; meaning they work in the yard and help clean on Saturdays vs. sleeping in until noon then hoping their parents will take them somewhere or go get them a friend – I love this. Even though it feels like the most loving thing to do for them, sometimes I wonder if I’m depriving them of the ‘normal’ childhood their friends have. The love in your actions shines through your words. I hope the same can be said about my parenting choices!

  3. 5

    Bubbles says

    This concerns me in a couple different ways. First of all, you say your child asked for grace, but I think you meant mercy. I think it’s wrong to teach our kids that we have to work for Gods grace when it is freely given to all. I agree that we should teach them to work for what they want, a new toy or pleasure, but not for grace or mercy.

    “The said child cried and begged and promised and fretted. And then pulled the grace card: “Why can’t you show me grace?”
    I piped up and said, “Buying you the boots in the first place was grace” and then I recounted the earlier behavior.”

    what is this really teaching them?

    • 5.1

      shella says

      Well, it teaches them that there are still consequences for their actions. No, you don’t have to “work” for God’s grace, but we still have to suffer consequences for our actions. God doesn’t always pull us out of bad situations that we put ourselves in because of His grace, but He still loves us and accepts us because of His grace. That’s the way I look at it.

      • 5.1.1

        Lisa says

        I have to agree with Shella here! Our children still need to kknow that for every action there is a reaction. It may not be a “fun” lesson to learn but it is necessary all the same.

  4. 6

    Computers says

    You turn off the tv, computers and “devices” (not sure what those are?)

    I suppose once in a while it’s a good thing. But tvs, and computers especially need to be left on. They are not just gaming devices they are important tools used in the adult world. Successfully navigating the internet to find necessary information, weeding out the crap, learning the concepts of marketing so you can avoid falling into pitfalls, learning to use working programs (spreadsheets, graphing software ect..), edutainment media, music all of these are enormously beneficial for children.

    A tool is a tool, nothing more. Even Mr Rogers argued for television, because he knew that it was how we used the tool that was important. Yes, tools can be used for bad purposes. I suppose I could take a hammer and hit someone on the head with it. Just because it is possible doesn’t mean we have to limit hammer time (no pun intended) but simply that we should supervise it so that it is used in a beneficial manner.

    Remember, these complaints about “media” have been made since time began. First it was “plays” and then it was “books”. Both of those encountered opposition from the culture of their day. Just like television and computers do now.

    • 6.1

      April says

      I think the author meant she designates times to have them turned off, not cuts her kids off from them completely. I could be wrong but that’s how I interpreted it. And if that’s the case, I completely agree. We make it a habit in my household to have an hour of no phones, computers, tv, etc. We eat dinner during that hour and talk about our day. It brings us together as a family.

  5. 9

    ProfVersaggi says

    We do *one* thing differently that changes *everything* …. we do NOT watch Live TV, period. There is NO live TV in our home and never was from the time our 3 boys were born until now (11 years and going still). That one simple (and significant) change has removed nearly every complaint you have levied in this article. They just simply do not exist.

    I’d whole wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone ….

    You do not need TV, we are far better off as individuals and as a family with out it…..

  6. 10

    says

    Tis indeed the season when entitlement runs amuck!
    My kids are allowed to put 5 things on their Christmas list — with a firm reminder that this does not mean that they will get all 5 — we say 3 is good, but add 2 more just in case one of three is not available. I was at a friends house and saw their children’s list: no less than 25 items!! everything from pj’s, to books, to iPod, to guitar, to clothes (designer) to laptops and gaming systems. It’s very hard not register shock in front of someone you care about and don’t want to offend, when faced with such excess. Because I know this particular child will likely get close to all.
    Some people can do it though and they enjoy doing it for their children.
    I enjoy being able to take my children into the toy store, and not have any temper tantrums over a wanted toy and the word “no.” Because they know already – I won’t buy anything when they are with me – unless we did come for a specific item, and only that item. Any wants – they know to add to their birthday or Christmas list and hope for the best.

  7. 11

    says

    Kristen, is this a re-post from the archives? I’m almost sure I’ve read it before. Nevertheless, true words that hit home with so many of us.

  8. 15

    Brooke says

    Thank you for your post! Just yesterday I was trying to find ways I could help my children understand the importance if being grateful for what we have and not feel a sense of entitlement. I work with many different types of kids, some have everything and many have nothing. It is do important for kids to be grateful for the things that have, know hardwork and not be handed everything, and know that their are consequences for their actions….good or bad.

  9. 16

    says

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to share my faith and values with my boys. I’ve been coming to many of the same conclusions as you, and I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. More and more I’m finding if I want to change my family, I have to start with me.

  10. 17

    says

    Wow I LOVE this post!
    Our kids=the future period and we are truly shaping the future as parents of these little people. It is so easy to give in and let them have the things they want driven by the desire to see them smile but knowing by doing that we are hurting them more than helping gives us our back bone (yes even when we go lock ourselves in the bathroom and ball our eyes out from seeing them upset or sad by life lessons that in turn will make them stronger better productive citizens of this world!)
    Thank you for sharing this!

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