What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want

“I want it.

Why?

Because everyone else has it.”

(Or does it.  Or wears it.)

It’s a conversation we’ve had countless times in our house. It doesn’t matter what it’s about–the newest technology, the latest fad, the most popular shoes- it’s treacherous ground to add it to our want list so we can be like everyone else.

These five dangerous words are turning homes upside down. When we give our children everything they want (because everyone else has it), it speeds up their childhood: We have six year olds addicted to technology, carrying around their own ipods and iphones without limitations; eleven year old sons playing bloody battles of Assassin’s Creed over the Internet with strangers instead of playing ball outside; And 13 year old daughters shopping at Victoria’s Secret, wearing angel wings across their bums, looking far older than they are.

But worse than losing a generation of children, this choice breeds a nasty virus. Because maybe if we keep giving them everything they want, they might just drive a new car intoxicated and kill four people and be diagnosed with affluenza.

What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want

The psychologist testifying for the 16 year old boy who did just that, defined affluenza as this: children who have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, and make excuses for poor behavior because parents have not set proper boundaries.

And when you write a little post about the warning signs of entitlement and it’s shared nearly 800,000 times, perhaps we’re all a little scared of our kids catching the same bug.

“I am an RN working on a psych unit, and I see everyday the effects of entitlement. I see adults in their 20′s and 30′s who always had everything they ever wanted given to them while growing up, and now they just don’t get it. They are unemployed, either living with parents or with one friend or relative after another, or on the street. Having been given everything they ever wanted without working for it while growing up, they don’t feel that they should work for anything now. They were raised to think they could do no wrong, but instead of growing up to have high self-esteem, they have grown up unable to function. They cannot take disappointment of any kind. So we have a generation of kids that don’t want to work and can’t function as adults. Because they have no coping skills of any kind to deal with life, they become depressed and often turn to drugs and/or alcohol to feel better. Then, they end up on our unit, depressed, suicidal, and addicted,” a comment on this post.

Why are we saying yes to our children too early, too soon and pulling in the boundaries? I’m not sure, but I think it starts here:

  1. We don’t understand the future implications of giving them everything they want right now
  2. We want them to have the life we didn’t
  3. We are afraid to tell our children no because we know there will be backlash or because we think they will feel loved if we say yes.
  4. We want them to fit in with their peers because it’s hard to be different.
  5. We feel it’s often easier just to give in
  6. We struggle with a bit of affluenza ourselves

This excellent article shares the symptoms of this nasty virus:

To conquer the affluenza virus, though, one must first recognize it within himself and ask why and from where it comes. Ask yourself the following questions:

Do you frequently buy things you do not really need?

When shopping, are you unable to control how much you spend?

Do you envy the lifestyles of the rich and famous?

Do you feel bad when your neighbors have things you do not?

Do you measure yourself by what others have?

Do you ever use shopping as a means of escape?

Do you use your possessions to impress others?

Do you compare your possessions with what your peers have? If so, do you experience a feeling of superiority that yours are better?

Do you speak often about the things you want?

Do you find yourself complaining about the things you want but cannot afford?

Do you think of spending your money more often than saving it?

Do you often think your life would be more complete if you had more money and possessions?

“Jesus, speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Luke 12:15

So what’s the cure? 

Maybe it starts with the little word no. We aren’t going to buy, get, do that just because others are. It’s okay to want things, but there’s a big difference in getting something because you love it and getting it because you want to be loved.

Maybe it starts with deciding why you do what you do. Don’t let the culture lead your family. Because it certainly will. I heard this week the most popular word among teens in 2013 was twerking. Do we really want society guiding our children?

Maybe it starts with reality–no, not everyone has, does, gets ____ (fill in the blank). We’ve discovered other people who don’t have ____(fill in the blank), but we’ve had to look for them and pray them into our lives. The world will tell you (and your kids) you’re completely alone. But that’s a lie. There are other families swimming upstream against our society and affluenza.

Maybe it starts with a dab of old fashioned failure (I love what this teacher said below).

“Some parents don’t wish their kids to fail. I admit I want my children to. I want them to fail, so they can learn how to get back up. I want them to not get every gift they want on their Christmas list, so they can appreciate what they have and work for what they don’t. Lastly I hope all of them get at least one or two teachers they hate. That way they will learn that in the real world, they will have to work with people (and bosses) they may not like,” a teacher who left a comment on this post.

Maybe it starts with exposing them to how the majority of the world lives. Affluenza is a first world problem. Hunger is a real world problem. Give them an opportunity to serve others.

Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I really don’t think our kids want the latest technology or the hottest name brand as much as they want something else. Oh, they think they do. And they will beg and plead (and drive us crazy) for it. But deep down, they are hungry for something deeper that satisfies and lasts a lot longer than just stuff. Giving them firm boundaries, love and perspective is exactly what we can offer them.


What Our Kids Really Hear When We Yell

On the day after Christmas, we shoved three days worth of clothes into overnight bags for a trip to my in-law’s farm. We had enjoyed every bit of Christmas Day and put off packing until the next day.

And then the morning of our trip, we overslept.

While my husband loaded five duffle bags and a box full of gifts for his side of the family into the back of the van, I barked the last few orders at my kids.

“Someone needs to feed the cat.”

“Brush your teeth.”

“Get your boots for the farm.”

“Take this out to your Dad.”

I locked the doors and opened the van door. I was met with some pretty nasty morning breath by one of my kids. “Did you not brush your teeth?” I asked in disbelief.

All three of my kids answered no and I about lost my mind. Because. This is not the first or tenth time. You know what I mean moms? I pointed them all back towards the house and ranted, “Why didn’t you brush your teeth? This is not optional. You do this every day, do you hear me?” I yelled as I dug thru a bag for toothpaste.

My girls climbed back into the car after they brushed and I found my 11 year old son still looking for his toothbrush.

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Oh, frustration, we meet again.

“Son, where is it? You should have already taken care of this…I am not going to like it if you have a cavity….” I huffed and puffed.

After he’d finally finished and was heading back out to the car with me following, he stopped and looked at me. “Mom, I know I should have brushed my teeth. I’m sorry. I forgot. We were hurrying… But why are you so angry?”

Do you ever have those parenting moments that feel like a kick in the gut? I stopped long enough to realize my heart was pounding and I was gripping the toothpaste with white knuckles.

While I thought I was lecturing about dentists and hygiene, responsibility and obedience, all my kids heard was an angry mother.

I hate that I yell. I try not to. But some days, I do.

I remember the first time I got angry with my oldest daughter. She was just a toddler when she totally defied me and ran towards the street. My anger sort of shocked me. I was scared to death. I don’t know a mother who hasn’t been angry at her kids for something. It sort of comes with the job.

But this was hardly a life-threatening situation, even for plaque fighters. I started thinking about why I was so angry and when I peeled back the layers, I realized I was fighting for control. I want things done my way. Or at least done. Most of the time, I lose my cool because I’ve lost control: I can’t control my child’s actions and I don’t control my temper.

But I know there is a better to communicate with my kids and encourage them to make good choices. I struggle in this area. I’m not an expert, but  I truly believe it comes down to self-control.

Here are 5 things I’m trying to do when I feel like I’m about to lose my temper: 

  1. Walk away for a couple of minutes. Take deep breaths. Think about this post :)
  2. Ask God for self control often. It’s a gift of the spirit and He loves to give gifts.
  3. Pick my battles. A lot of the time, I’m irritated over messes and things that really don’t matter.
  4. Remember I’m the role model. My kids take cues from me.
  5. Wait to discipline until my anger passes.

When I think about what my son was really hearing–anger instead of instruction, I’m reminded that lecturing and losing my cool isn’t accomplishing anything. It only makes it worse. With God’s help, I’m going to do better.

Do you struggle with this? 


5 Signs Kids are Struggling with Entitlement

5 signs kids are struggling with entitlementI finally wrapped a couple of gifts and put them under the tree. I don’t know about your house, but the minute I do this every year, my kids get really interested in what’s happening under the tree. Curiosity kills my kids. And the cat.

“Mom, when are you taking us shopping to buy gifts for you and Dad?” one of my kids asked.

“Do you have money to buy gifts?” I asked.

Eery silence.

“Well, I was thinking you could give us money. Um, to buy your gifts with,” came the answer.

Every month we give our kids money and it’s up to them to buy things they want (we provide things they need and also many wants). When I reminded my daughter of this, she said, “Oh, I wanted to buy a cute Christmas shirt with my money.”

Ah, choices.

When I polled my other kids, they too, were short on money and big on expectations. Now, I’m not a Scrooge and I don’t want to rob my kids of the opportunity to give gifts to others. But I also refuse to rob them of the privilege of hard work. Because that’s when the joy of giving is revealed.

So, I created a Jobs to Earn Money For Christmas Gift List and stuck it on our family memo board. I mentioned it once and waited to see who really wanted to give gifts this season.

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In our culture, it’s hard not to let entitlement creep into our homes and lives. It’s especially challenging not to fuel the expectations of our kids by our own parenting choices to make life easy for them and give them everything they want. We struggle with the “you owe me” mantra in our home. I’m writing about this because it’s an issue we really battle. But the first step is admitting it.

According to this must-watch Glen Beck segment, there are four cultural trends that contribute to the entitlement movement:

Self Esteem Movement- Raising kids with the “you are special” mantra isn’t healthy for kids. They don’t need to hear they are the best at everything and everything they do is the best (instead of look at me, it should be I’m a person of value that God created. Self esteem isn’t bad, but narcissism is).

Celebrity Culture-Reality TV shows highly dysfunctional people, and celebrates bad behavior. Rich  celebrities are portrayed as ignorant and they are worshipped in our culture.

Emerging Media- The growth of social media has altered reality, enhanced self-promotion, offers a “fake” sense of who we really are, as opposed to who we present online. Technology is not bad. It’s like fire-it serves a good purpose, but it can get completely out of control and dangerous.

Credit Bubble-This culture feeds on comparison. Not only in comparing ourselves to what others have, but also in getting it for ourselves even when we can’t afford it.

In our own homes, these trends can manifest in our children. This is what it might look like:

Five Signs of Entitlement in our kids: 

1. I want it now. Kids are impatient and who can blame them? We live in a drive-thru culture and instant gratification is well, instant. And often we find ourselves living in fear of saying no because our children are used to getting what they want.

2. I don’t want to work for it. Why work when it can be given to you? It’s fosters a cycle of laziness and poor work ethic when we constantly give to our children without requiring any work. We need to create entry points starting at a young age for our children to contribute to household chores and jobs.

3. I don’t have to clean up my mess. We battle this one often. I’m learning to choose my wars. But I believe this is also responsible living. If you make a mess, you clean it up.

4. I want it because everyone else has it. My 7 year old has asked for an Elf on the Shelf every day this week. Why? Because she feels left out that many of her friends have one. And that’s awesome for them, but I don’t want that to be the focus of our season and I honestly don’t have time or energy to create things for the stuffed animal to do. The bottom line for us: it’s okay for you not to have what everyone else has.  I asked my daughter, if everyone had a swimming pool, would you want one too? She said yes. Clearly, we are working on this one.

5. I expect you to fix all my problems. I love to help my kids out. But there’s a fine line between helping and aiding bad behavior. If my child forgets their lunch everyday and I bring it everyday, there’s really not a reason for them to ever be responsible. My kids expected us to give them money for a gift for us. Instead, I found it the perfect chance to teach them about hard work and let them solve their own dilemma.

This week, my son spent about 4 hours raking leaves in our big backyard. He had blisters on his hands and he worked very hard.

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My oldest babysat for five hours and my youngest earned money by cleaning and organizing under all the sinks in the house. When I took them to Target to Christmas shop, they were so proud to use their money. My teen spent more than she planned, “Mom, I love the way it feels to buy for others” she said as she counted out her hard-earned money.

My job here is done.

Not really, but it did make me smile to hear those words. The reality is, entitlement will rear its ugly head more than once this week and probably next. It’s a constant battle to remind our children and ourselves that we aren’t owed anything, that life is a gift and it needs to be appreciated.

So, what do we do about it? We can counteract these negative expectations by expecting more from our kids and teaching them these principals from Empowering Parents:

  • Money doesn’t come easily.
  • People work hard to earn money; it’s part of life.
  • If you want something, you need to work to earn it.
  • You are not entitled to things you haven’t earned.
  • Compassion for others (show them third world problems, so they have perspective on their first world ones)
  • Responsibility for Actions: there are consequences and rewards for our behavior and choices

Parenting is hard. Doing it in our culture is even harder. But it is possible to raise grateful, hard-working kids who put others first.  That’s my goal anyway.


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


What Our Kids Really Mean When They Say “I Hate You”

It might only happen once. It might happen more than we care to admit or maybe it’s just hateful behavior. But here’s what I think it means.

It started out as a simple disagreement about who’s turn it was to clean the kitchen or who changed the kitty litter last or who left the emptied art box scattered all over the floor. It’s the way most arguments begin, a real who done it. It’s not uncommon in our house and while I don’t enjoy rocking the boat, sometimes the boat is a big mess and I need help cleaning it up.

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Most arguments like these aren’t really about undone tasks, selfishness or even bad attitudes. They are about control. The kind our kids fight for and the kind parents need to display.  I could feel my child’s anger turn into fury, like a violent orchestra about to crescendo. And that’s when the words were spit out.

I hate you.

Automatic hands clamped over both our mouths.

Apparently neither the hearer nor the doer could believe it had come to this.

I can remember when I said them to my mom, the white rage I felt two seconds before the deadly words escaped and the slow minutes after when I longed to take them back. In that exact moment, I understood why her face fell and she slowly walked away, shoulders slumped.

I took a step back, away from my child, the same one who I begged God for and gained 54 pounds for and then risk my life pushing into this world, now pushing me away. This very same child who I would kill for, killing me with words.

I could see the regret already, the way we try to take back words that fly like piercing arrows.

You don’t hate me, I whispered.

I read the raw emotions on my child’s face--I hate the way I’m feeling right now. I hate the heated words between us. I hate the way I’m acting. I hate that you won’t listen. I hate me right now.

Not you.

I step two steps toward my child. And I choose to look past the harsh words and look into the heart. I see a hurting child there.

What they really mean when they say they hate your or act like they do:

  • This isn’t About You: There’s a battle raging in our kids from time to time. It’s the same one we fight, flesh against spirit. And even though our kids hurt us, they trust us enough to show their raw feelings.
  • They Need You Now More Than Ever: Our natural response is to react, to hurt them back with our words. Don’t. Resist the urge to engage. When you want to push them away for hurting you, instead pull them closer.
  • Look past the behavior and into their heart: Throughout the Bible, God tells us that behavior–our speech, our sinful actions, etc–are a direct implication of what’s in our heart. When your child is struggling, angry, hurtful….look past the behavior and discover what’s in their heart. Often you will find a wound that you can help heal.

My kids and I have hurt each other with words. But at the time time, we’ve used our words to heal each other. We’ve spoken life into dead places and encouragement into brokenness.

I hate you is powerful. But I love you defeats it.