Five secrets to stop the entitlement epidemic

From Positive Parenting Solutions founder and TODAYMoms contributor, Amy McCready —

Many parents are frustrated these days by a feeling of entitlement by today’s youth. Whether it’s getting almost anything they ask for or expecting everything to be done for them, today’s kids have learned how to get their way and the problem is out of control like a run-away train.
So who’s to blame? It’s easy to point to Hollywood and Madison Avenue, but while they may contribute to the issue, the real problems start at home.

Pampering and overindulging

The biggest culprits of the entitlement epidemic are parents who pamper and overindulge their kids. No parent intends to raise a child who feels the world owes him a living; instead, the problem starts small and continues to fester. A toddler throws a tantrum at the store and her tired, overworked mom buys a toy to keep her happy and quiet. Years later, Dad is eventually worn down by his teenager’s dramatic threat that her “life will come to an end” if she doesn’t get the latest and greatest Smartphone. The “quick fix” does nothing to solve the challenge at hand — it only sets the stage for the next incident.

Mom also finds herself doing everything around the house because she’s tired of repeatedly asking for help and getting no response. Kids quickly learn that by ignoring requests long enough or complaining loud enough, parents wear down before they do -– leaving the parent with too much responsibility and the child with not enough. And the entitlement train rumbles unrelentingly along its track.

Ready to put a stop to this behavior? Here’s how to set up roadblocks for the entitlement train:
Give your kids an allowance and be crystal clear about which expenses they’ll be responsible for covering. An allowance can begin as soon as your kids start asking for things at the store -– usually around the age of three or four. It should be used for the “I wants” -– the non-essential items that fall outside of your responsibility such as toys, candy, entertainment, etc. When your child is begging for the latest, greatest Barbie, simply say, “Do you have enough of your allowance saved or would you like to put that on your wish list?”

Older kids can be expected to use allowance for school lunches, their cell phone bill, downloaded music, and even clothing. Determine how much allowance to give based on what expenses you expect them to cover and how much they’ll need to do that. Being responsible for their own expenses will teach valuable lessons in budgeting, saving, making tough choices with limited resources and the consequences of making poor financial decisions.

Assign household jobs that your kids are responsible for doing every day – without pay!I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting for my paycheck for buying groceries, cooking dinner and wiping off the counter. There’s no free ride in your family and everyone should be expected to contribute on a daily basis. While an allowance is a great training tool to teach kids to be responsible for their own expenses, it is not compensation for helping at home. Paying kids to do household jobs fosters the attitude of “I don’t have to help out around here unless I’m getting paid.” Kids as young as two and as old as twenty should have daily family contributions that benefit the family.

In fact, it may be a good idea for you to ditch the word “chores” from your vocabulary and call them “family contributions” instead. This important distinction reminds kids that although they don’t love folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher, they’re contributing in a meaningful way to your family — and it makes a real difference.

Reveal consequences in advance for not doing family contributions. Avoid the need to nag and remind your kids to do their family contributions by revealing consequences in advance. For example, “Our family rule is that your family contributions must be completed before you have TV, video or computer time.” Or, “You are responsible for cleaning the toy room by dinner time. Any toys that are lying on the floor after that time will go into a box and be unavailable for the next week.”

Have a Plan for Whining and Badgering. Why do kids badger us? Because we let them! Be prepared for what you’ll say the next time they want you to buy something they “desperately need.” While it may seem like an easy out to simply reply “I can’t afford it,” resist this phrase. Kids see that as an empty excuse, especially if they see you making other purchases. Instead, when your son is dying for the new LeBron James basketball shoes:
Empathize: “They are cool. Do you have enough allowance saved or do you want to put that on your wish list?”

Or, state what you ARE willing to do: “Those LeBron shoes are cool. I’m willing to pay $50 each year for a pair of basketball shoes -– you are welcome to pay the difference if you have enough money saved.

Don’t cave in to whining or badgering. Doing so adds fuel to the entitlement train and reinforces the idea that if they badger long enough, we’ll eventually give in.

Foster giving and gratitude.Encourage your kids to give a portion of their allowance to a charity of their choice. When your kids receive a gift or purchase something new, encourage them to put something in your giving box for someone in need. Volunteer with your kids at a local shelter. Help your child start a “gratitude journal” to record the things, people and experiences he or she is grateful for on a daily basis. A little gratitude — and empathy for situations more difficult than their own — can go a long way in raising kids who can think and act beyond themselves.

Pampering and over-indulging can be a temporary fix to ease short-term aggravation, but it is a monumental disservice to kids in the long run. Pampered and indulged kids will one day grow into narcissistic adults, helpless spouses and high-maintenance employees. Begin putting the brakes on the entitlement train today. And one day, believe it or not, your kids will thank you!
Note: See the list of family contributions by age for ideas for your family.

Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two boys, ages 12 and 14. Positive Parenting Solutions teaches parents of toddlers to teens how to correct misbehaviors permanently without nagging, reminding or yelling. For more information on getting kids to help more and battle less and for free training resources, visit: http://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/

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