There are actual studies showing that kids today are 25% more entitled than older generations, and 50% more entitled than the oldest generation.1 But I don’t think we need studies to see that the entitlement mentality is taking its course.
This isn’t a political post. This is not a “fix our youth” post. I’m simply trying to shine light on an issue that we all face with our children: entitlement.
Let’s see how we can deal with this, for our kids’ sake.
What is Entitlement Mentality?
A basic definition from the Cambridge Dictionary defines entitlement as “the feeling that you have the right to do or have what you want without having to work for it or deserve it, just because of who you are.”2 Therefore, the entitlement mentality happens when entitlement becomes second nature, or an assumed “fact.”
So what’s the opposite of entitlement? One informal opposite—the first term that comes to my mind—is adversity. It’s not a literal opposite. It’s the opposite in that kids who experience adversity tend to deny the entitlement mentality.
Entitlement instills the idea that you don’t have to work for things, yet they should still be given to you, because you are… you. Adversity takes from you when you have nothing left to give, which is why kids raised in an adverse environment often grow up to be the happiest and most successful.
That doesn’t mean we should force adversity on our kids, but we can learn from adversity’s effects, and use that to help raise our kids without always giving them the easy way out.
It’s easy to see how an entitled mindset can be dangerous, and mostly how it can be devastating for a child’s future. Entitlement goes against reality, because in life, you aren’t going to be given things for being you. In some cases, you might, but those are rare circumstances, and that usually makes it worse.
Excuses and Entitlement
Excuses go along with the entitlement mentality. “I don’t have to do this because someone else will do it,” or, “you have to do this because I want you do this.” No more; no less.
The problem is, that doesn’t work. And it doesn’t help anyone.
Excuses are never helpful, even if they’re justified. For example, the family who is in tremendous debt due to unexpected medical bills won’t solve their problem by explaining why they’re in debt. We’re dealt our cards, and we must react to what we’re dealt in a healthy way.
I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate excuses. There are. But they still don’t help, and holding on to excuses can lead to entitlement and inaction.
How to Fight Entitlement in Our Kids
In my research for writing this, I’ve found that there are the basic things in a lot of articles on fighting entitlement. Things like: teach the value of hard work, don’t always say “yes” to your kids, define a line of what/when your children can ask for things… but there is something else that I found a lot of articles missing.
So what can we do to prevent our kids from growing up entitled?
Replace entitlement with gratitude.
We have to fight the mindset that things are given to us for no reason at all, because things aren’t. If you give your kids everything they want now, expect to keep that up when they leave home, or have very disappointed adult children.
Entitlement breeds a “I’ll be happy when…” mindset, which is also destructive. Why wait to be happy? Yet, we’re almost all guilty of it. “I’ll be happy when I get that promotion.” “I’ll be happy when we move to a bigger city.” “I’ll be happy when I get married… or divorced… or married to someone else.” Entitlement always tells you that you deserve more.
Gratitude and contentment will overcome entitlement.
Contentment doesn’t mean to accept your place in life and not try to do better for yourself. Contentment means you strive for more, sure, but you appreciate what you have. You’re grateful for what you have. That’s the key here.
Don’t feel guilty for not being able to give your kids more; teach contentment and gratitude for the things you can give your kids. Children don’t need much outside of a love for God and a love for you. Toys are overrated, and studies show that the more toys kids have, the less they appreciate them.
Raising Content and Grateful Kids
Instill a heart of gratitude in your kids. Teach them to be content. Model both for them to see. And raise your children to have a giving heart.
Giving is the fastest way to show contentment and gratitude. When your kids give to less fortunate kids, they’ll start to appreciate the things they have, and the idea is that they’ll love the act of giving.
As I’ve stated before, there are several ways to teach giving:
- Involve your children in your giving. Show them how you give. Show them you are a cheerful giver.
- Take it easy on their giving. While it’s important to teach your child to give, don’t force it.
- Give in more ways than one. Your child may love giving their time, but be a little reluctant to give money. Or vice versa. Teach them to be open to other forms of giving by focusing on what they enjoy.
- Go where they can see their giving. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, and take your child along. They may just fall in love with giving and serving others.
When your kids learn to appreciate people over material possessions, they’re on the right track. Once they learn that the childish entitlement mentality isn’t going to help anyone, they’re more likely to get rid of the idea completely.
If you feel like your kids may be entitled (which most of our kids probably are… at least a little), start working on gratitude, contentment, and giving. It’s the fastest way for your kids to learn what truly matters.
Further Bible Study
Further Book Reading
- Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch
- How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World by Dave Stone
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- Dean, J. PhD. (2016). The Dangerous Personality Traits on the Rise in the Young. PsyBlog.
- Definition. Entitlement. Cambridge Dictionary.