1. Be a Student of What They are Learning
Think about the last time you heard the word “blessed.” What came to mind? For many of us—and many of our students—the word blessed conjures up images of the coolest clothes, the newest gadgets and a worry-free life. But when we look at what God has to say about being blessed, we realize that we probably have things pretty mixed up. Because if being blessed is more about our relationships—and what we do with them—than the stuff we have, we may have some reevaluating to do in order to redefine what it means to be blessed and realize that we might already be more blessed than we originally thought.
2. Be a Student of Your Student
Entitlement seems to be creeping into our culture through every mode possible—television, magazines, music. The feeling that we have the right to something—or to many “somethings”—seems to be the new cultural norm. And while it’s easy to blame the media, culture and maybe even other families who seem to give their teenagers everything under the sun, it’s important to remember the hard truth that in reality, entitlement begins at home. What we model to our children is the true determining factor in how they view the world; what the world has to offer and what they are entitled to get from it. But the problem is, for many of us, entitlement isn’t something that our kids alone struggle with. Entitlement is our struggle too.
Has this thought ever crossed your mind: “If only there was more money in our family budget, we could do so much more for our children? They could be on the traveling baseball team, go on all the church trips and have all the latest gadgets.” Come on. Admit it! There has probably been at least one time in your parenting journey that you have wished for more—more money, more time … more something. And this is totally normal. It’s a struggle that we all face. So, just for fun let’s pretend: You are still you, with your spouse, your children and your extended family, but now you have everything you could ever want—every dollar, every resource, every “thing” and every need met (and most every want met too). How does it feel? Do you feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled? Do you feel more “blessed”?
There is an article that came out in “The Atlantic” in April 2011 entitled “The Secret Fears of the Super Rich.” And while you might expect the focus of this article to be the Dow Jones Index, the real estate market or tax reform, what emerged was something much more relatable to the rest of us. What the article uncovered was the reality that even the super rich fear for the well being of their children. As the article’s summary states: “Does great wealth bring fulfillment? An ambitious study by Boston College suggests not. For the first time, researchers prompted the very rich—people with fortunes in excess of $25 million—to speak candidly about their lives. The result is a surprising litany of anxieties: their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children.” (To read the full article, go to http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/04/secret-fears-of-the-super-rich/8419/.)
As one respondent of the survey confided, “Other people glorify wealth and think that it means that the wealthy are smarter, wiser, more ‘blessed’ or some other such crock … it’s hard to get other, non-wealthy people to believe it’s not more significant than that … The novelty of money has worn off.”
Can you imagine being able to say that? To say the novelty of money has worn off? Most of us will never be there, but it sure feels good to know that just because someone has enough money to buy anything their heart desires—for themselves or their children—it doesn’t mean that it alleviates their fears. It doesn’t mean that they are more blessed. As a matter of fact, in most cases, it actually ups the ante on the fear and anxiety level.
So, with that in mind, let’s turn back to the idea of entitlement and take a look at an article written by Carey Nieuwhof on the Orange Parents blog—“Five Ways to Fight Entitlement in Your Kids.”
3. Action Point
Take some time to read through the following article by Carey Nieuwhof—Lead Pastor at Connexus Community Church north of Toronto Canada—and discuss with your student how you can put at least 1 of the following 5 suggestions into practice.
Five Ways to Fight Entitlement in Your Kids
By Carey Nieuwhof
Like most parents, you feel this terrible tug.
On the one hand, you want to provide your child with every advantage. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like when you do that, you’re feeding an incredibly unhealthy characteristic in our culture.
For whatever reason, we’re living in the midst of an entitlement epidemic. Probably more than any other generation before us, our generation feels as though we have a right to things that used to be defined as wants, or even privileges.
Here’s how the cycle starts:
On the day your child is born, it’s easy to decide as a parent that you need to give your child every advantage.
So you compete. You made sure he had bright colors in his nursery and exactly the right kind of mobile to stimulate his brain, but now it’s an all out frenzy to ensure your preschooler can swim, skate, hit a ball, paint frameable art, read, write and speak classical Greek before his fourth birthday.
And don’t worry, because by the time you’re done with the race to kindergarten, the culture has taken over feeding the frenzy. Your child has now seen enough advertisements and made enough friends to believe that her every desire not only can be met, but should be met. The boots that every other stylish kid is wearing are not a privilege, they are a right. Or so you’ve been told.
And then other inalienable rights emerge: the right to a phone for texting, iPod touches, Facebook and so much more.
Somewhere in the mix, you found yourself realizing that you are tempted to pay your kids for every “act of service” rendered in the house, from emptying the trash to picking up each sock.
And you realize something is desperately wrong. And you would be correct in that.
So, what do you do to fight entitlement in yourself and in your kids? Here are five suggestions:
1. Be clear on wants and needs. I joke with my kids that we owe them shelter, food and clothes, and I would be happy to slip a pizza under the door to their cardboard house any time they wish (they are 16 and 20, don’t try this with your 5-year-old, but you get the point.) Take time to explain what is actually a need and what a want is. Culture will never explain it to them. You need to.
2. Reclaim special occasions. There is nothing wrong with not buying wants for your kids in every day life. Save the special things for special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and the like. You don’t need to indulge for no reason. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.
3. Set a budget and let them choose. With back to school shopping and seasonal purchases, we started setting a budget with our kids early and then let them choose how they would spend it. They become much more frugal shoppers when all of a sudden they realize that money is limited and they can get more if they shop around.
4. Establish an allowance and expectations. An allowance is a great way for a child to learn responsibility. We’ve encouraged our kids to give 10 percent of every thing they earn, save 10 percent, and live off the rest (the formula gets more restrictive the closer they get to college). Explain what gets covered and not covered out of that allowance.
5. Be clear about what you will never pay them for. There are some things that you do because you are a part of the family. You can decide where that lands in your home. Make a list of responsibilities that no one gets paid for that you do because you are part of a family. To help with this, why not ask your kids what a reasonable list looks like? Involving them will help them own the decision. Second, make sure you follow up. And hold them responsible for what you all agreed to do. Otherwise you will be tempted to pay for everything or just roll your eyes daily and do it yourself.
Approaches like these can help raise kids who see life as a series of privileges, who live gratefully, and realize their responsibility to others.
How is our entitlement culture impacting your family? And how have you learned to battle it?
Get connected to a wider community of parents at www.orangeparents.org.