Combating Entitlement in Kids: Is Your Toddler Becoming a Sweet Little Entitled Ego-Monster?

Entitled girl with angry face

You’ve seen entitlement in kids… a child at the holidays or a birthday party opening presents as fast as they can. If you ask him later who gave them a certain gift, chances are they won’t have any idea where it came from.

We all want our kids to have more than we had. However, the more we fulfill our children’s every desire, the less special things are.

We all love our kids and want them to be happy. But giving in to their every demand will only hurt them in the long run. Letting them “get the candy” just to avoid an argument in the checkout line or handing over the iPad so the rest of the family can enjoy dinner at a restaurant… these are all acts of love, but treacherous nonetheless.

Signs That a Child Has Entitlement Issues

Ask yourself, does my child:Boy helping his Mom wash dishes

  • Show respect for others? (Does he say, “please” and “thank you” without having to be told? Does he help with dishes after dinner? Does she help take out the garbage on trash day?)
  • Interrupt other people’s conversations just to ask something unimportant (but typically revolving around a toy, snack, money…)?
  • Treat her belongings (and other people’s belongings) with respect?
  • Have issues sharing his toys?
  • Expect me to solve her problems for her (does she forget to do her homework and ask you to write a note to the teacher? Did she “forget” to study for a test and know wants you to let her stay home sick? Did she not make the team and wants you to go talk to the coach to fix it?)

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you may need to admit that your child might have entitlement issues. No parent ever intentionally instills a sense of entitlement in their children. However, with our crazy busy world, everyone in the family is always on the go, we’re buying, buying, buying the latest just to keep up with technology–it’s no wonder we miss the little things that add up over time that end up creating little monsters.  

Combating Entitlement in Kids

What can we do to prevent that sense of entitlement in kids? Here are a few examples and tips.

Say No

When you say, “no,” mean it. Stand firm. Kids are smarter than we realize (remember how smart we were!) and if they see a break in the chain or spot weakness, they’ll know they have you. And guess what? They’ll know they can get you to break every time. And they will try… every. time.  

Teach them Respect

Treat your children with the same respect you would want them to show you and others. Instead of yelling, “NO!” Calmly explain why you don’t want them to dunk his sister’s Barbie in a tar pit or what would happen if she ate more than the three cookies she already ate… before the dinner you spent an hour cooking.

Boy counting his own moneyMake them Work for It

Before replacing a broken electronic device (laptop, smartphone, earphones) because your child was careless and didn’t take care of it, consider the benefits of having them save their own money (yep) to replace the broken item. This helps a child understand the work we, as parents, have to do in order to buy them something in the first place. When a child spends his own money, and he mowed ten yards to do it, he’ll quickly begin to understand that things in life aren’t just handed to you. Not to mention, he will feel awfully proud of himself and what he was able to accomplish. Your child will be more prepared for a grown-up world.

Teach Your Child Gratitude

If an opportunity presents itself to teach your child to show kindness and support, grab that opportunity with both hands. Her friend had a bad day? Show her how to make cookies and let her take them to her friend to cheer her up. Bitterly cold winter coming? Have your kids go through their closets to find warm coats they don’t wear or that don’t fit and drive them to the shelter; let your kids donate them.

Show Appreciation

Both parents should be grateful for each other and the kids and demonstrate this at home. Let your kids see you say, “Thank you for going by the dry cleaners today, I would have been late to my appointment if you hadn’t.” Or, “Great job on that test, honey! I know you worked really hard studying for it and your hard work certainly paid off!”

It’s an Ongoing Solution

Obviously, these are all examples of ways to curb entitlement in kids, but you get the idea. Help make sure your children stay “human” in this “me, me, me” world by implementing some of these simple ideas. They’re cute little creatures and we want them to stay that way. 

Parent Resources

Read Dr. Tali Shenfield’s article at Advanced Psychology where he discusses the cycle of entitlement and understanding common thinking.

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