You know the scene, you’re at the store and your child is suddenly the expert in every toy and can’t live one more moment without owning an entire set of whatever this material waste of plastic happens to be. Naturally, they throw a tantrum, one fitting for a starving velociraptor and there is no winning for anyone. I mean no one.
In this scenario, there are two options.
Option 1: You cave, peace is restored and you no longer want to blow your brains out…. but all it does is teach them that they can get whatever they want, whenever they want. Even though the screaming has stopped, your mom guilt sets in because you want nothing more than to avoid raising entitled children.
Option 2: You don’t cave and they just keeeeeeep.oooonnnn.screaming. Now all eyes are on you. Half of the store is judging you because it’s just a toy, give them the freaking toy. Someone even snickers that it must be ‘bring your crying baby’ to the store day… as if they were never a toddler themselves. Then (my personal favorite) the greeter lady comes up to sweetly offer a cookie hoping she can win favor and a hushed smile. All you can think is “Really??? You just offered him a cookie??? No, lady, he may not have a cookie for hitting and screaming but thank you because now I get to tell him no and our fight will last ten minutes longer than it would have.”
Sound familiar? This is a rough one and there are plenty of days that I’d walk right over to the cookie shelf and open every box all on my own just to make it stop. One more “no mommy” and someone is not going to make it out alive.
Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if we just had a clear road map on this? None of us are setting out with the intention of raising entitled children. Is it so wrong to take a mental break from all the rules, though? Parenting is definitely about picking our battles! But one might pause if noticing an increased pattern in these basic examples of entitlement: passing blame, requiring treats or bribes to survive errands or undesired tasks, not helpful with reasonable chores, demanding, expects rewards for behaving, pushes boundaries with rules and so on.
Some of you just had a moment of panic because I basically described every toddler on the planet. But mommas, that’s okay. We are the boss of those littles and we have a say in their upbringing. All we can do is be faithful with the responsibility we have been given to raise decent humans and try to remember that not all seasons bear fruit but the act of pruning is how a plant eventually thrives in better days.
Ways to Avoid Raising Entitled Children:
I’m anything but a rule follower, so all of this “be consistent in your parenting” business is really exhausting to me. Therefore, I’m definitely not here to tell you what to do in your home but here are the things that we (strive to) do in ours to avoid entitlement, specifically with our oldest, who is three and will be the example to his baby sister.
- We expect more of him, having high standards. Ford is expected to help clean up his toys when finished with them. He is expected to put his dishes in the sink after eating and he knows to check on his sister when she is crying. All things that allow him to contribute to our family, develop work ethic and cultivate a teachable spirit. (If only it didn’t require a sticker chart and a lot of wine for mommy.)
- He doesn’t get everything he wants. We do shopping in tears on most occasions. In fact, I recently put him in the Ergo (yes, at three years old) because you guessed it… the baby was behaving and he was being a giant disaster. Talk about humbling a “big boy” real fast.
- Holidays and Birthdays aren’t a production. You don’t need my snarky antics about our out-of-control culture, you know what I’m talking about here. I’ll leave you with two practical ways to reign it in, though.
- For gifts, keep it simple. Four things: something you need, you want, can wear and can read.
- For birthdays, we plan to limit big productions for milestone years. In between, we will celebrate in smaller ways so that a portion of the birthday budget can go towards putting together a party for a homeless or foster child through the program Happy Birthdays. An easy way for your child to have a “birthday twin” to lift up and encourage.
- We are a living example of generosity and require that he participate. Not only do we involve him in our own acts of service, we take the time to educate him through it. We explain a person’s need and why we are helping them. Other ideas:
- Have a Blessing Bank and a Piggy Bank. When they get change, they can decide which bank it goes into but the Blessing Bank is money they use for helping other people.
- Little Helping Hands, an organization that provides volunteer opportunities for children, is a great place to start.
- We talk about real life in our home. When Ford asks a question, we don’t skirt the truth. As involved with the Syrian community as we have been, he is learning things at a young age about pain, diversity and community. He is being taught that there are bigger problems in life than someone cutting him in line at school.
- We don’t rescue him. You lost your toy in the park? Sorry, that doesn’t mean we go buy a new one. You didn’t clean your room and lost a privilege? Too bad. Actions have consequences and we allow Ford to experience this facet of life.
- The world does not revolve around him. We have date nights and weekend getaways without him. When I purge toys, he knows they have gone to another home for someone else to enjoy. We give him a voice but not total control. For example, we’ll name three places for dinner and he can pick from there.
- We apologize to him when we make mistakes. Truth be told, we are kind of just winging this whole thing and that means we have to sometimes (a lot of times) apologize. We identify the wrong doing, say we are sorry, tell him we love him and ask for a do over. This shows him the art of reconciliation.
- We manage his messages. We correct his tone, attitude and level of respect when out of line. I’m totally on board with a “boys only” teepee in his room but it’s not going to be because he thinks boys are better than girls. He doesn’t get to wear that fun, hip, shirt that says “Cool story mom, now get me some juice” because it’s an entitled message. I correct him when being bossy with friends because it’s selfish and so on.
Don’t mistake that when our babies fall and cry, we aren’t there to be their biggest support, comfort and cheerleader. And don’t think that we don’t love to spoil and surprise them with treats. Lord knows I have bought some random toy just to make it out of HEB alive and sometimes, I just don’t have it in me to “properly parent” him as he is defiantly running away from me. We all have our days and picking our battles is indeed a must.
Stay strong momma! If you were even halfway interested in the title of this blog, you’re on the right track and I’m sure you’ll have amazing humans to show for your fabulous mothering someday!