3 Ways to Counteract Childhood Entitlement
By Stef Tousignant
From two-day shipping to food delivery at our fingertips, we never really have to wait too long for anything, do we? In fact, I can roll into a reserved spot at Target, and someone will bring my entire order out to me without having to unbuckle one car seat. Just wow.
The convenience and time saved is utterly fantastic, but it would be careless of me to begin an entire article on Entitlement without acknowledging that our 'on-demand' culture is one of the most significant contributors to our children's tyrannical behavior.
In fact, I think we are all self-aware enough to admit that it's not just our kids who have become more entitled over the last 10 years, is it? The 'on-demand' economy is an enormous change in American culture (and I am guessing worldwide as well).
It has benefits, like not waking a sleeping toddler or grocery shopping after a 10-hour workday. And it has fundamentally changed our mindsets around "time." We look at "time" now not as something we fill with the busy work of family life – but as precious and worth paying a little extra to protect.
Unfortunately, the downside of the 'on-demand' economy is a culture of entitlement. You know that whiney sound that hits your eardrums just the wrong way as your 4-year-old demands uninterrupted WiFi or their daily Babyccino? Yeah, that.
And although your 4-year-old doesn’t do the online food shopping or scramble for deals on Prime Day, they sure do watch a lot of Disney+, don't they? When was the last time they had to wait for another episode of Bluey to autoplay? How about never.
Even though things have changed, I would never suggest we go backward. We are saving time and energy for the NEW demands of modern parenting (insert what sociologists call Instesive Parenting). But if you're reading this article, you may be concerned about how bad your child's behavior has gotten – and me too.
Sometimes listening to my children complain about things I never even dreamed of having when I was young makes me so mad. Well, to the right this ship and sail toward a more grateful attitude it's a pretty simple process. We have to model the behaviors we want to see.
Modeling is the process in which one or more individuals serve as examples (models) that a child will emulate. Models are often parents, other adults, or children, but they may also be symbolic (e.g., a book or television character). A lot of the skills we learned as children were done through modeling, and the same goes for our kids. Incorporating actions that counteract the 'on-demand' nature of our modern lives will be vital to breaking down childhood entitlement. Still, more importantly, it's up to us to enact them for our children to watch and see.
Three ways we can counteract childhood entitlement:
This doesn't mean getting out of your car and waiting in line at Target. 'Waiting' can be as simple as growing a plant together in your kitchen, and if you grow it from a seed, there will be no instant gratification in sight.
Another simple way to model waiting is to quiet the morning rush - literally. Wait for your child without your standard narration. Keep your talking to a minimum and simply wait for them. Yes, this can be hard, especially when you know the morning sequence and just how many seconds it will take to go from on time to late, but you are modeling patience, so it will be worth it!
Model: Saying "No"
This one is a toughy, and many articles on entitlement suggest you introduce stronger boundaries with your child. Easier said than done. Since we are talking about learning from an example in this case: You have to model saying "No" to the demands of the external world.
Why do I know this is a problem for you? Well, it's a problem for most moms. We want to be in three places at once because we want everyone to be happy (and society demands it of us). Unfortunately, we are teaching our children how to overextend themselves. Then, if we complain about it, we are teaching them to resent commitments we had control over in the first place. By modeling saying "No," we demonstrate to our children the boundaries needed for a more curated and intentional life.
Finally, the simplest way to counter entitlement is to shift the focus away from what we don't have to what we do have. A daily gratitude practice introduces the language of "enough" into our homes. You can be grateful for a beautiful day; it doesn't even have to be a gift or help from a friend, but yeah, add those to your list too.
To introduce a family gratitude practice you must start a practice yourself. This could be as simple as asking your children to pick a letter from the alphabet and see how many good things you can list that begin with the letter – or by writing down three things you're grateful for each morning on a wipe-off board in the kitchen. The point is to do it every day and make sure they see you doing it.
What we do and say matters to our children, and while we are not in control of how quickly their favorite movie arrives to Disney+, we can control the pace of our family's life and the narrative we share around blessings and boundaries.
Stef Tousignant is a parenting expert and gratitude nerd. She is a former professional nanny of 20+ years and the author of the award-winning bedtime book The Middle of the Night Book. Burned-out parents everywhere rely on her mindfulness tools and honest blog posts found at ParentDifferently.com. She hopes to normalize imperfect parenting by sharing her journey and the gifts a committed gratitude practice can bring to modern family life.