6 Ways to Curb Your Child's Sense of Entitlement

Today’s kids grow up with an entitled mentality. If you're unhappy with how spoiled with stuff your kids have become, follow Mighty Mommy's 6 tips to curb that sense of entitlement and keep your kids focused on more important values.


Cheryl Butler
Episode #263

Tip #3:  Lay New Ground Rules

Let’s say that up until now you've been giving your children whatever they want without expecting them to work for it. If you want to continue to dole out money for outings to the movies or buying them big-ticket items, but now want them to be accountable and help contribute to the cost, sit down with your kids and lay down new ground rules for how you will be handling spending going forward as a family.

If your family has not paid an allowance to the children in the past, this might be a good opportunity to implement a weekly or monthly allowance for both regular household chores, like doing dishes and taking care of the garbage, as well as extra jobs like washing the car or helping to clean and organize the garage or attic.  Explain to your kids that you want them to be able to have nice things, but they will now need to help contribute to some of the cost.  If a weekly allowance doesn’t fit into your family’s budget, offer them pay for helping with extra jobs when they want to purchase those big-ticket items. 

Expect your older kids and teenagers to balk at the idea of suddenly having to work for these items, especially if they’ve never had to contribute in the past and are used to getting things on their terms.  Calmly explain that you want everyone to be financially responsible and that purchasing large items for them or constantly handing out money for their recreational activities does affect the family finances. 

Show them utility and grocery bills as an example of some of the costs of running a household. Then remind them that they are an important part of the family unit and should be responsible for making sound financial decisions when it comes to spending the family’s money.  Next time you have a job such as going through everyone’s closets to weed out clothes that no longer fit and organizing the stuff to be donated, let your teen know “Hey, I know you’ve been wanting some extra cash to buy that new stereo for your car, if you can help me with this project I can pay you for half the cost of it.”  

If your child refuses to do odd jobs around the house, the next time he asks for things you can simply say, “You know how you can earn that new stereo. When you’re ready to clean out the garage, I can pay you and you can start saving up.”

Tip #4:  Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen

One of the largest expenses in most households is the grocery bill.  Food is essential for every family and it’s not cheap.  If you have kids that are picky eaters or are wasteful, it adds even more to the price tag of those weekly grocery runs.  Years ago, kids regularly helped in the kitchen - preparing food, setting and clearing the table, and enjoying family meals sitting around the table talking and connecting with their parents.  Now, with the overwhelmingly busy lives most of us lead, families barely eat together, never mind take part in the process of meal preparation. 

I’ve found that by involving my kids in the grocery shopping, meal planning, and preparation they tend to eat nearly everything I serve and don’t complain about what’s for dinner each night.  I often give my kids their own list in the grocery store with about 5 items on it so they can see what the process of selecting and pricing items is like. 

And when they are involved in making meals, like chopping and tossing a salad or peeling potatoes, they are more likely to eat what they’ve helped prepare.  Sure, this takes a little more time during the dinner hour after a long day of work and school, but like anything else worthwhile, once you make it a habit you’ll notice a change in how your family appreciates a good meal, understands the cost of food, and how that affects the family budget. Plus, it allows you to spend more time together which can be hard to come by during the busy school year.  

See also: 9 Ways to Become Coupon Savvy


Tip #5:  Teach Kids to Give

Just as it is important to teach our kids to value a hard-earned dollar and to be conscious of how purchasing expensive electronics and brand-name designer labels can affect a budget, it’s also important to teach them to give back to others who are less fortunate.   

Each year, our family sits and talks together about the places and causes we want to support. These giving conversations are much more meaningful than many other things we spend a lot of time talking about. Giving together as a family builds bonds and a shared sense of purpose. 

For instance, several of my kids are passionate about animals so they donate a portion of their birthday money to our local Animal Rescue League each summer.  Another of my children is involved with the Special Olympics and even our youngest daughter who is now 8 is excited to bring all her gently used toys to a local homeless shelter because she knows that there are little girls her own age who might don't have their own dolls and books. 

Helping children and teens learn to give is an important counterbalance to consumerism and a sense of entitlement that can emerge when we always focus on what we want for ourselves. 

Tip #6: Find Gratitude Lessons in the Everyday

It's easy to turn daily life into valuable lessons about gratitude.  When you see your son lovingly playing with the family pet, stop and express your gratitude to him for being so kind.  “Brady, I love watching you take such good care of Molly, you’re so good with her.” 

When your spouse stops at the store after a long day of work to pick up milk and bread, instead of taking it for granted or treating it like an errand let him know you appreciate his efforts.  By positively reinforcing such actions, you’ll be setting an example of how much you value the good things that your family does, and in turn will help your family build a foundation of gratitude for the good things in their lives—not just material stuff.

What steps do you take to keep entitlement at bay in your family?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT where I continually update my selections.

Despite wanting to give our kids everything, one of the greatest gifts we can give is to literally give less, to force decision-making and awareness among all their choices.   Enjoy your family and until next time—happy parenting!

Teen and girl shopping and other images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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