Consider the following:
An adult in her late 20s was fired from her job for not showing up for work several days in a row without a valid excuse. Her dad proceeded to go to the place of business and share his feelings, albeit abrasively, with the boss.
A teenage boy disregards the rules at the local movie theater and puts his feet on the seat in front of him and sends texts during the entire movie. He doesn’t think the rules apply to him.
A 10-year-old really wanted a puppy. When she didn’t get the one she wanted, she made sure to make her disappointment well known by having hysterical fits and giving her parents the silent treatment.
A child loses in a competition and his mother persuades the judges to award all of the participants a trophy, stating that it is unfair for there to be a “First Place.”
A teen is angry because her friend won the award she wanted. She decides to spread false rumors about her friend as “payback.”
A dad yells at a coach because his daughter was not put on the team he thought she “deserved” to play on.
What do all of these examples have in common? They fit the definition of entitlement.
According to the Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary, entitlement is the “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”
In a society where the “me first” mentality is becoming ever more prevalent, what can we, as parents, do to help safeguard an entitlement attitude in our kids?
Teach your kids the importance of respecting authority. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Romans 13:1 says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”
The first authority children have is their parents. The Bible is clear about this topic in Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3, Proverbs 1:8, and many other verses. If a child has not been taught to honor and respect their parents, how will they be able to honor and respect others placed in authority over them? Teachers, coaches, police officers, etc.?
Encourage a teachable spirit. Pride is a forerunner to a selfish and entitled attitude, so reinforcing a spirit of humility is key. The Bible talks of the importance of a teachable spirit in Proverbs 9:9 and Proverbs 12:1. No one knows everything and it’s important for children to learn that early in life.
Teach your children compassion. Jesus had great compassion in the Bible for those who suffered, were ill, struggled, and were mistreated. John 13:1-7 details the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. What an act of service! Teach your children to serve others less fortunate. By doing so, this takes the focus off of themselves. Soon, it will become a habit to serve others, rather than themselves. Make it a point in your family to do regular volunteer work.
Remind your children the dangers of jealousy. Each time a story of jealousy is in the Bible, it never ends well. Think of Cain and Abel, Joseph of the Old Testament and his brothers, and Saul and David. Whenever envy rears it’s ugly head, encourage your children to pray about their struggle so that it does not give way to full-blown envy, which is a sin.
Teach your kids to have a heart of gratitude. If your children have gratitude for what they are and what they have, there will be no room in their lives for jealousy. An excellent way to do this is to encourage them to give thanks often to God and to those around them for the things they have.
Enforce proper consequences. The perfect way to promote an entitlement attitude is to avoid giving your kids consequences for bad behavior.
Don’t coddle your kids or do everything for them. At some point they will be adults, and at that point, they will need to take responsibility.
It’s not easy to combat selfishness and a “me” attitude, especially in the current climate in which we live. But with prayer and perseverance, we can break the destructive cycle of entitlement.