Adorable girl giving beautiful tulips to her mother

It started with a chocolate chip cookie.

As I was getting ready to pick up my oldest son from Kindergarten, I decided to bring a special snack for the ride home. I was sure this would buy me some cool points, and possibly some good behavior for the afternoon. Nope. As soon as I pulled the bag out of my purse, the complaints began. “Those are so small.” “Only one for each of us?” “I want something bigger.” I asked why they deserved something bigger or better, and the best answer I got was “because.” It took every ounce of self-control not to jam all three “tiny” cookies into my mouth and enjoy every bite.

I totally understand the desire for more cookies. My sweet tooth is always wanting more, but it wasn’t about the cookies. It was about their attitude. For some reason, they felt entitled to more simply because of who they were. They had not done anything to earn it, but still they felt that should receive a bigger portion than their brothers.

You do not have to go very far to find an entitled child. If you have kids, chances are good that you don’t even need to look outside your home. I’d like to think that my husband and I limit what we give our children, and yet there is still a healthy amount of entitlement that flows through our house. No, my boys are not demanding fancy vacations or $100 sneakers. The problem with entitlement is that it begins as a small seed that can eventually grow into a redwood tree if it is watered enough.

Before I jump in too deep, I want to start by clarifying that I believe most parents are giving excess because they are excited to provide those things to their children. They can’t wait to see their kids’ reactions, so they don’t wait. What I am suggesting is that we need to be careful the standards that we set for our children when they are young.

We are not doing our children any favors by catering to their every whim. If we give them everything now, what do they have to look forward to? If we indulge every desire, they will come to expect that for years to come, from everyone they interact with.

It is so hard to find balance when we live in a social media focused world. As a parent, it can be painful to see other parents providing their kids with more than you want to (or can) provide. We are no longer trying to keep up with the Joneses, but rather trying to keep up with the Jones’ children.

I have decided to do all that I can to turn my children’s entitlement into gratefulness. Here are a few ways that I am fighting this in my own house:

  1. My boys know that they always have two options when they are given something. To accept it with a thankful heart, or don’t take it at all. They have learned firsthand that if they complain that their snack is too small, I will eat it for them. Literally. I have eaten their snacks. If a toy is the “wrong color” or isn’t big enough, I am more than happy to donate it to children who will be grateful for such a gift. It may sound harsh, but these are the little moments that teach big lessons.
  2. We do things for other people. It can be hard to teach children about serving others when they are young, but it is possible. When a friend has a baby or illness, we bring them dinner. My boys will help make it and then come with me to deliver it. They have decorated lunch bags for Ronald McDonald House. When we moved, they selected toys to donate to a local charity. These are small examples that will hopefully help them to develop big servant hearts.
  3. I force myself to set limits. This may be the hardest one of all. Like most of you, I love seeing the looks on my boys’ faces when I hand them something special. While I’d love to give them the world, that is not reasonable for us. On a strictly basic level, we are not in a financial place to give them everything…and I am certainly not willing to go into debt over the newest shoes or most talked about toys. On another level, I simply do not want to create monsters.  We set limits with them in advance, so there are no surprises later.

My hope is that I can help my boys develop into well-rounded, loving human beings.  At the very least, I want them to simply appreciate what they are given and work hard to earn anything