Entitling confidence, love, and empathy are just some of the ways to make your kids more conscious of the world, others, and less self absorbed.
By Amy McCready
We wonder why our kids don’t take on responsibility. We wonder why they’re never grateful when we do. And we can’t fathom how they actually believe blue M&Ms taste different than orange ones. We wonder a lot of things about our kids, and one of the most important is how to raise them to be responsible, grateful members of the real world in the 18 years they’re under our roof. And with the entitled, “I’m so special” attitudes we’ve seen in kids of all ages lately, we’ve really got our work cut out for us.
Fortunately, the daunting task of getting the kids not only to fold their own laundry, but to appreciate the effort that goes into providing clean laundry in the first place, is made simpler with a few power-packed tools, straight from The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic Un-Entitler Toolbox. They’re based on the fact that kids are entitled to things like unconditional love from their parents, meaningful work they’re able to accomplish and age-appropriate control over their own lives. Parents all over the world swear by these strategies for more grateful, more capable and less entitled behavior in kids of all ages:
1. Take Time for Quality Time (Entitle love)
While kids aren’t entitled to free transportation to the mall and a twenty dollar bill whenever they want to do some shopping, they are entitled to our unconditional love and acceptance. One powerful way to make sure they get it is through daily Mind, Body and Soul Time. Simply give each child 10-20 minutes of undivided, individual attention each day on a regular basis, and many of the entitled behaviors we’ve grown to dread (like pitching a fit when we don’t let them drink soda with every meal) will melt away. When they get the attention they need in positive ways, they will be less likely to turn to negative attention-grabbers such as battling, whining and negotiating.
2. Teach Task Mastery (Entitle confidence)
Ah, the free ride. Every child wants one. Virtually no child should have one. There’s an age-appropriate task for everyone aged 2 and up—if only they know how to do it! Savvy parents can ward off the sting of free-ride entitlement with the tool Take Time for Training. In a calm moment, patiently train kids in age-appropriate tasks, breaking the jobs into steps for younger kids. With their newfound confidence, kids will be more likely to take on new responsibilities without a fuss, plus they’ll feel less entitled to constant maid service at home.
3. Make Their Work Count (Entitle significance)
Kids desperately crave a sense of significance: Do I make a difference? Do I even matter? You can assure them they do, and get help with various household jobs at the same time with the tool, Family Contributions. Once you’ve trained several tasks, put your kids to work with regular household responsibilities—anything from driving a sibling to choir practice to emptying wastebaskets. Then, make it part of a When-Then Routine. Say, “When your responsibilities, including homework, are done for the day, then you can enjoy your media time.” Your kids will soon see firsthand the difference they can make, and get used to pitching in rather than pitching a fit when it comes to weeding the garden. In so doing, you’ll reinforce the fact that no one is entitled to a free ride.
4. Deal Positively With Whining (Entitle empathy)
But what about the griping? Virtually no child actually wants to dust the living room, but most will have something to say about it: “I hate dusting!” Using the tool Empathize and Appreciate can go a long way in letting them know you get it. Simply respond to the complaining with, “I hear ya! I know dusting isn’t your idea of fun—it’s not mine, either—but I really appreciate your help making the living room look so nice.” If you hear more whining or protesting, however, turn your attention elsewhere or walk away. (No need to get into a debate!) When they see you’re not going to fight, they’ll be more motivated to get their work done and move on.
5. Give Thanks—A Lot (Entitle thankfulness)
When kids help out with everyday tasks, they’ll be more appreciative of what we do for them, even if they’d never say it outright. Continue to foster thankfulness with the tool Gratitude Rituals. On a daily or weekly basis, over meals, just before bed, in a gratitude jar, or whenever and wherever it works for your family, help your kids practice finding things to be thankful for. Model your own thankfulness (“I’m so thankful Nana was able to come help out when our basement flooded!”) and help your kids make a habit out of giving thanks. In time, they’ll feel less entitled to the best that life has to offer and instead feel grateful for what they do have.
6. Hand Over the Reigns (Entitle positive control)
Kids crave control—and that’s a good thing if we don’t want them living in our basements throughout their twenties. Sometimes they get it in negative ways, like pitching a fit in the grocery store until we give in and buy the toy, but we all prefer they experience control in positive ways, like packing their own suitcases for a trip. Institute the tool, The Decision-Rich Environment in your home to give your kids as much opportunity as possible to wield age-appropriate control over their lives. The more decisions your kids make in positive ways, the less they’ll try to gain control with negative, entitled behavior.
This article originally appeared on Maria Shriver.com.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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