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I had a chance to learn about a book from Richard and Linda Eyre called The Entitlement Trap.  I was really interested in this book because I have enjoyed one of their previous volumes “How to Teach Your Children Responsibility”.  They have a whole line of parenting books on various subjects and I really enjoy their straightforward and consistent approach to parenting.  

I was excited to learn about this new book because my son is right in the entitlement trap and it is really getting to be a problem.  Maybe your kids are going through this too.  It seems to be almost an epidemic these days because we’ve worked so hard to give our kids great lives without stopping to see if this was really going to be helpful for them. 

We start by showering them with toys when they’re little, and the toys just get more elaborate and more expensive as they grow.  Think about the stuff we had when we were kids – I didn’t have anywhere near the amount of toys, clothes, books, and just STUFF as my kids do.  And I had a LOT more chores and responsibility.  In fact, I started paying rent just out of High School because my single Mom needed the help.  But it was the bet thing anyone ever did for me.

If I remember correctly, the Eyres are the parents of nine children, so they’ve had plenty of opportunities for trial and error.  They have a great website called ValuesParenting.com that has a wealth of great information.  I particularly like that they have three different areas on their website, one for very young children, one for elementary school kids, and one for teens.  I like that because so much of the parenting resource is aimed at much younger kids, but the parents of teens face just as many challenges, maybe even more.  

In addition to their books, they have programs, free articles, really a wealth of info over there.  I kind of got stuck over there when I was researching for this post because I was fascinated by reading some of their ideas and found several I’d like to implement. 

I’m really looking forward to reading The Entitlement Trap also because despite my best efforts, my teen aged son (will be 13 next week – yikes!) has turned into a whole bundle of entitlement.  He can hardly eat a bite of food without some type of entertainment in his face, asks me almost daily for a cell phone, and is continually being reprimanded for entertaining himself with games/TV/Facebook when he is supposed to be doing his chores, getting ready for bed, or doing his homework. 

It’s turned into quite the challenge at our house lately, but I know perfectly well who is to blame and it isn’t him.  It definitely is me.  I created this environment for him and now I need to rein it in and help him get things back under control.  So I definitely will be interested in checking out this book – I think it can make a big difference at our house.  

The Entitlement Trap

Here are some of my own tips for how to keep your child from acting so entitled.

Buy them LESS

Save the toys and clothes purchases for birthdays and holidays.  I did a little research on this one – well basically, I asked Google.  Google says that the average child has over 100 toys and wealthy children have closer to 200.  That’s a little crazy-making, isn’t it?  And with all the little parts and accessories – no wonder our kids struggle to keep their rooms clean!  See my post on Make it Easy for Kids to Keep Their Rooms Clean.

We are giving kids too many toys and that’s why they lose interest in them so quickly.  They are overwhelmed.  Now they are definitely going to want toys, video games, and clothes more than two times a year.  That’s OK.  Why not help them figure out a way to earn the money for the items they want?  Having to work for a few weeks to save for an item is a wonderful antidote to entitlement.

Now if their toes are poking through their shoes or they hit a growth spurt, then yes, you’ll need to buy them some clothes mid-year, but those should be basic items, not fancy designer labels.

The Average Kid Has More than 100 Toys.  That’s a LOT

Do Less for Your Kids

Do you wait on your kids hand and foot?  Do things for them that they could easily do themselves?  Seems like a lot of parents do this these days and I can see why it would make kids feel entitled.  Maria Montessori taught us that even a very young child can be taught to carefully pour water, prepare snacks, and put items away neatly.  I think her methods are brilliant and would be very helpful in making children feel more competent and less entitled.

Right now, make a list of things you are doing for your children that they could do just as well for themselves.  It might take a little training and revamping of your standard of perfection vs. good enough, but it could be really good for them.  Here’s are some examples:

  • Kids can prepare their own snacks (after getting permission that it’s an appropriate time to have a snack)
  • Kids can do their own laundry – maybe less so for little ones, but they can help sort the clothes and dump them into the washer with a little help.  But older kids, absolutely.  Mine have been doing their own since about age 8ish?
  • Older kids can prepare dinner once or twice a week and probably should be doing so.  It’s good adult training for both boys and girls.  Making their own lunches is also a good option – make a chart to show them what items to include for a balanced meal.
  • Kids can be responsible to keep track of their belongings – backpacks, homework, sports equipment, shoes.  If you’re still on call to track down lost items for anyone over the age of 8, you’re letting them avoid a responsibility they should own.
  • Then just basic chores – taking out trash, setting/clearing the table, helping care for pets, yard work, etc.

Teach Kids to Be Mindful of Others

This is a big one for entitled kids.  Kids are naturally very self-centered and it’s one of our jobs as parents to teach them to show consideration for others.  It’s a process.  I always taught my boys to open doors for others, to automatically give up a seat to an older person, to jump up and pitch in at church or Scouts or any time they see someone in a group working.

I have a great post called Teens and Volunteer Service.  Our family is very big on all types of volunteer service and it was just a natural part of their lives from a very young age.  I think it has had a big effect on them, especially when they have a chance to see how fortunate they really are compared to many other families.

And maybe even ask them to do a few things FOR YOU.  It’s perfectly fine to say – Mommy’s tired, can you get me a glass of ice water, a cookie, or can you play quietly so I can rest for a few minutes.  Kids definitely need to understand that other people have wants, needs, and feelings.

Helpful tips from the authors of the Entitlement Trap 

“After elaborating and explaining something that we all know–namely that our children feel more entitled and are more spoiled than any other generation of kids in history–this book tells parents what to do about it!

Unknowingly, most parents are contributing to their kids’ sense of entitlement by giving them too much and expecting too little of them.  “Allowances” are usually part of the problem.  Kids queue up like a welfare line each week and demand their money.  Since they did nothing to earn the money, they don’t perceive ownership of it, or of the things they buy with it. 

The same applies to the toys and gadgets and clothes that we give them.  They gave up nothing for it, so they take no pride in it.

Unfortunately, its not only their “stuff” that they feel no ownership in or pride for–it is also their goals, their choices, and even their values.  If they don’t think of them as “theirs” (often because we have just thrust it all on them) they are unmotivated and without incentive!

To change all that is the goal of this book!  Young kids are both flattered and instructed by having real responsibility and by being paid for what they actually do rather than given handouts.

The Entitlement Trap gives parents a detailed blueprint of how to establish a “family economy” wherein kids earn, budget, save, and give money and where they buy their own things and become truly responsible for them.  It involves an interest-paying family bank complete with checkbooks and a pegboard or on-line system of keeping track of task accomplishment.

As Stephen Covey says in the forward, “In the first half of the book, you will learn how to make your kids economically savvy and financially independent. . . . In the second half, you will learn that the family economic model is just the framework and the metaphor for lessons even more important.”

The second half goes on to apply the same ownership principles to kids’ grades and education, to their choices and goals, and perhaps most importantly to their values.  Once our children accept and perceive real ownership of all these things, their motivation and incentive grows exponentially, and our job of teaching them responsibility begins to feel possible!

Check it out and I think you’ll learn a lot about how to deal with your own Entitlement Trap environment to help your kids.  

Here are some other posts you may enjoy:

What Do We OWE Our Adult Children?

Financial Tips To Help Your Future College Student

Teens and Volunteer Service

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2 Comments on Get Your Kids Out of the Entitlement Trap

  1. Wow Adrian, that book sounds like just what i need!
    Thanks for posting this.
    Oh and I hope you enjoyed your SITS day – sorry i was a bit late to the party!
    x

  2. Visiting from SITS…

    Good post. Really thought-provoking. I am definitely interested in reading the book but I’m also a little leery of saying the sense of entitlement comes from “parents giving them too much and expecting too little of them.” I think it’s more complicated than that.

    Like many of my friends and family, I grew up with my parents giving me all my stuff. I didn’t have to give up something to get my clothes, toys, etc. But I was not an entitled kid. And I am not an entitled adult. Neither are my friends and family who grew up the same way.

    So why DO today’s kids seem to feel entitled when we seem to be raising them they way we were raised? I think it’s the culture they are growing up in. We didn’t have the bombardment of media that kids have now. Growing up, if one of our friends had a new toy, that’s probably how we found out about it. Or maybe from a commercial on TV. But now kids see more and more sophisticated and targeted ads everywhere: TV, video games, iPads, iPods, even watching PBS (Chuck E. Cheese sponsors PBS which drives me CRAZY!)

    Whew. I don’t think I ever left such a long comment before! Sorry for blathering. But you really got me thinking…

    Subscribing to your blog now!

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