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Fact Sheet: Jenny Hale - Entitlement

For more information head to the  The Parenting Place.

Are Children today spoiled and feeling like they have lucked out' if they don't get what they want?

We have all seen it - a family in a shop. They are buying a present for someone else's birthday party. However, all is not happy camping. Little Samantha also wants the same toy as she doesn't have one that colour and Noah has found some lego that he doesn't yet own.

Mum is fobbing the kids off with the usual banter - round one.

"YOU better not be asking for stuff, you know what I am going to say. Don't you have enough stuff already? I am so sick of how you treat the toys you have.

Round two

"How much is it then? Well that's the last time I do this - you kids have got to stop pestering me. You have to promise to be good for the rest of the day okay?"

The children have just completed their research. Mum can be worn down and she can purchase things for us. We will keep this up because we like getting things.

All children are entitled to feel deserving of love, respect and goodness. It is something all parents should strive to give their children. Where it comes undone, is when a child believes that the world owes them stuff and that they have a right of demand it.

Parents can set children up to accumulate a sense of entitlement so here are a few things to watch out for.

How do you encourage entitlement?

Buying them things out of guilt

It is very easy to fall into the trap of filling an emotional need with a material thing. When we feel guilty about not spending enough time with our children, we try to compensate by buying them things.

Children thrive when you give them half as many presents and twice as much of your presence.

Offer your time and connection

What children are wanting is to be close to you. Next time you are tempted to fill the gap, book in a time to read to your child, let them help you in the kitchen or sit and watch them play.

Pay them for chores

It is fun to start with and children are very motivated, but we should not be paying our kids to do their little jobs to help around home. Sure we can set them some over and above tasks to help them purchase something special.

Get children to help out at home because they are part of the team and part of a unit. Develop that wonderful sense of community and contribution.

Watch the influence of advertising
Your children are very easily manipulated and conditioned. Spare them from being soaked in a world that promotes how a product produces happiness. Dopamine is released at the time of a purchase we are all subject to the hunt and purchase factor. Teach your kids how to sift and handle pressure.

How do you encourage gratitude?

Model self restraint

Children learn mostly from what they see their parents do. It is great for kids see us save and wait or show a contentment with what we have.

Saving towards a family item - a meal out, the movies or a big treat like a bike.

Contribute to a cause outside your own family

Get them involved in the bigger picture of the world. Take on a sponsored child. Invest in caring for others. This is the best way I know of preventing spoilt children. Each generation can take on the care and love of a child in circumstances so different to ours. More ways to care for others; visit someone in hospital, take care of someone elderly, do some form of work that you cannot get paid for, take care of a pet, bake a meal for a family going through a rough patch.

Teach your children to take care of stuff

Children learn the value of things by learning how to take care of things. It might be the fine they pay for overdue library books, the wiping of the table that got accidentally drawn on or the hard reality of not having something instantly replaced that they lost or broke. Be kind and be firm.

Don't rescue your kids from hard work

They moan and groan but we give our kids a gift when we help them stick at a task and complete it. The car might take ages to clean, the homework assignment could take weeks and moving grandma's lawns every week is inconvenient. Sit on your hands and let you kids experience hard work and the joy of mastering something.

Signs of a spoilt child
A lack of gratitude or appreciation for what they have

A need to accumulate more and more things

Unwillingness to share with others

A lack of care for one's toys or gear - very disposable

A strong belief that they are entitled to things - that age, responsibility, patience or earning - have no part

Unwillingness to help out and contribute to helping out at home

There is a tendency for busy parents to want to compensate for the limited time and energy they have by buying things for their children as a demonstration of their love.

Some parents can feel like they missed out in their childhood and not want their children to go through what they did.

Having things is not wrong - being generous is a lovely quality. Raising children who feel 'entitled' is where it goes wrong. Children thinking they have power over their parents.

"I want it and it is your job to provide it."

(I visited a family where there were lots of fights over toys and ownership. The parents decided to buy each child the same thing despite the age difference. They hoped that this would put an end to the fights and battles. They were amazed and dismayed that it didn't! As soon as one child picked up a toy or got on their bike, the other child insisted that it was their turn or their toy. The intention was so that the children wouldn't fight or feel need. It did nothing to stop the fights because getting things does not satisfy a deeper need we have for belonging and feeling loved.)

Spoilt children feel deprived! There is a sense of not been satisfied because it hasn't cost them anything - It can feel like no one cared enough to insist I waited for this or earned it properly.
The best way to love our children - still is expressed on spending time with them.|

Here are a few ways to prevent creating a spoilt child
Be generous to others. Invite people to your place. Share your stuff. Mix with the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.

Offer your time, not things. Children learn to value the things that we do. When you have a behaviour chart - let the reward for getting 10 stickers for sharing, be something like - a trip to the beach with you.

Delay satisfying their instant requests or wants. Children learn to appreciate things that they have had to wait for. Delay gratification. (Study of chocolate) The children who waited went on to become the most successful in their studies and sports, they became the class leaders.

Get your children piggy banks. Let them handle cash. Listen to their requests and help them plan for how to make it possible. Some families have a set of three jars. Their pocket money is divided into three. Some for savings, some for spending and some for family tax. The whole family decides on how to spend the family tax. Charity, holidays or entertainment. This reinforces the principle of planning, waiting, sharing, self control and the delight of anticipation.

Say 'No' to them sometimes. Parents can be afraid of disappointing their kids but in the real world - no happens. "No I am sorry but we are not buying takeaways for dinner tonight." "I can see that you would like to put those lollies in the trolley but lollies are not on the list so we are not getting them."

Develop a sense of 'team work' in your family culture. It is hard to spoil a child when they are actively involved in helping around the home. You are coaching them to develop responsibility for small jobs so that they grow appreciation for what you do. Making their bed, taking their plates to the sink, wiping dishes, unloading shopping, feeding the pet.

"Do you know who I am!?" 20-5-13
John Cowan

It would be nice to get a letter and to be told that I'd inherited a fortune and a castle and title back in the old country. I'd quite like to be Lord Cowan of Something-or-other. Except I'd probably get quite obnoxious and expect you to call me sir and I'm probably obnoxious enough without that extra sense of entitlement.

Entitlement is a tricky thing. Our kids do need a little bit. They need to know that they are entitled to be treated well by others, that they can say "No", and have opinions and possessions. Kids without that sense of entitlement just get walked over at school and throughout life. Just because we are humans we have entitlement and deserve respect. But some parents give their children too much entitlement and those kids expect everything to just come to them without effort because, somehow, they are entitled to it. They have been spoilt and over praised and they are going to have terrible time in life.
An excessive sense of entitlement gives an irrational type of magic thinking - that everything is going to work out for me just because I am who I am. Research has linked it to aggression, insensitivity and selfishness. It makes people very intolerant of frustration which leads to them not making much effort. And new research from the University of Otago shows that students with a higher levels of entitlement do worse in their exams.

Parents, if you love your kids, don't make things too easy for them, and don't over praise them. Get them to do chores, wait their turn, and say "no" to them occasionally. Struggle and failure aren't fun, but without them, your little darlings could become unpleasant losers who blame everything and everyone. See: I told you I was obnoxious!

Grey, A. (1987). Entitlement: An interactional defence of self esteem. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 23, 255-262
Kerr, N. J. (1985). Behavioral manifestations of misguided entitlement. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 23(1), 5-15.
Kriegman, G. (1983). Entitlement attitudes: Psychosocial and therapeutic implications. The Journal of the American
Academy of Psychoanalysis, 11(2), 265-281.
 Entitlement Attitudes Predict Students' Poor Performance in Challenging
Academic Conditions. Donna Anderson, Jamin Halberstadt & Robert Aitken