Stopping Entitlement in Kids

In the past three months, I’ve learned that parenting, to a much greater degree than personal finance, is controlled by an infinite number of variables.

With personal finance, we are “in control” of seemingly finite, concrete variables, but are still largely at the mercy of circumstances.

When it comes to kids, we try to do and say the right things, provide the right experiences and lessons, but ultimately there is someone else in the driver’s seat–a human being with their own unique set of DNA. Nature vs. nurture aside, there are just so many ways to shine or screw up along the way. How does anyone possibly know what to do?

It’s no different when it comes to entitlement. We’ve all seen them (some of us might even admit to raising them)–little brats running around the mall or at the local restaurant screaming “Daddy, I want…,” “Mommy, get me…,” “Grandma, give me that!” For the majority of the sane population, it’s like hearing nails on a chalkboard. But as parents, are we simply BLIND to how our own kids are being raised? Are we ignoring the over-indulgence and spoiling of our little ones, and  raising the ultimate entitled generation?

Donna Corwin, the author of Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me tackles this very question, and her book tour stops at Fiscal Fizzle today. Suffice it to say, with the recent birth of my first child and my interest in money, I was very intrigued by what she had to say.

“Parents must take the reigns and monitor their children’s activities and not give in so readily to demands. It took me a while to realize the off button is in my hands–not my child’s–and in this book, I will help you to press this button.”

And does she ever.

Donna kicks things off by exploring a number of “traps” that lead to entitlement:

  • Always getting kids the “best” of everything (i.e. “keeping up with the Joneses”)
  • Rewards for existence (Don’t some of us feel entitled to have certain rights simply because we live?…but let’s not go off-topic to health care, now.)
  • Bugging for attention, and getting it consistently
  • Overindulgence, lack of boundaries, and overprotecting
  • Social exclusion as a result of a “better than you” attitude from your child
  • Not letting your child fail to learn important life lessons (Wow, is that a big one in today’s overprotective society!)
  • Going Overboard (come on, you know you’ve watched at least one episode of My Super Sweet 16, and vomited thereafter)
  • and finally, Label Lovers, since a Target or Gap shirt simply won’t work in today’s high school “world.”

Is that a great list or what? My heart was halfway up to my throat just thinking about experiencing any of these with my own children. Will I have enough self-awareness to see my own actions and how they help or hurt my child’s sense of entitlement?

To answer some of those fears, Donna explores parental entitlement traps that are at the root of potential problems with children. They include:

  • Attachment to our own parent’s models and styles
  • Overidentification with our kids (like “that guy” at your kid’s baseball game)
  • Self-involved attitudes, like a lack of delayed gratification and blame

The rest of the book is filled with solid, practical advice about how to deal with all of the above in a consistent, well-intentioned manner. Donna covers topics like:

  • Discipline
  • Behavior/Reward Charts (one of my favorite sections)
  • Media messages and role models
  • Competition
  • Achievement and creativity
  • Values, respect, morals, and manners
  • Teaching kids about money (a basic primer)
  • Family communication and problem solving
  • Un-spoiling kids

I am really, really looking forward to re-reading this book and discussing it with my wife. We’ve had so many conversations about not spoiling our kids already, and this is a perfect companion for future talks!

FTC Disclosure: This post includes a review of product(s) that were sent to me free of charge.
Photo: Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me Cover

11 thoughts on “Stopping Entitlement in Kids

  1. We have our first child on the way in June. We are excited and terrified! This book looks like it is just what I need to make sure I keep my kids level headed. I need all the help I can get.

    On a side note, I just joined the Yakezie Challenge! Looking forward to continued interactions.

    1. Hey, welcome to the challenge! Congrats on the baby, it’s quite the experience. 🙂 I think we’re still a few years out from having full use of this book, but it’s definitely never too early to start learning.

  2. Kids are funny. My son hardly asked for anything when he was younger. I had to push him a bit at Christmas time, and now he finally asks for some legos and pokemon cards, but not much more.

    I really depends on your kid’s personality.

    We do have our kids very active in sports though, so perhaps that’s part of it…
    .-= Money Reasons´s last post: MoneyReasons Weekly Cache 2010, Mar 28 =-.

    1. My wife raves about the effect of sports on kids, so you might be right there! You are quite the lucky person, I think, with your son. It’s rare to hear a story like that, but such a blessing! 🙂

    1. Hahaha! Yeah…you actually bring up a good point–how do you make other people realize they’re doing without coming off mean? Ugh…that’s probably 10x worse with family. 🙂

  3. It’s a lot easier to know how to be a perfect parent when you don’t have kids. I’ve been a parent for 15 years now and I still haven’t got it figured out. The trick is, just when you’ve solved the colicky baby problem, you have to deal with toddler tantrums. Once you’ve got that over with, there is one issue after another. Rolling with the punches is the best skill, because they just keep on coming!

    Money Reasons is right. It depends a lot on your child’s personality. You need to learn what works for him/her. Realistic, flexible boundaries are absolutely essential. Your child needs to know when negotiation is appropriate. He/she also needs to become familiar with your “don’t even go there” voice.

    As always, balance everything with lots of love. It’s cheap and it buys you some points for when you really need to enforce a “no”. 😉

    P.S. Your wife is right about the extra-curricular thing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sports, music, or any other interest.
    .-= 2 Cents @ Balance Junkie´s last post: Risk vs. Reward: The Ultimate Calculation =-.

    1. “It’s a lot easier to know how to be a perfect parent when you don’t have kids.” Very true, but I think people without kids can also offer some interesting outside perspectives that those of us with kids may not see.

      “You need to learn what works for him/her.” A lot of parents, myself included, miss this point. They try to find the “perfect” solution for everything while pushing our kids around in directions they’re not ready or willing to go.

      Thanks for commenting!!

  4. Great to hear you’re starting off with that book so early in the game. When kids learn about putting off gratification for stuff, they learn about discipline and patience and will more deeply appreciate the stuff when they finally receive it. And learning early that they can’t have everything they want is a pretty valuable lesson for the rest of their lives.
    .-= savvysavingbytes´s last post: 20 Lowest Property Taxes in USA =-.

    1. The author suggests 6 months as the starting age for teaching kids these principles, so starting early definitely applies!

  5. When I was a wee whelp, I grew up with very, very little discipline. Though I had low self esteem at the time, so I was far from spoiled. And my entitlement mentality was pretty small in comparison to a lot of other children. This particular open-ness to the world compounded with a working class family has taught me well. It helped me grow out of the entitlement mentality almost completely to the degree that I’m working on getting as much government intervention out of my life.

    I also did various other errands around the neighborhood as well which helped foster my ‘earn your wealth’ mentality. And probably self employment as well.

    I think a possible to dissolve a child’s entitlement mentality is to open their minds to financial creativity. Educate them financially. Show them how to pool money through their own efforts, as well as teaching them about acquiring assets. The hardest part, however, is educating them financially.

    This is something I’m doing with my nephew, myself. ❤

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