We’ve all seen it. A child in the check out line at the grocery store begging his mother for over-priced candy. The mother makes us proud at first with her resistance to the persistent child. However, the child is more than willing to take it further. He ups the ante and starts to make a scene. The begging turns to screaming and kicking and hitting his mother. By now, we are trying not to stare. And deep down we are pulling for mom. We want her to hold her ground, but then we see it, weakness begins to come through. She begins to bargain with the little beggar. She starts promising snacks at home to somehow distract the child from the coveted candy within arm’s reach. Then it happens. The situation escalates and mom folds like a cheap step ladder. In her frustration she grabs the candy and appeases the child. Kid -1 mom - 0.
Before we judge mom too harshly, this is the reality every honest parent has faced at one time or another: Kids can absolutely push us to our breaking point and some of our strongest parenting convictions go out of the window to claim a moment of peace.
I do believe we can take a few steps to help break the dangerous condition known as entitlement. In fact, I would suggest to you that responsibility is what shrinks entitlement in kids. Here is a quick tutorial on how to give your kids responsibility over the 7000days of parenting.
1. Age appropriate
Start as early as you can identifying age-appropriate responsibilities you can give your kids. You must walk the tightrope of not overwhelming them, nor underwhelming them. The earlier you start giving your child responsibilities, the more they learn that responsibility is part of life and the culture of your home. Age will always determine a basic level of responsibility required of kids. Each age and stage of development build on the previous one, so you must take this task of giving our kids responsibility seriously!
2. Truly Helpful
I’m not a big fan of giving your child busy work. I know it’s tempting, but intentional parents always try to keep the end in mind. In other words, we want the responsibilities we give our kids to point them to real life. We have our kids take out the trash, because as adults they will have to take out the trash. We have our kids help clean the kitchen because it is good to know how to clean up after yourself. We have our kids learn to do their laundry, because mom can’t be responsible for this for the rest of their lives!
The better approach is to give your child age-appropriate, important things to do. This will give your child a sense that he or she is actually helpful. This is a powerful lesson for your child to learn. The simple act of giving your child responsibility helps your child see that he or she has a unique ability to make a difference in the world. This evolves into a confident self-concept and motivates kids to see responsibility as a positive instead of a negative.
3. Expected & Unpaid
I will never forget the time I mowed the grass at our house and approached my dad to pay me. He laughed in my face. He promptly told me, “You get three hots and a cot!” The message was abundantly clear...I mow the grass because I live here and eat here! Kids need to grow up with the expectation that they give back to the good of the family. Basic household responsibilities are not a means for income - they are a means to enjoyable and healthy family life! What does it communicate to a child if he or she is paid to do what the real world treats as a normal expectation and courtesy? Everyone in the family should contribute to the good of the entire family!
4. Inspected & Increasing
Parents must inspect a child’s responsibilities. Remember that children WILL take the path of least resistance. Your child will want to cut corners, don’t let them, this is a bad pattern to start and one very difficult to reverse. Not only inspect your child’s responsibilities, increase them over time. The reward for responsibility is MORE responsibility. Remember - responsibility is NOT a punishment, it is a blessing that allows your child to use his or her God-given talents and gifts to discover they were made to make a difference. You must create a safe place for your child to practice adult life, and adult life is FULL of responsibility. It amazes me that kids who can operate a smart phone with more total technology than the Apollo 13 but act as if they can’t figure out how to run a washing machine.
5. Precede privilege.
Above all privilege should follow responsibility as often as possible. This may be the greatest step toward eliminating or at least reducing an entitlement attitude in your kids. When they realize that responsibility is the key that unlocks privilege, you have given them a lesson that pays huge dividends throughout their entire lives! When your child says, “I want…” your response should be based on a proven track record of responsibility or a plan to prove personal responsibility. I always encourage parents to link desired privileges with real responsibilities as the proof that they are ready for the weight of privilege. Why would you give a child a smart phone if he or she can’t keep up with basic chores? Why would you give your teenager the keys to the car if they consistently mishandle their smartphone? Resolve not to allow your child to taste too much privilege without the appetizer of responsibility.
I hope this injects a little courage and confidence in your parenting. Remember you have #7000days
…make every one count!