10 Ways to Avoid Raising Entitled Children in a Self-Centered Culture

10 Ways to Avoid Raising Entitled Children in a Self-Centered Culture

In today’s culture, what families require of children has changed. In years past, kids were expected to work for the family business or to fulfill substantial family responsibilities. Today in the West, consumerist culture often contributes to the accumulation of children’s possessions while inviting very little contribution from them. Oftentimes a larger disposable income makes it too tempting for a parent to grant their child’s every wish. This makes it easy for children to take gifts and privileges for granted, leading them to demand from their families rather than contribute to them. So how do we meet this concern in our culture? Here are ten ways to help prevent such entitlement in our children:

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  • 1. Teach them responsibility.

    1. Teach them responsibility.

    Since my kids were young, they have always been required to help with some sort of chore around the house. Whether it is loading the dishwasher, wiping down countertops or sweeping the floor, both of my kids must finish chores before they do any fun activities. It’s important for children to learn from a young age to be good stewards of what God has given them, as scripture says.

    Work has been a part of God’s plan since the beginning of time. Even in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were responsible for taking care of the garden. In the same way, kids need to understand that caring for their home is a blessing, and does not only fall to their parents or guardians but involves them as well. If God has blessed them with a home to live in and food on the table, your kids can learn they all have a part to play in managing it well. 

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  • 2. Show them how they can serve in church (and serve together!).

    2. Show them how they can serve in church (and serve together!).

    Churches today have become places where it is easy to attend services and bible study, receive good teaching and information, but not be held accountable to act on any of it. This goes for both adults and children. Such patterns can easily lead to an attitude that treats church as a place of entertainment and input, rather than a space where everyone brings something to the table.

    Help children discover their spiritual gifts and then connect them to a place in the church where they can use them. They can volunteer in children’s church, greet the arriving guests, or sing on worship team. Teach them that no job is too small to make a difference in the kingdom of God

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  • 3. Set good boundaries.

    3. Set good boundaries.

    It’s never easy to be the “bad guy” in the parenting relationship. But healthy boundaries are established for children when they understand that their actions have consequences. When kids are disappointed when they are disciplined, it is best to ensure they serve whatever punishment you judge appropriate. While it would be nice to let them do whatever they want, it is way more difficult to teach your children good boundaries. When you do this, you help them long-term as they become responsible adults that understand life does not owe them anything and they cannot simply get everything they want. 

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  • 4. Serve on a mission trip.

    4. Serve on a mission trip.

    Last summer, my husband and son participated in a mission trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to help rehabilitate a dilapidated home into a place where refugees from Africa could have a place to stay when they come to the United States. They spent a week cleaning up the home, pulling weeds to create a garden area and teaching the refugees skills they would need to have while living here. My husband commented that my son came alive while on the trip. Normally introverted, he often stepped in to help where needed without being asked and was eager to participate during group Bible time. He was so excited when he came home.

    Nothing teaches kids how fortunate they are than when they serve those who lack the same kind of abundance. They will quickly understand they are more than blessed and give them a new appreciation for all the possessions they are fortunate to have. 

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  • 5. Teach them leadership.

    5. Teach them leadership.

    Leaders understand servanthood better than anyone. They often have to sacrifice luxuries, time and resources for the good of whatever group they are leading. Leadership is the antithesis of entitlement because entitled individuals think only about themselves; leaders must put others’ needs first. If your kids exhibit leadership potential, do your best to help them develop that skill.

    Give them opportunities to lead, not only in the church but at home. Give them extra responsibilities and trust they will get the job done, such as watching after younger siblings, cooking dinner or staying home alone (when it is age appropriate, of course.) Encourage them to participate in activities that develop leadership like student council, debate team or drama. Even if they don’t become leaders in the future, the ways you develop leadership will provide them valuable skills for years to come. 

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  • 6. Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit.

    6. Cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit.

    The mere commitment to following Jesus requires us to forsake ourselves and dedicate our lives to helping others. When kids join in this, they have the chance to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit, when evident in our lives, allow children to love the unlovable, be joyful in difficult circumstances and experience peace when plagued with anxiety.

    It also teaches them to be kind to the person everyone hates, demonstrate goodness to those who don’t deserve it, be gentle when harshness is expected, follow through when it is easier to give up, and exhibit self-control in a world that encourages instant gratification. Living out this fruit alone will not only spark curiosity in a nonbeliever to understand what makes a Christian youth different, but will also help kids feel closer to God and deepen their relationship with Him. 

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  • 7. Model a good work ethic.

    7. Model a good work ethic.

    My mother and father instilled in me the value of hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done. They taught me from an early age to do a job right the first time, giving careful thought to doing a thorough job and to take pride in my work, not to put in half the effort or do a sloppy job. Today, I seek to honor this work ethic.

    One of the best things I can teach my children is to put that same care and concern into their work as I put into mine. If I can teach my children to go the extra mile when it comes to doing more than is required, paying attention to details and not rushing to get a task done, I have done a great thing as a parent. Hard work helps to break down entitlement as children learn to take pride in being trustworthy and reliable, rather than being preoccupied with wants and wishes. 

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  • 8. Give them a purpose.

    8. Give them a purpose.

    All people, including children, want to know that there is more to life than just living for themselves. Sometimes the reason kids become entitled is they haven’t learned that God has a purpose and plan for their lives, as the prophet Jeremiah said. God is also careful to order our steps.

    But if a kid hasn’t discovered that, it is easier to turn their passions inward and live for themselves. When they believe they are here for a reason and have been equipped to live out their purpose, children are much more likely to live with a purpose in mind than merely just for themselves. 

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  • 9. Enforce discipline when necessary.

    9. Enforce discipline when necessary.

    Decades ago, parents used to rally around each other, helping other parents do their best to raise their kids. Today, everyone is faster to pull out a cell phone and record a parent’s every move, immobilizing parents to enact discipline to teach kids how to behave, especially in public.

    Grounding or taking away privileges are all good examples of disciplinary actions to take when a child steps out of the lines you have laid. Don’t be afraid to extend loving discipline to a child so they might develop a healthy respect for authority. Use their respect for you as an opportunity to teach them what it means to respect God. 

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  • 10. Limit technology.

    10. Limit technology.

    Technology provides our kids with a portal to explore the world at their fingertips. Sometimes this can lead them to stumble upon websites and other adult situations they are not ready for. Even though most kids have access to this technology at an early age, you don’t have to follow the crowd.

    Establish when you think your children are ready for technology. This can vary with every child based on their maturity level and ability to handle responsibility. Children can easily mix up rights versus privileges, so help them understand that just because everyone else has something does not mean they need it.

    Entitled children are unfortunately easy to come by in this day and age. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By implementing some of these suggestions, you can steer your children toward greater selflessness, allowing them to become responsible young men and women who can offer hope to the next generation. Above all, help them choose Jesus, who sacrificially loved God and loved others more than himself. 

    Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.

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