Connie at Smockity Frocks (wife and homeschooling mom of 8 kids) has written an article called “25 Ways to Teach Your Child to Have an Attitude of Entitlement” – a tongue-in-cheek description of the many ways children become spoiled by well-meaning parents. A few choice “tips” include:
“Give him his own present whenever anyone else gets one.
Brother’s birthday? He gets a present too. Best friend’s baby shower? He gets a present too. No one is ever more special than Li’l Junior!”
“Fix him a special meal when he doesn’t like what you prepared for the family.
You prepared spaghetti for dinner, but it makes him whine? Make him his own plate of food. Be sure to ask what he would like instead.”
“Encourage false talent.
Your kid can’t carry a tune in a bucket? Disregard that and demand that he is the lead in the Christmas musical.”
You can read the full list of 25 here.
Now, naturally, Connie is being facetious; no loving parent would intentionally cultivate an attitude of entitlement in their own child. Her point is that even the most well-intentioned parents sometimes fall into behaviors (or allow behaviors from their children) that foster a narcissistic, entitled attitude in their little ones.
Parenting is hard – probably the hardest job there is. How can parents resist these traps?
David E. Prince from Baptist Press writes that learning to say ‘no’ might be a parent’s greatest tool:
“In an obsession to keep children happy, many parents act like victims who must provide their children with every desire. I recently heard a father explaining to another parent, ‘I didn't want to get her an iPhone yet, but I had to because every child in her class has one. I don't want her to be considered weird.’ His daughter was 8 years old. Children who grow up getting everything they think will keep them happy most often live very unhappy lives. Parents who provide their children 24-hour-a-day unmonitored access to the Internet with smartphones and computers in their bedroom in an effort not to restrict their freedom are sentencing their children to a life of bondage. Few things are more pitiful than a young man who was reared in an environment of self-indulgent freedom that led to enslavement to pornography. Jesus' declaration, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23), means that teaching self-denial is an important part of cruciform parenting. ‘No’ is an essential word in a Christian parent's vocabulary if they want their children to know true freedom (Galatians 5:1).”
Crosswalk author Cortni Marrazzo has come to see her relationship with her toddler as a reflection of her relationship with God. Just as her toddler makes constant cries of-
"My life is ruined!"
"Can you do it for me?"
-she has found that she also comes before the Lord with this attitude of entitlement and self-focus. She writes,
“I have personally experienced many frustrating moments as a parent, and I’m definitely learning how I can cause some frustration to my Heavenly Father in the same manner. I’m thankful that he has more patience with me that my human self tends to have with my son (and that he’s also helping me to have more patience in this area). Slowly but surely, he's helping me change my attitude to be less childish. Perspective can often change everything, so by seeing how I’m acting toward God through the actions of my child, I’m definitely learning and practicing better ways to respond and act towards him. God isn’t looking for perfection from us, but simply looking for us to strive towards growth and change on the path to becoming more like him and less like our fleshly selves.”
What do you think? Does your desire for your child’s immediate happiness ever impede his or her ultimate growth? Can comparing the role of parent to God’s relationship with us help you understand the need to say ‘no’ to your children when the need arises? Be sure to check out the Crosswalk parenting channel for more parenting advice (and Rod Arters’ article “How to Raise a Rebellious Child” if you think you might have a rebel on your hands!).
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: September 17, 2014