I Want, Therefore I Shall Have?
By: Michelle VanderHeide, BSW
“I wish you guys would move to the end of the driveway, so I didn’t have to walk so far.” These were the words of a young girl trick or treating at our house this year. It seems that every generation gets just a little worse with this sense of entitlement. What causes this? Maybe because resources were scarce in previous generations, people now have a tendency to spoil their children and themselves because the resources are available – but perhaps not affordable? Credit cards are evidently part of the equation. Whatever the reason, entitlement has become the new trend. What happened to the work ethic, and doing everything you can to support yourself, your family, and your community? It certainly doesn’t help that our media encourages this entitlement behavior.
Well, just because this tends to be the trend, it doesn’t have to be this way for your family. Here are three things you can do to ensure that your child(ren) will not grow up thinking they are entitled to have everything they want:
- Instill a good work ethic
Children are part of families, and should be expected to be a part of the solution to the entire household needs. The opposite tends to be a trend these days. “Kids will only be kids once, let them be kids.” “Child labor is abuse.” I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree. I have noticed a few things about my kids when they help out around the house: they feel a sense of accomplishment, they show pride in their work, and they feel a part of the family team. Having a child with a disability should never be an excuse either. Often the excuse for a special needs child is that a parent feels their child can’t do it, or doesn’t understand what needs to be done. Kids, even with disabilities, can do a lot of things with the right supports in place. By making these excuses for any child, you are denying the opportunity to be a part of the family unit and feel the sense of accomplishment. This can be very damaging for a child. S/he may grow up believing the world is here to serve him/her, that s/he is not capable of doing hard things, and that s/he is entitled to anything s/he wants.
- Teach your child(ren) the value of money
Money has become disposable. In earlier generations, cash or credit or barter were the only options for payment. Children grew up watching their parents work hard for their money, be a part of community that helped each other, and saw their parents receive money for the services provided. They also watched money exchange hands when products were purchased. There was a very simple and visible process to the use of money. We have now entered into a society where cash is almost obsolete. Credit cards, direct deposits, and other computerized processes have replaced this early and visible process. There are definitely some great attributes to all the computerized approaches available; but not all of it is positive.Setting up an allowance for your children is a great way for them to determine the value of money. Help them to separate it out into savings, giving away, and spending. When one of your children wants to buy something, you now have the resource to ask them if they have enough money to purchase it and determine if it’s a priority. This is a fabulous way to help a child understand the value of money, and keeps the process visual. By giving some of the money away, you help your child see the needs of others.
- Demonstrate through your own actions and thoughts
Demonstration is a very powerful teaching tool. If you don’t want your kids to grow up smoking, don’t smoke. The same concept can be applied to spending. If you want your kids to grow up being responsible with their money, be responsible with your money. Talk about what you are doing, out loud. If you are at the store, for instance, and you see a sweater that you really like, stop and look at it; make a comment about how you like it; and then about why you shouldn’t buy it. Another way to demonstrate this is to sit down by your computer and talk about your finances. Your child doesn’t need to know the details of the money but you can simply say, “I just got my check from work; I need to sit down and pay these bills now.” Show the stack of bills. Making the process visual for your child will help him/her understand and appreciate that money isn’t just intended for pleasure.
We all want things; but we can benefit our children by teaching them the satisfaction of responsibly acquiring what they want.