“Mummy, I want this one now!”
“Why can’t I have it?”
“Everyone has this toy!”
“But my friends parents allow them to…”
Leading children away from entitled behaviour and towards a grateful mindset is a challenge every parent faces. After all, our society is a seemingly perfect breeding ground for entitled attitudes. So how can we break the mould to raise grounded children who understand and appreciate the opportunities that have been made available to them?
#1 Examine your behaviour
Doing a reality check of your own life is uncomfortable, but unavoidable, as most children are influenced by their parent’s behaviour. Start by asking questions like, “Do I think my child deserves preferential treatment?” or “Do I feel entitled to certain things?” Be honest with yourself—it’s the only way to find out what to work on and how to improve.
Also, many parents often overindulge their precious kids to prevent them from feeling upset or disappointed. Something else to consider would be whether you’re caving in to your child’s demands when you should be firmly saying no. It’s perfectly alright for your child to experience not getting everything he or she wants – it’s a practical lesson that they need to realise before heading out into the world.
#2 Cut back on privileges
A great way to help kids feel grateful for what they have, is to have them experience what it’s like doing without. No, this isn’t meant as a punishment; it should be a family effort. Make a list of little luxuries your family can stop indulging in for a week or month. It could be not heading to the movies or eating out, using the fan instead of air-conditioning, not watching TV… this will help to foster healthy appreciation, and help the kids empathise with those that aren’t able to enjoy these everyday privileges.
#3 Encourage a different perspective
Life is filled with less than ideal situations. Encouraging your child to look for the silver lining, and encouraging empathy will gear them towards gracefulness and gratefulness, even in tough situations. For example, if your kid is whining about having to wait in line, say “It must be challenging for the staff to deal with so many customers.” Or “Here’s our chance to be spontaneous!” when an activity they’re looking forward to gets cancelled.
#4 Expect more from your child
Let’s be honest, children are perfectly capable of doing things for themselves. While some parents might instinctively “volunteer” their services, it is important for children to understand personal responsibility by putting in hard work and effort. For example, if your child isn’t already chipping in with the household chores, start assigning age-appropriate tasks. Instead of getting used to everything being done for them, allow your child to do their part and contribute to the family.
#5 Give thanks
Saying your Ps and Qs is simple enough, but often forgotten. Make it a habit to verbalise your gratitude, be it thanking service staff for their assistance, the neighbour who held the lift, or the commuter that gave up their seat on the MRT. Lead by example, and your child will soon pick up the good habit!