Are parents today spoiling their kids? There seems to be a never-ending discussion today about the entitlement syndrome, spoiled kids, and inflated self-esteem. Concern for younger generations has increased because narcissistic behavior has become far too common. In some cases, parents believe their generation is the most spoiled yet, and they want the tide to change with their children. Rather than continuing the discussion about everything that’s wrong with young people and all the ways parents develop attitudes of entitlement, here is a positive approach to the topic. Consider these five traits that we should admire. Parents can approach these as traits to instill in their children, and kids can approach them as virtues to value and develop.
1. Earn something by working hard to get it. Don’t expect everything to be given to you, and don’t give to children who refuse to earn anything. In the real world, we get what we earn because the handouts eventually run out. We perform a disservice to our children when we cultivate a belief that everything is free. In addition, we rob children of the satisfying joy one feels when they acquire something from hard work. Feelings of entitlement makes one feel unimportant and incapable when the handouts cease. Acquiring the virtue of a hard work ethic not only complies with a biblical command (2 Thess. 3:10), it also strengthens one psychologically.
2. Contribute to the family. Everyone needs to pitch in and help in some way. While it may be the parent’s duty to pay the bills and cook the meals, no one should get a free ride. This is not to suggest that children should be required to pay their parents for room and board, but it is suggesting that children should contribute to make the family function. This begins as soon as children are old enough to pick up their toys, and it continues when they are able to help rake the yard or drive to the store and pick up a gallon of milk. Narcissists don’t contribute; they mooch. We don’t have to worry about kids becoming self-centered if they grow up contributing to the team.
3. Donate your time to help others. We all love our free time, our hobbies, and our entertainment. If we are not careful, our homes could become houses of self-centered occupants who rarely operate beyond self-gratifying behavior. Everyone should be a giving person, but it’s critical to remember that we are not truly giving people if we give without sacrifice. Learning this personal discipline begins with donating one’s time. Helping your kids become involved in ministry or charity work is honorable, but giving time should begin at home. Children should help mom and dad, siblings, and friends. Watch for warning signs such as inflexibility or a refusal to be inconvenienced in any way. Children need to learn that their time has not been given to them solely for their self-appointed enjoyment. Christians surrender their time to God to be spent as servants of Christ. Our kids need to learn this early.
4. Solve problems yourself. Kids don’t need to be bailed out every time; they need to learn to work out problems on their own. We need our kids to grow strong, not dependent. If we don’t permit our children take the knowledge we have taught them, apply it to their own problems, and work out a solution themselves, how can we expect them to function independently when they are adults? It’s not always easy to back off, but it’s productive. When you must intervene because the problem exceeds your child’s ability, intervene only as little as possible. Stay on the sidelines and coach as much as you can, but let the kids play the game. Wise parents teach problem-solving skills rather than solve all the problems themselves.
5. Be content when you don’t get everything you want. To not have it your way, right away, almost seems un-American. But it’s reality. Children need to learn contentment or they will never experience happiness as adults. They need to learn to be content even when the answer is “no.” That is a lesson they will never learn if they never hear “no.” When deciding whether to answer “yes” or “no,” consider their health, that is, their spiritual and emotional health. Are they acquiring an attitude of discontentment? Are they struggling to enjoy life that cannot be customized according to their every individual preference? This doesn’t reflect an emotionally strong kid. Perhaps they need to be given some time to adjust to reality, learning how to enjoy life when they don’t get everything they want.
Let’s take a positive approach to parenting and childhood. Rather than worrying over the many possible negative outcomes that we dread, take more thought about how to proactively initiate traits that will develop character. Acquire a hard work ethic, contribute to the team, make sacrifices, develop problem-solving skills, and learn to be content. Children with these traits are much more likely to grow into emotionally strong, healthy adults who are equipped to face all of life’s spiritual battles.