I saw a story on the Today Show about a mom that had “cancelled” Christmas in response to the entitled attitude she saw from her kids. While that approach may be a bit severe, most parents I know struggle to balance their desire to give their kids a good experience with their desire to avoid raising an entitled or spoiled child. While this is a challenge throughout the year, it’s especially acute during the holidays. I want to give a few tips for handling this challenge:


  • Parent for the long term: You need to decide what type of adult you want your child to become and work backwards. The main responsibility of a parent is to instill and promote the values that will shape their kids. This isn’t easy, it involves setting expectations, creating limits, managing behaviors and enforcing consequences. Very few parents want their children to grow up to be spoiled and entitled adults. However, when we refuse to do hard work of parenting and send the message that you can have everything you want regardless of circumstance, we shouldn’t be surprised when they end up not being the adult we wanted to raise.


  • Teach the lesson of hard work. When we make everything available to our children, we miss an important opportunity to teach the value and satisfaction of earning something through effort. When a child works hard and saves for a special toy, that toy becomes more precious because of the effort and patience it took to earn. Give your child an opportunity to earn money through chores or allow your teen to get a part-time job (or babysit or mow lawns) so that they can have the experience of working hard and earning money. Set limits on your giving and tell them they can ask for it for their birthday/holiday gift or they can save their money and buy it.


  • Pay attention to your behavior. Certain lessons aren’t taught by lecturing, but by the behavior you model and the experiences you provide your child. If you call a teacher, director or coach and demand a better grade, a bigger role or more playing time for your child, you are modeling entitlement. Instead, you can allow your child to suffer the consequences and help them understand how to work harder in the future.


Remember, all kids are entitled sometimes – it’s age appropriate and expected. You can keep it from becoming a pattern by using these tips. Ultimately, entitled people feel alienated and dissatisfied because they are looking for things to replace lack of relationship. You don’t want that to be your child’s future so set the limits and expectations now.