In an increasingly entitled world, is it even possible to raise grateful kids? These 7 ways will help you get started!
I’ll never forget the moment my own entitlement dawned on me.
I was a 19-year-old college student spending a month studying in Costa Rica. I had only been out of the country once before–to the United Kingdom when I was 17. But this was my first experience in a country with a language I could only fumble through at the time.
While trying to order a Subway sandwich in a mall, the workers began to laugh at me. I felt my face brighten and my blood pressure mount. I’m sure I grimaced at the workers before I took my sandwich and made my way to a table to eat.
Although I didn’t say it out loud, I’m ashamed by the words that ran through my head that day:
“How dare they! How dare they laugh at me! Don’t they realize I am an American! Don’t they realize I am from the greatest country in the world?!”
Within seconds, the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge: “And why are you any better than they are, Erin? Are you not all made in the image of God?”
Talk about a wake-up call!
I wish I could say that my entitlement ended there, but it didn’t.
More than a decade later, I found myself grumbling under my breath that I was above government aid, that I was an “educated” woman, that I shouldn’t be “on the system,” as I waited in line at the health department to submit my application for food stamps.
Oh how those lean years humbled me!
I’m now convinced that almost every American has struggled with at least a small amount of entitlement–but, sadly, most of us will never recognize it. Truly, we have no idea the blessings we have in this country, as the “American dream” entices us to accumulate more and more.
How will we ever raise grateful kids in an entitled world if we do not even recognize it in ourselves?
Over the weekend, I started reading a book that is rocking my world right now, and it’s resonating with exactly the way my husband and I hope to raise our three girls.
I was so blessed that Tyndale House sent me a pre-release copy of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, but the good news is that the book is actually released to the public today!
In the beginning of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, the author, Kristen Welch writes:
“Entitlement didn’t start with my kids. It began with me. I entitled them because I was entitled.” ~Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
That got me thinking: Just what are some ways in which families can seek to end our own entitlement and foster gratitude in our kids?
I came up with 7 Ways to Raise Grateful Kids in an Entitled World:
1. Give them chores.
I will be honest in that I did not grow up with chores. I didn’t even wash a load of laundry or cook any meals until I went away to college.
Although I feel my parents did use other methods to curb entitlement in their children, my husband and I are seeking to place a strong importance on teaching our kids basic household responsibilities from a young age.
We want our children to understand that their parents are not here to meet their every whim and that all members of a family contribute to the household running smoothly.
2. Give them plenty of opportunities to share.
Teach them to share toys, clothes, and, yes, if led to do so, even rooms!
Contrary to what popular culture may teach us, our children are not entitled to the “right” to have their own room. In our country, many children have more square footage to themselves than entire families have in many parts of the developing world!
I shared a bedroom with my sister from the time she was born when I was 22 months old until I went away to college. I can now look back at how it prepared me to share a bedroom with my husband!
Not only this, but it was a very easy transition to sharing a small dorm room with a stranger, who later became my best friend and roommate all four years of college!
Because our family was living in a 2-bedroom rental house when we added baby girls #2 and #3 to our family, we had no other choice but to put them all in the same room.
We were grateful to find a deal on a used bunk bed via a Facebook garage sale listing, and even when we moved into a 4-bedroom house two and a half years ago, we kept them all together.
Our three girls–ages 7, 5, and 3–know no different than sharing a room with their sisters. We believe it is preparing them for a lifetime of sharing space with others and that sharing a bedroom also helps reinforce sharing in general.
3. Limit their extracurricular activities.
Repeat after me: Your kids do not have to participate in every activity under the sun.
You aren’t a bad parent if your children do not participate in both music and art lessons, a different sport every season, gymnastics and dance, and even character-building clubs.
There is only so much time in the day, and it’s vital that they are spending time with us, the parents, during their “free” time–and not just the hours transporting them to and from their activities!
My husband and I have decided to limit our kids’ activities to one weekly activity. They can do other occasional extracurriculars, such as optional monthly or one-time-events but nothing that will require more than one committed hour per week away from home.
Right now, that translates into our older two girls–ages 5 and 7–taking gymnastics one hour per week.
4. Let them contribute financially.
Whether it be saving up to pay half of a new dollhouse, buy their own bikes, or contribute to their own educational funds, when we give our children the opportunity to work hard for what they desire, they will value it a lot more when they get it.
In Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen wrote about how her family does not plan on paying for their children’s college education:
“We don’t have plans to foot the bill for four years of college, honey. You will get a college education if you want it and work hard for it. It will happen with a combination of scholarships, work study, local summer school, and your dad and I contributing what we can.” ~Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
My husband and I are in agreement with Kristen.
I should preface this by saying that I am incredibly grateful that my parents worked hard for me and my siblings to attend college debt-free.
But we are living in a very different world than even that of the 90s and early 2000s. College tuition rates have skyrocketed, and, at the same time, the understanding that a college education is not always necessary to create a viable income continues to rise.
The truth is that it wasn’t too many years ago that we were barely feeding ourselves each month–much less setting aside funds for our girls’ college.
Even after several years of making a much better income, we still often feel we are recovering from how the Recession affected us. We are just now able to save for retirement, and my husband is nearly 40 (and I am 35).
We had nothing extra, and we know that many families are in that situation still.
What we are doing instead
Because we do desire for our daughters to have the opportunity to further their educations, we are doing something to get them started with the costs:
We are asking that grandparents and extended family members limit their gifts to the girls–which do not last long anyway–and, instead, take the money they would spend and give it to us to put in their education accounts.
It is not much–just a few hundred dollars per year–but we hope it will add up and have a much deeper impact than some toys would have right now.
5. Limit gifts.
We only give our girls three gifts at Christmas.
Yes, that means we don’t spend hours opening gifts, and it means that they receive less than many of their friends do, but it’s very important to us to be intentional with the gift-giving process.
As I explained in this post, we give our girls a want, a need, and a gift to foster spiritual growth.
We want them to grow up knowing that these are more than enough.
The Welch family has worked hard to combat the mentality that more is needed:
“Entitlement winds its course through my home, and the more I’ve become aware of its subtle infiltration, the more I see and hear it blatantly. This is all I get? There’s nothing else?
“We as parents have to examine the question for ourselves, so we can say to our children with conviction, ‘Yes, that is all. We don’t need more.'” ~Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
6. Travel as a family.
In her book, Kristen talks about how a trip to Africa opened her eyes to her own entitlement problem and completely changed her life and worldview:
“It was there in one of the world’s largest and poorest slums that I began to see my life and my own entitlement in light of how the rest of the world lived,” she wrote. “It shook me to the core and flipped a switch inside me that made me stop and reevaluate what was happening.” ~Kristen Welch, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
I believe it’s very difficult for Westerners, especially those of us living in the United States, to cultivate a true sense of gratitude and eliminate entitlement without being exposed to how the rest of the world lives.
Sadly, many parents don’t look past Disney World vacations when they are planning their family travels.
We have decided that we are not making a Disney World vacation paramount to our children’s childhood.
Will we take them one day? Maybe. It’s not on our radar at the moment, but I am sure we will eventually go, but, to our family, taking our children on trips that will shape their worldview by experiencing life outside of the United States is more of a priority.
When entitlement flares its ugly head, we remind our girls about what they experienced on that trip.
7. Name your blessings.
Scripture constantly admonishes us to name our blessings, and I think it’s important to do this aloud with our children.
Two and a half years ago, our family was able to purchase our home, after several years of living on a low income. I used to sit in the driveway and just stare at the house, praising God for His provision.
I would also say–and continue to say–to the girls: “Look how God has blessed us! He has given us this house! He has provided for all of our needs! God takes care of us!”
These are truths that are simple, yet they are easy for even adults to forget. They need to be reiterated to our children again and again.
What are some ways you are seeking to raise grateful kids in an entitled world?
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is available at Amazon and other major bookstores. This book is rocking my world, and I think it will yours, too. Every parent needs to read it!
Thank you, Tyndale House, for gifting me with the book Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. It inspired me to write this post and to continue learning how to raise my kids with a biblical world that honors gratefulness and seeks to abolish entitlement.