Coming off of the holiday season, it’s a great time to talk about the fact that so many kids are used to having and getting what they want much of the time. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Can it lead to an attitude of entitlement and—dare I say it, creation of a spoiled child? It sure can. But don’t panic! You love your child, and so you’ll take these three pointers into consideration to get and keep things on track.
1. Don’t be afraid to talk about money
If you're trying to foster an attitude of gratitude and avoid entitlement, it’s important for your child to understand that many things and experiences must be paid for. Beyond that, it’s helpful for kids to learn how money is earned, budgeted, and invested in order to provide for basic needs and save for the extras that we all enjoy. All too often, conversations about money happen in moments of frustration and involve guilt or blame (think, “I can’t believe you broke that after I just spent so much on it!” or, “I don’t know why I bother buying you nice things when you can’t take care of them!”). Kids tend to tune these interactions out and miss the message you’re trying to send, which is, “Please value what you’re given.” To get that life lesson across, take time to discuss paychecks, salaries, savings accounts, credit cards, and the basics of investing...all without disclosing specifics about your family’s finances that your child might not be mature enough to make sense of, like how much you earn or what your specific loan payments are. You might be surprised to hear your child’s perspective on what happens when you get money from the ATM or use a credit card, and clearing up misconceptions allows your child to appreciate that material items hold value and must be earned.
2. Stop doing everything for your child (even if it’s super frustrating at first) Material things aside, if your kids expect you to do every little thing for them it will be hard for them to function in the real world. It’s never too early to provide opportunities for independence or to late to send the message that your child is capable of succeeding without your undivided attention or assistance. For younger kids, take a breath and let them get their own snack, pick their own outfit, and gather their own belongings even if it’s frustrating, messier, and slower than it would be if you stepped in and took over. For older kids, especially those who are reliant on you for most things, prepare for some backlash and discomfort as you pull back and ask them to meet their own needs some (or most) of the time. Don’t get me wrong, as a parent you will always be there to assist as needed, and helping your child move toward self-reliance is not about abandonment or neglect. It’s about allowing your child to appreciate the effort and energy that goes into assisting others while building confidence and self-esteem.
3. Set limits
At some point, your child will have to cope with the fact that—in the real world—you can’t always have what you want when you want it. Is this a fun concept to discover? Not at all, but it’s necessary. It’s real life. Plus, it’s important for your child to learn that when you ask for help, give a directive, or say no, it’s not because you are trying to make things hard or be mean. The best way to make this happen is to decide on your stance and then communicate it calmly and clearly. So, instead of a loaded sigh followed by an eye-roll or an exasperated, “Do what you want!” try, “I’m frustrated that you’re asking me this before you cleaned up like I asked you to. Please clean up and then we can talk about it.” Also, keep in mind that setting limits is not about punishing your child or being a drill sergeant. You can be creative as you set limits and brainstorm with your child about how he or she can earn things they desire. Final thought, don’t be afraid to say no and mean it. Sometimes there’s just no way to sugarcoat your decision or use humor to help make it easier to swallow. When this happens, it’s okay for your child to be upset or disappointed because you are doing what you truly believe is best.
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