How Not to Raise Entitled Children

How Not to Raise Entitled Children

An older, godly friend of mine is giving a talk on how not to raise entitled children to the local MOPS group. She said that she’ll be talking to a woman at church and the child will yell to her mom, “I want a donut,” and the mom will immediately leave the conversation to get the child a donut. This is how you raise an entitled child.

She teaches that mothers must teach their children to not interrupt them when they are speaking to someone else. They should place their arm on the mother’s arm to let her know she wants to speak to her and wait patiently until the mother is done speaking. Teach them to say “thank you” and “please” and to pick up after themselves. Teach them to notice people and things that need help, like seeing some trash that needs to be picked up and thrown away or an old person needing help into a car.

I believe the biggest way to not raise entitled children is to teach them to obey you when they are very young. Teach them to do what you ask of them or stop doing what they are doing the moment you ask them and the first time you ask them. If they learn to be obedient children, then everything else you teach them will be much easier (Ephesians 6:1).

I asked the women in the chat room what they thought were some other ways to raise considerate children and not entitled ones and here are some of their responses.

When they do want something, make them work/save up to get it themselves instead of buying it for them and letting them work it off. This will keep them from the “I want it now!” credit card type of mentality that is pervasive in our culture which accrues large of amounts of debt that keep many in bondage (Proverbs 22:7).

Teach them to play games and not always letting the child win. They need to learn to lose well and be kind in losing. It’s more important to learn how to lose than how to win since winning is easy but losing is not. It’s teaching them to think more highly of others than they do themselves (Philippians 2:3).

Being an “older woman,” I see a lot of disrespect towards us. I see some of them rushing ahead and cutting in front like, “you don’t matter.” Teach your children to respect authority from a young age. If you teach them to obey you, you are teaching them to respect authority. They need to be taught to respect those in authority over them and parents are their first authority.

Stand up to greet someone (if you are seated), shake firmly, look people in the eye, and speak clearly when greeting someone. Give up your seat for an elder, pregnant woman, disabled person, and young lady. Open doors for people. Take hats off indoors and for the anthem/pledge. Also, Christmas and Easter are about CHRIST. We give gifts, but they are not the focus. These are just a few things we teach our boys in our home.

Don’t let them eat between meals or feed them every single time they say that they’re hungry. That way, they’ll be hungry for whatever is served and not expect a special meal just for them. It’s teaching them self-control and not allowing their appetites to control them (Philippians 4:5). Don’t give them an allowance. When they’re little, they don’t need money. When they’re older, they can do chores for others like dog sitting or yard work.

We require our children to say “please” or they will not get what they requested and sometimes they still might not get it. We train them to accept the word “no.” They must say “thank you” as well. We do not tolerate whining or complaining. We teach them that it comes from an ungrateful heart. We buy gifts only at Christmas and birthdays, but even then, we don’t go over-the-top by any means. When they are old enough, they have a set of daily and weekly chores they must do. We do not give an allowance, instead we keep a list of extra chores they can do to earn money. We also try hard to train them to think of others. I think this goes a long way in curbing an entitlement attitude.

I was raised pretty old fashioned, and so was my husband. We were always expected to say “please” and “thank you.” Because we were a one income family most of the time, we had to be very careful with our finances. For this reason, our children learned from early on that they couldn’t have everything. One thing I believed (and still do) is our children should never hear us gossip or put anyone down. No matter what. We wanted them to have a compassionate heart towards all people. Being critical of others would be contradictory to what we wanted to instill in them. We were careful of their friendships still, of course, but the result has been that they are kind and loving adults now.

Nip temper tantrums in the bud the first time they have one. You don’t want temper tantrums to be ingrained in them. It’s a lot easier to address and stop if you deal with it immediately the first time you see it happen. Way too many adults are having temper tantrums these days when they don’t get what they want and it’s just plain ugly. Teach them to learn self-control from an early age and that they will not always get what they want and that’s okay. This will go a long way to raising children who are not entitled.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

29 thoughts on “How Not to Raise Entitled Children

  1. We see too much materialism in this world. To help teach our children not to be materialistic, we have instituted a “no gifts” policy in our house 100% of the time. We celebrate holidays and birthdays with special meals and family get togethers, but no gifts. We have kindly informed family members and friends about this and have asked them not to purchase gifts. If they insist, we ask them instead to make a donation to a church ministry or charity or we donate any gifts we receive to such. We never want to instill a sense of entitlement over gifts or “getting things”. If there is a true need, then it is provided for (new clothes, shoes, etc) but not as a “gift.” but rather a necessity. This extends to all occasions (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, anniversaries, etc).

    We see so many people (even adults) expecting to be showered with gifts for any occasion. (birthday’s have morphed into “birthday weeks” and “months” and every holiday big or small becomes a gift frenzy.) We are training our children in polite ways to decline any gifts so as not to offend others. We do GIVE gifts to others as a way to teach “it is better to give than receive.” I know it seems harsh, but even at church holiday events if they are giving out candy to the children after the services, etc…they must ask permission of us first if they are allowed to accept it. We’ve seen too many children rudely push in line “to get theirs”

  2. Yes, I think this is too harsh. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 2:17) If God can give us gifts, we can give gifts to others.

  3. I think you missed the part where we DO GIVE gifts. We are very generous in our giving, again to teach “it is better to give than it is to receive.”

    We just discourage ever receiving gifts for ourselves. Even when our children were born, we declined to let anyone hold a baby shower, etc. for us. We don’t want people to feel obligated to give us things. That’s just us.

  4. We are teaching our kids that, if they whine, they will not get what they want. (It’s a work in progress, my oldest is only 4). This doesn’t only apply to gifts of course. Even if they whine about wanting to do something first or they don’t like how much food they were served, we make sure the opposite effect of what they wanted is what they get. I use the word whine, but we respond the same with any wrong with any wrong attitude about the current situation.

  5. That is intense. I heard a saying that rules without relationship equals rebellion. Hopefully you are showering your children with love and affection with fun and frequent family activities. My father’s family never recovered from the hardline upbringing they received. No one was physically abused and they all ate well and had what they needed but even as 70+ year olds some of them look back with resentment on their parents (now gone to their eternal reward) and others of them have even left the church and won’t step foot in one.

    Also think of your relatives. We are told it is better to give than receive but they are not getting an opportunity to give even though I’m sure they would love to.

  6. We’ve stopped complaining in our home. My children and I listened to a motivational speaker who speaks about success and teaches that successful people can tell how successful you are the very moment you open your mouth. Whiners/complainers are not successful people. We did a couple months of no complaints or money was required. We celebrated at the end. Now if I hear a complaint (not too often thankfully) I’ll ask, “Is that complaining that I hear” and the situation will be amended.

  7. I know this is not the main point of your article, but I will say that children need to eat more frequently than adults. I am not a short order cook and I do not allow my son, who is now 8, to eat whenever. However, I will say that I do feed him about every 3.5 to 4 hours now. When he was younger, it was closer to every 2.5 hours. Children burn a lot of calories just being children. Children cannot go for as long of periods without eating as adults can. They need as many or more calories than we do and their little tummies cannot hold that much food all at once. Where my son is concerned, he is offered veggies and protein about every 3 hours. If he chooses not to eat, that is ok. If he eats everything and asks for more, that is ok. We sit down to eat our meals without distraction and take time to chew our food. We discuss nutrition and how we have to eat a variety of foods and colors to be healthy. Some foods, like any non-starchy veggies, salads, lean meats and legumes are ‘anytime’ foods. Other foods, like candies, mac and cheese, bacon cheeseburgers are ‘sometime’ foods. he now old enough to assist with cooking, making a few dishes completely on his own. Again, I know this isn’t the main point of your article. However, when I was young, I ate breakfast about 6:30am, milk was served at school at 9:00am. Lunch was at 10:30am. School got out at 2:35pm and I arrived home around 3:30pm. I was ravenous at that point. However, dinner was not until 5:30pm, and pre-meal snacking was not allowed. I would cry for food, and when my Mother realized what time I was eating lunch, she did allow for a snack after school. My Mom was one of those ‘clean your plate’ children of the Depression. (I disagree with that, as well. It teaches you to not listen to your body and to eat past the point of satiation.) I struggled with obesity from my early teens until my early twenties. I have successfully maintained a healthy weight by eating many small meals throughout the day. I eat healthy food and I never let myself get hungry or eat to the point of feeling full. I also eat what every I want – but only a bite. Maybe two bites – if it’s cheesecake! Again, I know this is not the point of your article. However, obesity is rampant in this country, and I think the 6+ hour spans between meals, eating on the run and a ‘clean your plate’ mentality are contributing to this almost as much as the food choices being made.

  8. We also taught our children the same thing Isadora is trying to instill in hers. The complaining, whining thing needs to go! Michael and Debi Pearl share a lot of parenting wisdom from their many child training books.

  9. What are your kids going to think about people receiving gifts when they themselves aren’t allowed to? Seems like that’s setting them up to be resentful or think other people are bad for not accepting gifts as you do. I can see the argument for not giving or receiving gifts ever, but it’s weird to me that it is only a one way street in your house.

  10. We aren’t trying to be hardline, and we do shower our children with love and fun activities. we celebrate birthdays and holidays with special meals, etc. I just don’t understand why receiving gifts should become a “thing.” We are teaching our children to be selfless and self-sacrificing, and to put others first. We don’t want to associate special times with expectations of getting a gift. The only gift we need is God’s mercy and grace.

  11. I agree, Lori. Children NEED toys. They do not necessarily need an X-Box, an $800.00 hover board, or the latest greatest fad. (Although, I am not opposed to any of those items – if the parent is ok with and can afford them.) The point is, children DO NEED toys for motor skill development, intellectual stimulation, and just for fun. Play is the work of children. Yes, imagination is a great thing. However, I learned to sew to make clothes for my dolls. I had a doll house and I learned to quilt and do crafts to decorate my dollhouse. (I once made a lamp for my doll house out of a button, a bead and a toothpaste cap. The button was the base, the bead was the lamp and the toothpaste cap was the shade. I collected these odds and ends from family members and neighbors, and I considered them all gifts.) My neighbor had a jigsaw and table saw and we created furniture for my doll house, which my Father helped me paint, or stain. The yarn I received for crocheting and knitting (neither of which I am good at) were gifts. The cloth, needles and thread, wood, paint and stain were gifts. The furniture I designed that my neighbor made were gifts. The dolls, the house – etc. All gifts. New clothes and shoes are necessities, but these were always given to me as gifts, as well. Surely, they buy toys for their children, and these are necessary items, AND gifts. Additionally, adults and children need to learn how to graciously accept gifts, and even help, if needed. The writer says it’s better to ‘give than receive.’ Don’t deny others the joy of giving to you. As for rude children pushing to get candy. Of course, no one wants that to be their child. I would not have pushed or scrambled to get candy at church, or my Grandmother’s house. I knew there was plenty to go around. However, at home, there was not. I was the youngest of 7 and frequently, there was little or none left of some items of food, after the 3 teenaged brothers served themselves. I often was left with a heaping serving of the item no one really wanted to eat – and that was it. Watching my brothers tussle for the last of a box of cereal, or a cookie was not uncommon. They wouldn’t do this in front of our parents, but it did happen frequently. We were clean and decently dressed, articulate and polite. Our house was well maintained….but we didn’t have much money for food. I suspect the children of which you speak are not well mannered. However, you don’t know their story at home. Perhaps they fear they won’t get any if they have to wait.

  12. We recognize this may be a problem, so we teach them to be cheerful and encouraging to others when they (the others) are receiving gifts. To celebrate with others and not be resentful of good things that happen to them. For example if they are at someone else’s birthday party where opening gifts are a part of it, they are encouraged to say things like “that looks like fun, I’m sure you will really enjoy that” or “how thoughtful your grandmother is to give that to you.” Like I said, we teach them to politely refuse gifts by saying things and not be miserable like, “Thank you for thinking of me, it is really sweet. My church collects items for other children in need. I bet there is someone who could really use this more. Would it be ok if I gave it to them to use?”

  13. Disciplining children with the end in sight is important too. My oldest (4-years-old) understands that Mommy disciplines him because if he can’t obey Mommy and Daddy, he won’t be able to love and obey God. He knows his “grown up” years will be extra hard if he can’t learn to submit to our authority now because someday he will work a job providing for his family and have to submit to bosses and managers.

    Recently, a stranger asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. Without missing a beat, he answered that he’s going to go to a church to find a wife with long, black hair, they’ll have a bunch of kids, live in Mommy and Daddy’s house once we’re dead ?, and he’ll go to work everyday and build robots. (Dad is an electrical engineer) You can imagine the look on that stranger’s face.

    We try hard to raise our kids to cleave and leave. We believe explaining things NOW is important so they understand why we discipline and can recognize the truth and call secular lies for what they are as they get older.

  14. I thought about kids’ metabolisms, too, Katherine. My children come home from school ravenous as well. As I read this post, that recommendation stood out to me, and I think I’ll start a pre-approved snack list-starting first with anything that you didn’t finish from lunch, then fruit, veggie, healthy protein, etc. I attempt to have hard-boiled eggs, homemade protein snack bites, cheese sticks, etc. around for late afternoon hunger.

    We need to take the counsel regarding entitlement and use what works for our family, and allow common sense to be our guide. Expecting children and teens to go 5-6 hours between meals regularly, never receiving gifts, and not celebrating Christmas (as we found out some believe in an earlier post) seems antithetical to having a joy-filled home. Teach boundaries, manners, and obedience using a Christian world-view, no need for extremes.

  15. KR,

    I’m more interested in what your kids think of other peoples character for accepting gifts. I’m not trying to attack, just trying to understand how this makes sense.

    It seems to me that, by not allowing the kids to receive gifts, that gifts are bad, in and of themselves. Won’t your children think other people are bad for not refusing gifts as well?

    And it’s better to give than to receive, but obviously in order to be a giver, there has to be a receiver. What’s wrong with being the recipient?

  16. I think the part about teaching children to accept ‘No’ and realize they will be ok is huge. It was the turning point for eliminating tantrums. We would talk to our son about all the things that didn’t go our way that day, week, in life. But, we more than survived it. We also acknowledged his ‘want’ of things. As in, I know you really want that, but the answer is no. We can’t buy that/do that today. As he’s gotten older, he has a chore chart and he earns rewards and/or allowance for completing chores, performing well academically, being kind, helpful, etc. He understands that chores are expected and do not require a reward. However, we are willing to allow a reward earned for joyfully completed work and also academic excellence. He has short term rewards and long term rewards, so that he can learn that not all desires are instantly gratified and he can learn how to set goals and achieve them. He gets some rewards in points and some in money. He has a savings account, at 8. He is required to tithe at least 10% out of his own earned money. He also has to count and pay for special purchases, and count back his own change. (With our supervision, of course.) He also uses some of his money to pick out gifts that he really wants and give them away to a local toy charity. We don’t give him that particular gift, either. At least not for a few months, so that he can learn some form of sacrificial giving. One thing my Father told me was when he was a young parent, he said ‘No’ a lot. As he got more experience, he stopped saying ‘No’ almost altogether. His new rule was to ONLY say ‘No’ if: 1.) A request was to do something he thought was morally or physically unsafe. 2.) He could not financially afford it. 3.) Our behavior did not deserve a ‘Yes’ answer to the request. (Bad grades, bad attitude, etc.) My Dad was a really brilliant man!

  17. brilliant post. love the idea of teaching children to save up or earn money for things. i wasn’t a spoiled kid but i was told no but i wish i had been taught to save money and value money. i tend to be bad at that.

  18. I would perhaps suggest adding a caveat to instilling ‘respect for authority,’ in that it is extremely, EXTREMELY dangerous in this day and age to allow one’s children to believe that just any adult is an authority figure and therefore to be obeyed. They need to know that the creepy guy making sexual overtures is NOT to be obeyed and the teacher telling them that they can choose their own gender is NOT to be believed. It is sadly necessary to make sure children know that there are evil, evil adults in the world, and that trust must be earned. The concept of ‘stranger danger’ is woefully inept, in that it creates a false sense of security about the people we may think we know, and can make children believe that their parents being acquainted with a person automatically means that person is 100% trustworthy. Treat adults with respect, but do not give authority to those whom God has not.

  19. Yes, for us food isn’t a huge deal. We are SO extremely blessed to be living in our time and country that food is in abundance. We are thankful to God for it. I don’t monitor when my kids eat and we have mostly healthy options in our home with a few sugary snacks (which they always ask for as opposed to helping themselves). My kids are healthy (actually 70+ percent for height and 20 percent for weight) and not super concerned about food. I think making a lot of rules around it might make it an issue unless a kid already has some sort of problem around food. Food was never an issue at my home and my family of origin never have weight issues.

  20. We have Sarah Sue learns to tell and tell which is an age appropriate book about sexual predators. I read it to my young kids regularly.

  21. No worries! I don’t feel you are attacking. We are careful to reinforce over and over again that it is not WRONG for anyone to receive a gift and that they are not to resent or makes others feel bad because they do receive gifts.

    We are careful to point out that it is just a family choice. We use the analogy of people who are vegan. It is simply a choice and not right or wrong per se….As a family we just choose not to receive gifts. We explain that we always want to put others first, we want to be self-sacrificing, even if it means forgoing gifts.
    That’s not to say others who give and receive gifts aren’t. This is simply how we choose to do it. We explain others may choose other ways.

    We are not joyless by any means. They receive a lot of joy by picking out and giving gifts to others. Or going on family hikes, or coloring pictures, or having fun with other kids on the playground.

    And honestly, when this is what you’ve grown up with you don’t miss it. This is all they’ve ever known and they are 11, 9 and 8 (and have never received a Christmas or birthday gift in their lives)

  22. I understand the ultimate goal here, however I don’t entirely agree. Children can learn to not push in, use manners and be ok if they miss out on a candy being handed out at church. If the adult/s organising it are wise, they will notice a child’s patience and good behaviour and point it out.

    Sometimes, people just want to bless us. Not because we deserve it. Turning them away, especially if their love language is gift giving can be hurtful and insulting. Particularly if it was a personal gift. If you teach you’re children to not accept gifts, then how do you reconcile telling them they need to accept the free gift of salvation? It may put the idea in their head that they need to work for it as they are told not to accept gifts but that they work hard. You’re kids might not say it, but watching others get gifts and you always miss out can be difficult and distressing and isolating. I’ve known of many kids in similar situations that rebelled, went behind the parents back and the relationship was left shattered.

    There is nothing wrong with getting gifts. The attitude behind it is what matters. Teaching children to receive gifts no matter how small is important. If they want a more expensive item they should learn to work hard and save. Baby showers are meant to bless the mother and impending child and let them know they are loved and special. It’s meant to be a blessing. And you are rejecting people who want to bless you? There has to be guidelines so it doesn’t get out of hand. But no accepting of gifts? I thought only jehoveas witnesses did that. And I’ve seen how that turns out and how miserable and resentful their kids are. I see you’re point. But I also see how it may backfire badly.

  23. You can “teach” children to watch others receive gifts “cheerfully”. However, I doubt they will feel cheerful inside. You can’t force children to feel something. Taking inflexible, hardlined approaches like that usually backfires. I’ll bet they smother their own kids with gifts!

  24. By not allowing your children to receive gifts, you also rob others of the blessing of being the givers. Your children will also understand the joy and blessing of giving more if they understand the pleasure of being the receiver once in awhile. It is also a wonderful way to reinforce thankfulness and how to receive small or perhaps unwanted gifts with grace (which someone already mentioned but is such a good point).

  25. “it is better to give than to receive” is because it is better to have more than enough so you can bless others, than to be a person in need. Teach your children that, and also to be gracious receivers. God wants to give good gifts and that usually means through people.

    If you are teaching your kids to refuse all gifts, I am pretty sure you are bucking scripture. You can’t correct the shortcomings of others by making your children into extraordinary examples.

  26. I honestly dont understand the disconnect: it is better to give than receive…. very true! But as someone said, if one wants to give, there must be a receiver. You say you GIVE gifts. What would happen if EVERYONE to whom you and your children offered gifts politely refused them.?
    Gods GIFT of salvation.
    Every perfect gift comes from above.
    Mary accepted the gifts of the magi.

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