When they’re tiny, of course, our kids need us to do everything for them. But as they grow, many of us forget to take a step back. Instead of guiding them towards independence or showing them how to take responsibility, we run in to fix everything ourselves. This can cause problems – we want to avoid raising an entitled child.
Parenting expert Amy McCready says entitled children can trigger feelings of frustration and anger in their exhausted parents. This leads to shouting matches and over-the-top punishments which never work.
“When kids act up, they’re doing more than pitching a fit over a candy bar or permission to go to a party,” she says. “Without even knowing it, they’re on a mission to achieve the belonging and significance they crave.”
In her book, The Me, Me, Me Epidemic, McCready offers solutions to un-entitle our children.
She outlines specific strategies to encourage positive parenting and empower them to grow into responsible, un-entitled adults.
“The truth is, kids everywhere – from toddlers to teens – are ruling the roost and they’re not about to abandon their posts without a fight,” she says.
But there are ways to reverse the trend – here are some of her strategies.
1Make time to nurture mind, body and soul
We’re busier than ever. There’s always something that needs doing, or somewhere we need to be. It means we sometimes neglect our children’s broader needs. If they come to us, we tell them not to interrupt because we’re busy.
McCready suggests setting aside ten minutes of the day for complete focus on each child. If possible, make it twice a day. Get rid of any distractions and use the time to connect with your child on their level. If they want to make paper aeroplanes, make them. If they want to go and stare at worms in the garden, do it. Be present, focused, and connected.
2Sail away from the wind
If you feel that parenting is often just a series of power struggles, you’re not alone. Kids will push and push to get what they want, seeing how far those boundaries will go. However tempting it is, pushing back isn’t the answer.
Before you know it, denying a request for sweets before dinner has turned into a full-on screaming match. Instead of fighting it out, McCready suggests ‘sailing out of the wind’. Remove yourself from the situation. Make your decision, stick to it, and walk away.
3Adapt your home
How often do you wish you had an extra pair of hands to help with the chores? Or wonder why nobody ever stacks dirty crockery in the dishwasher except you?
Make it easy for the kids to help. Make sure plates, bowls and cutlery are within easy reach so younger ones can set the table. Put toy boxes in places they can access so they can be responsible for tidying everything away at the end of the day.
McCready says we need to look around our home through our children’s eyes and make adjustments where necessary. By empowering them to help around the house, they’re more likely to take responsibility.
4Get rid of ‘don’t’
Count how many times you say ‘don’t’ to your child. Chances are they hear it more frequently than you think. Reframe what you want to say to them and replace ‘don’t’ with ‘do’.
Instead of ‘Don’t leave food all over the counter when you’ve just made a sandwich’, try ‘Please do use a cloth to wipe up the crumbs when you’ve finished.’
5Take time to train them
We can’t expect our children to do something if they don’t know how to do it. We need to teach them first. Show them how to use the washing machine, make simple snacks, empty the litter tray. (Yes, they’ll complain about that one. But it’s not difficult and why should you always do it?)
Learning what it takes to run a home will increase their confidence, and they’ll feel more comfortable taking on new responsibilities.
6Give them the choice
Kids often get frustrated because they don’t get to make decisions. Start small – let them choose what clothes to wear each day or what to have for breakfast. Then move on to bigger stuff, like which chores they’d prefer to take on.
7Give up on giving in
We’ve all seen parents say ‘no’ to something and then change their mind when their child kicks up a fuss. Hell, many of us have done it ourselves. It’s time to stiffen that resolve. Kids need to learn things won’t always go their way. Say no, mean it, and stick to it. Use the ‘sail away’ tactic if necessary.
8Close down the Bank of Mum and Dad
Next time your child says they want something – a DVD, new trainers (sneakers), the latest video game – don’t just open your wallet. Discuss how they can save for it or earn money to pay for it. Maybe you can agree to match them as an incentive (effectively going halves). ‘Stuff’ means much more to kids when they’ve worked for it than if it just drops in their laps on request.