As parents, we fight the desire to give our children ‘the world.’ After twelve years of parenting, I am still shocked by my gut instinct to give into my children’s requests. Trust me, this is saying a lot!  Luckily, I have learned to control my urges. A huge part of giving our children everything is not actually giving them everything.

I want my children to be confident and stand up for what they have earned. But I don’t want them to feel entitled. As a parent, this provides a difficult conundrum. How do we teach our children that ‘the world is theirs for the taking’ while preventing a sense of entitlement?

Develop Empathy

I love simple parenting solutions that provide solid results. Banking on my children’s natural empathy is one of them.

Children may be the center of our world but they shouldn’t be the center of their own. Children start their lives with a sense of understanding and concern for others. Emily Abedon says in a Parents Magazine article, “The foundation for compassion actually seems to be part of our biological wiring.” As a result, it is easy to nurture a child’s natural empathy and help them to avoid a sense of entitlement.

Books are one basic way that children can develop their empathetic nature. Reading literature, both fiction, and non-fiction, provides children with a chance to experience different perspectives.  (Of course, I am obsessed with getting my children reading more, so this is a total win-win for me.)

Remove Rewards

We can also prevent entitlement in children by getting rid of bribes and rewards. Instead, we can encourage children to find satisfaction in hard work and natural results. Children need to understand that ‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ (Theodore Roosevelt)

Because I like my children to achieve balance in their lives, I teach them about Namaste and karma; I give my children the world by encouraging them to work hard and reap the rewards. I emphasize that work has to come first.

It is important for children to know that what they will get out of any given scenario is identical to what they are willing to put into it. This is a magical way to halt the growth of entitlement and instead build an intrinsic sense of pride.

All three of my daughters dance with a prestigious ballet academy. They understand exactly what is necessary to move up performance levels. Putting in the effort and accomplishing the work required to progress, and rests on them alone. At the end of each year their progress directly relates to their effort. Needless to say, they are not entitled to move up to a higher level unless they have earned it. Even as children, they are learning that there are no unearned rewards in life.

Don’t Forget Stage and Age

Did you know that some parenting styles contribute to a child’s sense of entitlement? It’s a sad truth. We often forget that our children are children and we hold skewed expectations. Children both act and react. Although they know what they want, they don’t always know what to do about it. They often don’t even know whether their want is purposeful or even realistic.

Don’t panic when a child throws a tantrum insisting on a specific action or result. Instinctively, adults tend to meet their children’s desires. (Yes, even I am guilty.) When we do this, we entitle them in a negative way.

Instead, we need to step back and examine possible resolutions to our children’s demands. How can we resolve the situation in an authentic appropriate way?

Sometimes, the resolution requires removing a child from a specific setting. (i.e., the toy department or candy aisle). Other times, it requires a conversation about entitlement and what is actually deserved.

Patience and perspective, in these moments of emotional panic, can help us gain clarity. Instead of blindly giving in, we can support our children by nurturing what they truly need for long-term life success.

It’s a Learning Curve

Preventing entitlement in children while instilling confidence is worth the effort. Just remember to focus on what matters most. Teach children to delve into work worth doing and to be confident in claiming the results. Nurture their natural empathy and help instill balance in their lives.

Accept and respect that all children push limits. (Yes, even toddlers and teens.) You can like it or not, but it’s their job! It’s how they mature mentally and socially.

Children will flex their entitlement muscles and attempt to get what they think they deserve. But have hope. Children will also weigh the response they receive and move forward in their behavior appropriately.

About the All-Star Blogger

Paige is the mother of three creative Little Women and enjoys spending time eating chocolate, watching movies, reading for pleasure, creating educational products, and maintaining her blogPaige has a passion for helping students develop a love of reading. She has been a faculty member at Amelia Earhart Elementary for over seven years. She is a CITES Associates member of the BYU-Public School Partnership and a member of Provo School District’s Literacy Committee. She is an award-winning educator who enjoys mentoring interns and student teachers. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.