Have you ever told your child that the world does not revolve around him? It probably came as shocking news to him. Kids are born thinking they are at the center of everything and everyone else's needs should be secondary to their own. And this idea is simply reinforced in the first year or so of their lives when they're unable to do much for themselves and the household really does revolve around their needs. Imagine the shock it must be for a child to hear the word "No" for the first time. You've spent the past nine months catering to their needs and all of sudden, you're telling them they can't have something they want. It must be a shock to their selfish little system.
As our kids grow, it can become really easy for them to focus only on their own wants and needs. My family lives in the richest county in Kansas. We're located right next door to the poorest county in Kansas. The difference is striking, but many kids who live here have no idea of the poverty that exists just 20 miles away. They have no idea that there are kids going to bed hungry every night just minutes from their doorstep.
My kids and many of the kids I know begin to foster a sense of entitlement from a young age. They think the world owes them things. If they want something, they expect to have it handed to them, preferably on a silver platter. It's not a pretty sight to see.
If you are noticing a sense of entitlement in your own kids, summer is a great time to work on changing that attitude. With the extra time in the schedule, you can broaden your child's horizons and help them realize that there are children in the world who live with a lot less than what your kids have.
The best way to combat entitlement is to get your hands dirty and get your kids serving others who are less fortunate than they are. Make your summer a summer of service -- in big and small ways -- and by the time your kids go back to school, they'll have a different perspective on the world.
- Battling the entitlement monster takes time and planning, so sit down with your calendar and find some open dates. Mark those off as days of service. Explain to your kids that you're going to spend some days this summer helping other people. Ask your kids what types of projects they would like to take on. The more involved they are in the planning, the more interested they will be in serving.
- Take a proactive approach at home to not feed the entitlement monster. It's OK to treat your kids to something special every once in a while, but saying "No" is good for your child's character. Make your kids earn their own money to buy things that they want. Make sure your kids understand how much things cost and that things like playing sports and going to the movies are privileges, not rights.
- Talk with your kids about how there are people not far from where you live that may not have enough food to eat or a place to sleep every night. Explain that God has called us to take care of the poor and even promises to bless us if we do. Proverbs 22:9 says "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."
- Choose some ways you can serve others this summer and curb the sense of entitlement in your kids:
- Organize a food drive in your neighborhood. Have your kids create fliers and talk to their friends about donating food. Then let your kids take the food to a local food pantry. Arrange ahead of time for the someone at the food pantry to talk with your kids about what the food pantry does.
- Take cookies to a nursing home and visit with some of the residents. Let your kids know that focusing on others doesn't have to be expensive or take a lot of time. It's simply a matter of putting others' needs above their own.
- Check with your local children's hospital to see if there's a way that your kids can volunteer or donate supplies. Seeing children their own age in tough situations always gives kids a different perspective.
- Check with a local homeless shelter to see if there's something your family can do to help out. A great experience for older kids is to help serve a meal at a homeless shelter.
- Have your kids organize a book drive for a school or charity. Last summer, my girls learned that just 20 minutes from our door there are kids growing up without a single book in their homes. Having books in the home is a huge predictor of how successful a child will be in school. Organizing a book drive is simple, and people usually have books just lying around that they're happy to pass on.
- Get your kids looking for ways to serve other people in their everyday lives. Encourage them to look for simple ways to serve their friends and family. Give out an award each week for the best act of service during your everyday lives.
- Create care packages for servicemen and women who are deployed. Ask around. Someone you know probably knows a deployed service person. Help your kids put together a box for that person and send it to them.
- Be creative. You know where your kids are struggling with entitlement. Target those issues with your activities and discussions.
With a little planning, a lot of discussion and a determined focus, you can start fighting back against the entitlement monster this summer. Creating a heart for others that shows up in serving others can be your goal for the summer. By the time your kids head back to school, they'll have a new attitude.