I have written about not guilting kids, and that doing so actually has more negative effects than benefits. But there is a fine line between guilting and readjusting a child’s perspective. Especially when it comes to being grateful, empathetic, and understanding. If you are too careful about avoiding any guilt trips, you may run the risk, depending on your child’s personality, if instilling indirectly a sense of entitlement.
Guilting is not the only way to instill responsibility and gratefulness, however explaining to kids how lucky they are and that they should be more appreciative can only go so far. That should definitely be your first course of action, however if your kids are anything like mine, it will likely fall on deaf ears and become background noise.
Guilting may not be the proper terms but reminding kids by giving them perspective is important. Having a sense of entitlement is not only harmful to kids, but will set them up to inevitable disappointment, anger, and frustration as they grow up in to young adults and well into old age. This creates an unrealistic expectation of life, and pushes them to rely on victimhood rather than taking control of their lives. Possibly increasing chances of depression and anxiety.
Important to sending the right message though without guilting or blaming, it is important to explain perspective in the third person. So no “you” or “me”. Talk about a “friend” or a relative who experienced challenges and found ways to preserver. Or how they were living in financial difficulties and still made the best of it. That way it is a less aggressive tone and kids can be more receptive. It also helps look at things from a third perspective.
It is really important, and I have written about this earlier, to have kids understand the privileged status they live in. It doesn’t matter what your financial status is, wealthy, middle class, or even low income. If you are not homeless and looking for food on a daily basis, you are privileged (albeit at different levels). Have kids understanding donations (food, toys, or clothes) and volunteering is key. It also exposes them, even in a small way, to the concept of giving to others and thinking about others. I make it a point that every few months have my kids spring clean their stuff by making throw away, keep, and donate piles. It is interesting to see them add things in the donate pile, that they would have otherwise kept. I had assumed that they would only donate things they would have thrown out.
Volunteering doesn’t necessarily have to be at a community centre, although that is a great way to do it. Volunteering can also be doing chores for gran parents, teaching their siblings a useful skill (not just play time), shovelling snow or mowing the lawn to a neighbour. The idea is to think outside themselves and minimize the natural creep of entitlement that is inevitable in our instant gratification world.
Another way I found helpful, albeit a hard one for me to do, is role playing. Have older kids make lunch, clean the house and I would act like them sitting on the couch barking orders. Usually it gives them a sense of empathy to the daily work I do without guilting them directly. I see it by saying they can act like me and order me around, but in reality I would act like them and all the rude things they say without even realizing, we all know who the bossy party in the house is typically.
I wonder what other ways we can deal with this growing sense of entitlement we see in our kids today.