Parenting: You could say it’s the hardest job in the world. Luckily, Amy McCready, parenting expert, is here to help with some useful tips for raising kids to be appreciative rather than entitled. Here, she shares with Bookish an excerpt from her forthcoming book The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic. Nip some problematic behaviors in the bud with these useful pointers, and pick up McCready’s book, out August 11, for even more wisdom!
Give Up Giving In
It doesn’t take a twelve-year-old to tell us that if kids’ demands are constantly met, they will keep asking. Who wouldn’t? The more we give in, the more we foster the entitlement attitude in our kids. And remember—adults often feel just as entitled as children. When we accidentally forgot to pay a bill last month and the friendly person on the phone wouldn’t waive the late fee, we got mad—he waived it last time! Or when we aren’t allowed to use an expired coupon, we feel upset—it only expired yesterday, after all! It’s hard when we don’t get what we want.
Which begs the question, how do we make it stop? You’ll learn more about cutting down on bad behaviors like whining, negotiating and all the rest at the end of this chapter. But how, exactly, do you stop giving in? Here are a few action items for cutting back on caving in.
Identify one common give in that’s causing you stress. For instance, does your child dominate your iPad? Does your four-year-old still expect to ride in a stroller through the mall? Does back-to-school clothes shopping dip into your holiday budget? Can you get through the grocery store without handing over a cookie? Pick one thing to start with.
Reveal the Rule
Let your child know about your new expectation. Say “You can use my iPad for fifteen minutes per day.” Or “You’re old enough now to make it through the store without a cookie. Cookies will be special treats at other times at home, but I’ll no longer give you one every time we go to the store.”
Stick Your Ground
Once you’ve put a rule in place, keep it firm. Loosen up only if the circumstances really are special—for instance, you might allow your child extra TV time if she’s sick, but not simply because she’s whining extra loud or you have a to-do list a mile long.
Anticipate that your kids will continue to nudge any limits you set up until they leave the house (and even then), so you’ll need to stay on top of the game. (In fact, Pushing Limits is one of the tactics in the Entitled Kids Manual.) For example, the nightly bedtime battle: kids work every angle to put off going to bed so they can pretend to be a kitten for even five minutes more, or catch a few more sharks from the living-room couch. Same thing with curfew—they’re happy to negotiate for forty-five minutes to get an extra thirty out with their friends.
Things happen. Life circumstances change. Previous indulgences become impossible. That’s okay. Say you’ve been able to treat the family to a trip to a water park three summers in a row—but funds are short this year. There’s no need to dip into savings simply so they don’t have to face the disappointment of only getting to visit the neighborhood pool (even if they try to convince you otherwise). Your kids will survive, and even learn from the disappointment, as we’ll see in chapter 7.
While you probably shouldn’t sit down with your kids and review the excruciating details of the family budget, for instance, it’s wise to let your kids know what’s going on, and in advance. You can say “Sorry, kids—business hasn’t been great this year so we’ll have to skip the water park.” Or “I’m feeling so rushed in the mornings that I can’t manage to pack your lunch. You’re old enough to take on the job, and I’ll really appreciate your help.” You’ll appeal to your kids’ natural sense of empathy, and they’ll be less likely to pitch a fit if they have a better understanding of the situation.
Sometimes you can turn setbacks into a problem-solving opportunity that your kids can be a part of. For instance, gather everyone and tell them “We’re all disappointed about the water park, but maybe we can all try to find some ways to save up so we can go next summer. Any ideas?” Or “Can anyone think of some ways we can streamline our morning routine so we don’t have problems getting out the door on time?” Your kids will probably jump at the chance to share their two cents, and it’ll give them something to do rather than push back.
Be the Model
This one should be obvious, but it isn’t always. Keep in mind that parents set the tone for the house—and parents can be just as guilty as kiddos when it comes to complaining, whining, negotiating, pitching a fit and generally acting entitled in an attempt to get another person to cave. We don’t always know we’re doing it, and sometimes a little negotiation is completely justified—even within earshot of your kids if you keep your tone respectful and use logic. But the more you can clean up your own communication, the better you’ll enable your kids to clean up theirs.
Get FREE COACHING with Amy McCready when you pre-order The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic.
Parenting expert Amy McCready is the author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic (Perigee, 2015) and the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. She is also the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time (Perigee, 2011). A champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids, she reaches a worldwide audience with her Positive Parenting Solutions Online parenting course, web and print articles, live webinars, and media appearances. Amy is a frequent guest on the TODAY show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, and elsewhere. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and two sons. Learn more at www.AmyMcCready.com.