I’m in Target on a Wednesday afternoon after school with my two kids.
Pushing my red cart up and down the aisle I grab a jumbo pack of toilet paper, some protein shakes and then turn the corner to see… disaster.
That end cap of despair.
It’s like kryptonite to the unsuspecting parent. You’re pushing your cart past benign tubes of toothpaste when you turn a corner and there it is…
Pastel packets of Hello Kitty lip gloss, or
Packs of hot wheel cars.
And, then it happens.
“Mommy, can I have a…”
Before my kids even finish that sentence, it’s a NO.
No way. No how. Not even a little bit.
My automatic “No” took some training though. Before, I used to think:
- They’re good kids, what harm could it do.
- It will make them happy
- I can bribe them to be good on this shopping trip and then my life will be easier.
- They’re only asking for this little thing.
A tug-of-war would be occurring right there in my brain. Should I or shouldn’t I? What good reason did I have for saying no?
EVERY. SINGLE. REASON. EVER.
Because, then I see a mom who said yes.
It’s like a really bad car accident that you know you shouldn’t be staring at but you can’t bring your eyes to look away.
Goes like this:
“Mommy, can I have this Hello Kitty lip gloss”
“No right now, honey,” says the mom about to be steam-rolled
“You just don’t need it right now”
(I recognize that “right now.” Its what I used to say because I didn’t want to appear to be a mean, unreasonable mom. That “not right now” spells trouble)
“BUT, you never let me have anything I like!”
“Lower your voice, you’re making a scene”
“It’s NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR”
(Uh oh… here come the tears. This mom feels so conflicted. These tears are going to clinch it)
“Listen,” she tells her child, “If you promise to help out and do the dishes at home, I’ll get you this lip gloss”
“OK, Mommy” nods the kid, mustering what I assume is her best innocent expression.
She places the lip gloss in the cart and leaves.
I know what happens at home.
This child will whine and complain the entire time she does the dishes at home saying, “It’s too hard!” And “Why do I have to do this alone and why doesn’t my brother have to help me?”
She’ll do the dishes once and have to be bribed to do them again.
It’s a vicious cycle.
How can we raise grateful children and end this entitlement?
#1 Stop Giving Kids Stuff
The biggest change we made was starting our daughter on an allowance.
She gets $5 a week to spend anyway she wishes. If she yearns for that Hello Kitty lip gloss that costs $7, it is completely her choice.
But then, there goes a week and a half worth of allowance.
An allowance was a huge guilt relief for me as a parent. Now, when my kids ask for something I tell them, “Yes. You can buy anything you want with your allowance.”
Nine times out of ten, my daughter chooses not to get anything, but only because she’s saving up her money for a larger goal.
She bought herself her own American Girl Doll with the allowance she saved up.
Look at that smile! She got that doll because she earned it. By giving our kids everything they want, we rob them of these moments.
That American Girl Doll still sits above her bed and she even keeps her hair neatly brushed.
#2 Give Your Kids Regular Chores
Chores are more than keeping stuff clean and helping out the family. Rather, they are your child’s first taste of responsibility and pride.
There is no more immediate satisfaction than transforming an area from a mess into something pleasurable to hang out in.
You can go from explosion to order in less than 30 minutes. And when your kids start realizing that they can accomplish this themselves – that’s the best motivator EVER.
If your kids have no chores right now, start small.
Think of something your kids can do – that you do now- the would make everything else easier.
This can be:
- Their own laundry
- Scooping the cat litter/ pooper scoop the yard
- Make their bed
- Keep all their toys off their bedroom floor
- Make a meal for the family
- Pull weeds in the front yard
- Empty all the household wastebaskets
- Take out the trash
Pick one task and work on it for a month before adding on. This way, you’ll remember to follow up and keep them accountable and they won’t get overwhelmed.
#3 Stop Doing EVERYTHING for Them
FYI: This post contains affiliate links to products I love and recommend. It costs you nothing extra if you purchase through my link, but I may get a small commission.
“Mom,” my daughter asked me this morning, “Can you help me find my black leotard and pink tights?”
After my morning run and French-braiding her hair into two pigtails for dance pictures that afternoon, I was just sitting down to eat breakfast.
Normally, I would sigh, put down my fork and go help her look.
Not this morning.
You see, I had just started reading this new book called Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, and it dawned on me…
What message am I sending her if I find it for her?
I’m not showing her what a helpful, caring mom I am – heck, if she doesn’t know that after nine years, than I don’t think I can do anything about that.
Instead, I’m telling her:
I don’t believe that you’ll be able to find it for yourself.
Whoa. And that thought completely change how I reacted.
I turned to her and said, “I am fully confident in your ability to find it yourself. Just take out each piece of clothing from the dryer one at a time.”
“I already did that.”
“Well, that’s the same thing I would have done” and I turned back to eat my food.
She stomped off. Then, I waited.
In fact, I forgot all about it. Until, I was leaving our house and noticed the dryer door left wide open with half of the clothes in her hamper and half still in the dryer.
Oh my gosh, she found it! Without any help from me whatsoever.
Looks as if I was underestimating her search skills a bit and in turn, enabling her behavior of always coming to me to find stuff.
Teach Kids to be Grateful
Raising grateful children is as much giving them a chance to experience pride in their accomplishments as well as enforcing manners like saying “Thank You.”
So often, we expect that our “niceness” will be rewarded with eternally grateful children, but that’s not always the case.
However, by giving them choices on how to spend their own money, giving them responsibility and not rushing to save them, we are on the right path to un-spoiling our kids.
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Anya Ali says
Wow. I’m a mom of three kids. This blog has really been an eye opener. Thank you. The scene you described in the ‘Target’ store was spot on. I’m definitely going to try your advice. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Hi Anya! Thanks. Target is a minefield for temper tantrums. I understand, though. I want everything in Target, too.
Catherine Thompson says
Excellent, well written article. Every parent should read this!
Thanks Catherine! Thank you for stopping by!