SALT LAKE CITY — As parents, we are not created equal. We enter parenthood from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, with varying beliefs. We show affection differently and, often, our disciplinary views are not the same.
But despite our long list of contrasting parenting practices, it’s safe to say there are certain qualities that no parent wants their child to possess. We do our best to teach them kindness, despite the mean behaviors they are sure to see. We hope they will learn compassion, although they live in a selfish world. And no parent wants “entitled” to land on their child’s characteristic resume.
But what if you are unknowingly teaching your child to be entitled? Here are five signs that might be the case:
1. You celebrate their accomplishments through other’s failures
If your child scores four soccer goals and Billy only scores two, do you point that out? Do you amplify their successes by analyzing their peers' shortcomings? There is something to be said for parents who don’t compare their child to other children.
Is competition part of life? Of course. The key is to teach children that confidence doesn’t come by being better than others. Instead, teach them that self-confidence comes from only one source: themselves. Someday when they don’t make that team, or don’t get that job, they will need that genuine self-confidence to bounce back and move forward.
2. You allow them to listen in on adult conversations
How often do you speak plainly about adult matters when your children are present? Whether you are discussing your neighbor’s messy divorce, criticizing your best friend’s nose job, or just complaining about your co-worker who was undeserving of that raise — a little verbal self-awareness can go a long way.
Little ears are always listening; and if you think your child is mature enough to hear those opinions without being affected, you may want to think again. When we put our child on our same level, it may result in a sense of entitlement when it comes to their self-perception; a misguided and skewed perception of others may also result.
If you are unsure of what is appropriate, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution. The fringe benefit? It may prevent your child from telling a teacher what you really think of them!
3. You bail them out
Is there anything more difficult than watching your children suffer the consequences of their own choices? It is so hard not to throw on your Supermom (or dad) cape, sweep in and save the day. After all, you know better. You have the life experience and know the best way to remedy certain situations.
As tough as it may be, you may want to hang up your cape and take a step back. You can teach children at an early age that they will be held accountable for their choices by following through with what you say and letting those life lessons unfold and play out.
4. You never talk about your personal struggles
Have you told your 7-year-old how you scrubbed the toilets for six months straight so you could save for guitar lessons? Has your teenager heard you talk about the times in college you ate Top Ramen for every meal? What about the time you failed chemistry, or lost your job?
By talking about your struggles, you are showing your child that hard work and discipline is what gets you to where you want to be. The world they are growing up in will preach an opposing message: they don’t need to wait for the things they want.
These days, instant gratification is the name of the game, and the push for a strong work ethic has fallen by the wayside. Children need to understand you don’t receive a nice car at the snap of a finger; a nice house is not just handed to you; swiping your credit card every time you want something is not the responsible choice. Be realistic with them — and be honest.
5. You set unclear or no expectations
It might seem hard to believe but, generally, children want to make their parents proud. Within reason, it’s important that you set high expectations for your child, which will teach them to set high expectations for themselves.
Ask yourselves what expectations you have, and whether or not your child is aware of them. Do you expect your toddler to use his manners? Do you expect your elementary student to develop new skills and talents, even if it’s hard at first? Do you expect your teenager to have a summer job and save money?
Often we hear parents say, “Just do your best!” — and leave it at that. If your child comes home with an ‘F’ on her report card and tells you she tried her best, then what? Technically, she's met your expectation. It is important to do your best, but if we don’t set a bar we may end up with entitled children who believe that success comes easy — that success doesn’t matter.
The fact is, entitled children turn into entitled adults (know any?). It absolutely starts with you.
About the Author: Lyndsi Frandsen
Lyndsi Frandsen is the creator of the Facebook page For All Momkind and author of the For All Momkind blog. She has many titles, including wife, kindergarten teacher and sister, but her favorite title is mom.