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How Not to Raise Entitled Kids: 27 Practical Ideas

Biola CMR Shoot: Family image3

We have a big problem in our culture and none of us can avoid its reach. It impacts every one of us, and it influences how we raise our kids.

We are living in an “entitled” society. A society that tells us that all our needs and wants should be satisfied, and that includes our children’s. I’m not talking about a political philosophy (or policy). Instead, it’s a sin problem subtly wrapped in the package of this is “just the way things ought to be — please me.” 

Even scarier is the fact they we buy into this philosophy without even realizing it. Parental peer pressure leads us to believe that a good parent makes sure her child is always happy, has the most opportunities, doesn’t “miss out,” rarely fails, and is destined for success.

Some parents don’t believe in saying “no” to a child. This does not prepare them for adulthood in which they will hear many “nos.”

Our intentions may be good. We want to raise confident, independent adults equipped to go out in the world and hopefully to make a positive difference. 

However, catering to our kids can develop self-centered teens and adults who expect others to make them happy, can’t accept criticism, lack the ability to fail and recover, and don’t know how to care for others. 

We see evidence of this “me first” philosophy when we hear phrases like:

  • My friends get to…

  • It’s not fair.

  • It’s your fault.

  • You are a bad parent.

  • Don’t you want me to be happy?

It is important to remember that we are the parents. The children are not in charge. We are not running for “most popular parent.” A child who calls the shots in the home will become insecure, not secure. God did not intend for that child to have that much authority over the parent.  

Our mission is to raise our kids based on biblical principles which are solid and true, rather than shifting cultural norms which may be shortsighted. 

Thankfully, the scriptures give us clear direction. Paul tells us,

In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3)

Biblical mandates encourage us to love God, to care for others before ourselves, to tell others about Jesus, to care for the poor, the earth, the hurting and much more. 

As we seek to live out these mandates it helps to: 

* Realize that growth is slow.

We tend to think we have to make big changes, resulting in significant growth. But usually it is in small, even tiny steps repeated over and over that will evidently result in maturity. Yes, we will get tired of doing it and training our kids to do it, over and over. 

* Recognize that we are going to mess up, in our own lives and in our parenting.

There is always forgiveness when we come to Him to confess our sin and ask Him to forgive us. (1 John 1:9). As parents we will feel like we’ve ruined our child. That’s normal. We have to remember that our ability to “ruin” our child is not nearly as great as God’s power to redeem them.

* Restore the character traits that seem to have fallen out of vogue. 

Integrity, a servant’s heart, compassion, hard work, faith. Identify several character traits that you want to work on this year. Brainstorm ways in which you can nurture these. 

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash.


Recently I asked some parents for their ideas on practical things they are doing to raise kids who are not entitled.

Here are 27 practical ideas they gave me:

  1. Teach them to care for others not because they deserve it (they might not) but because it’s the right thing to do.

  2. Make them write thank you notes for every gift they receive, every recommendation written, and to any adult who gives time to help them. They will whine. Do it anyway. Read more here: Why Thank You Notes Matter.

  3. Don’t give them everything they want. Don’t purchase everything on their Christmas list. Have a budget. Read more here: Don’t Give Them Everything They Want

  4. Don’t give them too many options. Part of the challenge in today’s world is that we have too many options which causes stress. Instead give your child 2 or 3 choices from which they can choose.

  5. Teach them to wait — for that new device, computer game, privilege. A lot of life is waiting and if we don’t teach them how to wait when they are young, they will not be equipped for waiting as an adult.

  6. Have your children do chores — both for themselves (folding their laundry) and for the family (setting the table, doing dishes,). Establish daily and weekly chores. You might want to institute a 5:00pm quick “pick up” routine in which everyone participates!  Read more here: How to Handle Allowances and Chores

  7. When they hit the teen years empower them to do their own laundry and buy their own clothes. Give them a clothing allowance. Teach them how to shop at thrift stores. If they want something that exceeds their allowance, they must pay for it themselves.

  8. Have a list of extra “money jobs” available for them to do for extra income. 

  9. Teach them to tithe and to save. Have them tithe to their church as well as to other organizations. This will begin a habit for life.  

  10. Create service opportunities. Serve in your community together as a family. Rake a widow’s yard. Mow your neighbor’s lawn. Cook a meal for an exhausted young mother. 

  11. Have each child adopt and support a Compassion child of their same age. 

  12. Adopt a country as a family. Google this country and learn about it. Pray for the people in this country and financially support something (an orphanage, Langham Partnership) in your adopted country.

  13. Show them films and documentaries of people who are really struggling. Go on a mission trip.

  14. Set limits on technology use. This teaches restraint. Do not allow devices at meals. We want to focus on each other. Remove devices from all at bedtime. 

  15. Make them share a room/bathroom. And clean it when they use it.

  16. Don’t always eat out on car trips — once in a while pack a lunch. 

  17. Have them make their own lunch for school.

  18. Each day pay 2 different people a compliment. Report in at dinner.

  19. Eat dinner together and avoid choices. (Some kids do have allergies but, in most cases everyone eats the same thing.) This teaches that we can’t always have what we want. And Moms are not short order cooks! 

  20. A family event is just that a family event. A bike ride, a hike, a trip to the park. Everyone participates. You don’t opt out. Different kids will like different things so vary what you do but everyone joins in. 

  21. At bedtime take turns thanking God for things for which you are grateful from your day. (Thanksgiving Dinner idea: give out paper and take 5 silent minutes for each person to write down a list of things for which you are thankful from this past year. Have fun sharing and giving thanks to God! Gratitude is an antidote to entitlement. 

  22. Even if you can afford to travel and stay anywhere, sometimes choose to drive places and go camping. This exposes your family to people unlike yourselves. You meet folks at parks, small town restaurants, campgrounds. Take time to talk to strangers. Ask them about their lives. (Give your kids questions to ask.) 

  23. For Christmas and birthdays encourage the kids to give thought to a gift for a sibling, something that particular child would like. This teaches thoughtfulness of others. 

  24. At Christmas, consider buying gifts for a needy family or an Angel Tree child. Have your kids help you shop and wrap gifts.

  25. Adopt a “theme” for a season. One family chose to focus for a season on mindfulness and empathy. They discussed what this meant from being mindful of a sibling to picking up trash on the street. They set up a “mindfulness jar.”  Anytime the parent noticed a child being mindful of a sibling, of the earth, of a stranger, etc. they could take a coin out of the jar. If they were not being mindful, they had to put a coin of their own in the jar! This increased awareness of the little ways in which we can care for others. 

  26. Train them to be good conversationalists, to be curious about others. Before you are going to engage with adults have a quick conversation about some specific questions each person can ask an adult about their life- what they are doing, their favorite book, a happy memory from their childhood.  It’s important for kids to step out of themselves and show they are interested in a different generation. Recently John and I were with a family with a bunch of kids. Their 10-year-old asked me, “How did you become a Christian?” This led to a fun conversation. (His wise parents must have prepped him!) Read more here: Raising Good Conversationalists.

  27. And I love this one from a college Professor: Teach them to peel their own oranges! It’s amazing how many of my students don’t know how☺

I hope you have noticed that each of the above examples has the intention of training our kids in independence, in becoming other-centered, in caring for those unlike ourselves and in being grateful. These traits and other similar ones will go a long way in battling entitlement.

Entitlement can be described as getting stuck in your own world, thinking about yourself. This will be our natural drift, our instinct. We have to recognize this and create ways to mature in being other-centered. It’s a lifelong challenge and we adults are still growing in this too. It’s fun to grow alongside our kids.