Entitled, rude, obnoxious kids that don’t know the value of hard work, a dollar or taking care of themselves sound awesome. How do I get one? I have four kids, surely one of them will grow up to become the type of adult that cannot bear the phrase, “No” or take care of him or herself because I’ve done it for them their entire lives, right? I mean, my chances are good. I can avoid the word no, do everything for them and make sure that they never have to work for anything or make any mistakes in their entire lives. It seems like everyone has one these days, and we definitely want to be like the Jones’ with our self-entitled, spoiled rotten brats, right? I mean, I look so forward to the day I can support my four kids when they’re 40, living at home, have no job and have families of their own to support on their lack of paycheck in between going out and night and texting on their iPhone 9000. Dream. Come. True.
Kill me now, please. The last thing any of us wants is self-entitled, spoiled rotten little monster (Or four!) to deal with. We want kids that are respectful, responsible, intelligent, and kids that understand the value of things and not just the price of things. I want kids that can take care of themselves, that are mature and that know a good thing when they’ve got it. I don’t mind if they’re materialistic and like the finer things in life. I love those things, and I’m often called spoiled rotten thanks to my love of high-end designers and nice things. The difference, however, is that I work hard for my material possessions. I work nonstop, all the time, hard for those things. And I know the value of a dollar, which is why I know that it’s far more cost-effective to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag I’ll carry for the rest of my life than cheap Michael Kors handbag that never fails to fall apart in a year or two.
I want my kids to know the value of a dollar, to understand the importance of hard work and to respect those around them. That’s why we’re not raising them to be spoiled rotten little brats. Sure, it’s difficult. Yes, we sometimes fail. And yes, sometimes we realize that our kids might be a little bit spoiled – but I think that all kids are in a way. And it’s all right, so long as they’re not entitled or rotten. That said, I’ve come up with a list of ways that we can all prevent our kids from becoming jerks. Hopefully it works for all of us.
Don’t be entitled, selfish, spoiled or a jerk
Here’s a simple way to prevent raising a selfish, spoiled brat; don’t be one. Kids often learn from the behavior that you model, so model good behavior by showing how you work for things, by including your kids in conversations and by answering your kid’s questions with honesty. For example, many people do not talk about money with their kids. I feel that this is important. When I was growing up, I thought that money was just there. You just had it, because my parents never talked to me about it. I like to talk about it with my kids so that they know where to comes from, what we have to do to earn it and how it works.
Learn to say no
Do I love telling my kids no? I’m sure you’re expecting me to say that I don’t love it, but sometimes I really do. There’s this probably very screwed up part of me that takes pleasure in making sure my kids know what no sounds like. Also, who loves saying yes to chocolate and things of that nature at bedtime? Am I right? I don’t love to tell my kids no, but sometimes it is appropriate. At the same time, however, I don’t care how much money I have, my kids are not getting every single thing that they want in the middle of the store when we stop. It’s just not happening.
Let your kids make mistakes
Mistakes are the best form of education that there is on the planet. When you experience making mistakes, you learn far more from them than you could when you hear about them. I can tell my kids not to put their toys in the bath all they want, but sometimes they have to do it for themselves to see that I was, in fact, right about the fact that they no longer work once they are wet. This teaches them a very valuable lesson; if I do that again, I’ll break another toy. Most of the time, they don’t do it again.
Make your kids accountable
We all want to believe that our kids are perfect, but they are not. Sometimes kids suck, and you just have to admit that out loud. Sometimes kids are not amazing, and you have to let them take responsibility for their non-amazing behaviors. I don’t love it when my kid is rude to another child, but she will darn well apologize and make it right. I will not stand there and make excuses for her.
Make your kids work for what they have and want
Our kids don’t have ‘chores’ and it is for a good reason. I never had them growing up, and I like the reasoning behind it. My parents did not believe in paying my brother and I to do things around the house that are meant to be done regardless; they wanted us to learn to do the dishes and keep our rooms clean and pick up after ourselves, but those are not jobs that are worth money to them. They wanted us to learn those because they are a habit; a standard way of life. They wanted us to do those things because we are clean, appropriate people – not because someone paid us. And as a result, I’m a clean adult who likes things neat and wants my kids to learn the same habits.
However, we do make our kids earn what they want. We do pay for good grades, we do pay for extras. We do pay for ‘above and beyonds’ and we do make sure our kids know that they are valued. And if they want something particularly bad around a time when there are no birthdays or holidays they can add it to their list for, we will make them work for it. We will ask that our oldest earns money to buy what she wants doing things around the house, such as helping us wash cars or helping her little sister with things. It’s her way of earning money, and she’s always very proud of herself for it and very excited to finally reach her monetary goals.
Make your child clean up his or her own messes
You throw it down, break it or mess it up, you clean it. In our house, you clean your own messes when you make them. You don’t clean up your mess within the first few minutes of being asked, I clean it up. And when I clean it up, it goes in a trash bag and we donate it to kids that don’t have any toys that will actually appreciate the things we are giving to them. My kids hate this – and it’s taught them to clean up their own messes.
Model appropriate behavior
A long time ago I scolded my daughter for being rude about someone she knows at school by saying that she must not have a nice life because she doesn’t go on airplanes or vacations or have a boat or whatever. I was horrified to hear that kind of snobbery coming out of my daughter’s mouth. That’s when she looked at me and said, “But you said the same thing about someone,” and I realized that I was right. She overheard my husband and I discussing someone we know and how we assumed that they must be struggling financially based on a few things. We weren’t being rude, just commenting on how you never really know where people are in their personal lives, but she overheard us and she took it a different way. We have since made it a big habit not to have discussions like this in front of her and to be very cautious about modeling appropriate behavior.
Teach your kids about tolerance, acceptance and diversity
We all have our own version of normal. What’s ‘typical’ for my family is not for others. This is something my kids remind me on a regular basis with comments based on observations they make at school. For example, my daughter was once horrified that most of her classmates had never been on an airplane, whereas she flies several times a year (we have family all over the country we have to see!) and that we live only an hour or so from Disney and she has friends that have never gone or only get to go once a year. We have annual passes, so we go often. She might tell me that one of her friends has a house on the beach somewhere and ask why we don’t have a beach house. She might question why a certain friend doesn’t go to church like she does or why a friend doesn’t like to play sports or why one has a different family than ours.
It’s our job to use these moments to teach our kids that everyone is different and we are not all the same. We are not all people who have the same things. Some people have more, some have less and some are just different than us – and that it’s all okay. We don’t want her to think she’s better than anyone, or that someone is better than her or that differences are bad.
Set and enforce consequences
We struggle with this from time to time. It’s hard to enforce the consequences when we see how much it affects our kids, but we know that deep down on the inside they will be much better people because we did take their televisions out of their room or because we did keep them home from something. It makes a difference, and it teaches our kids that we do what we say and that good behavior is the way to avoid things of this nature.
Life and parenthood are about fun. Have fun with your kids, but do it in a way that teaches your kids a lesson. Buy your kids that new toy, but make sure that they know that they have to give an old one to charity. Make sure your kids know that you can have all the fun you want, but that you have to give back. Expose them to the differences in the world and be tolerant of those differences. It’s what makes the biggest difference in life.
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