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Two Ideas that Turn Entitlement into Generosity

Yesterday, I blogged about the “Encore Problem” some parents create at holiday time. We want to blow our kids away with a bigger or better gift than last year (which is only natural), but in the process, we can create an expectation for an “encore.” Soon, kids start assuming—even expecting—something superior with each installment. This year will be better than last year.

May I remind you of the obvious?

We have done this to them. Kids are products of our making. I realize that the media and social media whet these appetites for more and better, but too often we cave and buy into them. The good new is, we can guide them through the landmines of entitlement if we’re watchful.

What makes this topic so hard is that we want to “wow” them.

Trips and experiences are happening at an earlier age; it takes more to “wow” them since they’ve been exposed to so much on-line. What was once discovered in high school is now discovered in middle school; and what was once a topic in middle school is now one in elementary school.

Exposure leads to expectations . . . which can lead to entitlement.

Criss Jami wisely noted, “Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that’s when we start walking all over others to get it.”

What’s sad about this scenario is that parents are afraid they’re not keeping up with their neighbors. We’re afraid our kids will compare our provision for them to their friends’ parents. We’re afraid they won’t adore us . . . unless we give them something, well . . . big.

How Do We Turn This Around?

photo credit: asenat29 Gift via photopin (license)

photo credit: asenat29 Gift via photopin (license)

Getting rid of an entitlement attitude won’t happen overnight. It’s been trending for years and may take years to remove it. However, I’d like to share a couple of ideas that may prove to be a good start.

I believe the antonyms for entitlement are gratitude and generosity.

When our kids learn gratitude for even small gifts or benefits they receive, it’s a start. This can start by modeling a grateful spirit ourselves and teaching them to notice and acknowledge when they receive something from others. Generosity, however, may take some tangible effort on our part. Below are two ideas on how parents can teach kids to be generous and learn to give as a lifestyle:

1. This idea is called “Budgeting to Give.”

Because kids would rather “see” a sermon than “hear” one, the parents I know who’ve instilled a generous spirit in their children have modeled the following method. They place their monthly income inside each one of five envelopes labeled: Bills, Savings, Wants, Needs and Charities. These parents then invite their kids to watch them divide up their money (checks) into these envelopes, always trying to place as much as possible in the “charities” envelope.

Then, the family would decide on how to give that money away each month—a homeless shelter, paying for a child’s monthly needs in Haiti, a food bank, a family in need at the holidays, etc. Each family who practiced this method claims their kids were inspired by watching them model this lifestyle. Then, step two came later. By the time those kids reached ten years old, they started their own envelopes—and chose where to give their money away. Doing this throughout their childhood actually fosters a lifestyle of giving that they can carry with them into adulthood. It equips them to plan, to budget, and to give.

2. This idea is called “Each One, Reach One.”

I know Atlanta families who help their children think of “others” every time they think of themselves. Each time a kid wants a new toy or a game or a gadget, they must think about giving the same item away to a kid in need. So, if they are saving for a video game, for instance, they must think of a peer who may want the same item but doesn’t have the money to get it. The kid, then, must save enough to buy the game plus half the amount for a second one for that peer. Their parent pays for the other half of the game. This way, a new toy means a second toy for someone else. Once the kids are teenagers, they are encouraged to cover both items in full.

Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild, once wrote, “It is easy, when you’re young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.” Author Steve Maraboli countered, “When we replace a sense of service and gratitude with a sense of entitlement and expectation, we quickly see the demise of our relationships, society, and economy.”

What do you say we replace entitlement with generosity?


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Two Ideas that Turn Entitlement into Generosity