Everyone, no matter what, loves to see children open presents, and give them all that they want. We love to make our children happy with their heart’s desire. There is nothing like the happiness on the face of a child when they get everything they want. The downside to this is: well, when they get older and their gift list gets more and more expensive, and they begin to believe that whatever they want they will get, and not only that they are entitled to it. If they get what they want isn’t even a question as to whether they deserve it or not. A new car, they should get it, a new stereo, new state of the art television, new cell phone no doubt about it they will get it, and when they don’t it can be a very exasperating situation.
Holidays and birthdays are the most opportune time to show our children the gift of love, giving, sharing, and the great feelings that come with it. When you share with others there is no better feeling, and teaching our children this is even more cause for joy.
The trick to banishing entitlement can be as easy as teaching your children to be grateful for all that they already have. “Gratitude reinforces the kindness of others and motivates the recipient to reciprocate,” says Jeffrey J. Froh, an associate professor of psychology. Here are a few tricks to encourage gratitude:
1. Plan no-so-random acts of kindness. For example small acts of kindness like shoveling an elderly neighbors walk, reading to the blind, involving yourselves in volunteerism as a family at an animal shelter, or retirement home.
2. Talk and write about it. This brings awareness to the things that your children have. Make it a daily practice for example; at the dinner table ask your kids who was kind to them during the day. If they say no one then delve in further give them some examples like your boss was kind to you because you were able to take a longer lunch so you could go to a school function, or that a driver made space for you to get in to rush hour traffic etc. Then ask the question again, and see if anything comes to mind for them. If still nothing comes to mind assist in helping them find something like you cooking their meal, making a special breakfast etc. This simple act will automatically “counterbalance the sense of entitlement, helping kids t be content with what they have instead of wanting more” says James A Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University.
Have your older kids begin questioning social media. Endless scrolls of people in new clothes, taking exotic vacations, getting new electronics, can make your children feel like they should have all of this too. Ask your children how they felt by doing something kind in person for someone and then counter the question with how did you feel looking at Instagram or Facebook? This will get their internal goodness working and they may decide to give up social media or take part in it less. At the very least this can start a wonderful conversation.
3. Holiday Gift Strategies. Give fewer gifts. I know this sounds horrible in the scheme of things but lets face it; the joyful expression is really only good for a while and then they even get bored and just want to unwrap the next gift. Experts suggest giving 1 fairly large gift and then 2 smaller ones. This is easy with younger kids for older ones explain that Christmas is focused on relationships with others instead of gifts. It’ll be hard at first but stick with it. When the living room is filled to the brim we are teaching our children to never be happy because they’ll never know what enough is.
Set rules once it’s all unwrapped. This is something to keep in mind when our relatives want to spoil your children, and you can’t control them but you can control what is done with the gift once it is in your home. If your child is given a cell phone from Grandma they can keep the phone but can only use it during the day, and then they have to give it to you after the allotted time.
Insist on thank-yous. Make sure that your children are aware that the presents have a person behind them. Once they can write they should write thank you notes, if they are given something that is special; say golf clubs so they can learn golf take a video of them at the golf course, and have them express their appreciation to the giver. Start early and keep at it. Thank you and special thanks go a long way to teach appreciation, and for the giver.