How to Tear Down Attitudes of Entitlement

It is strangely ironic that the freedoms and affluence we enjoy in our society are the very things that stand to ruin our children if not addressed early and effectively.

The consumer-credit industry is doing all it can to get your kids to fall for the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, statistics indicate that your child is headed for a life that will be severely impacted not by credit—credit is not the problem here—but by the debt it can create.

When the following three characteristics occur at the same time in the heart and mind of a child, they create a kind of “perfect storm” that has all the likelihood of creating a disastrous situation:

  1. attitudes of entitlement
  2. financial ignorance
  3. glamour of easy spending

For our debt-proofing purposes, “entitlement” is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. No matter what you call it, this attitude is running rampant, and not only among kids. Entitlement affects kids and adults alike. 

Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. It shows up in new parents who throw all caution to the wind when it comes to nursery furnishings and “mandatory” equipment. It shows up in two-income families who, because they work so hard, feel they deserve to have nice things. It shows up in adults who feel compelled to conform to society’s relentless ratcheting up of standards.

Entitlement is the standard message of marketing and advertising. Look carefully at everything that shows up in your mailbox this week. The message to keep up is relentless. The push for conformity creates attitudes of dissatisfaction and entitlement.

At every turn it seems something or someone is fanning the flames of entitlement in our lives—and our children’s lives too.

Attitudes of entitlement, both yours and your children’s, are an enemy that, if not dealt with, will surely sabotage your efforts to develop financial confidence in your kids.

A frugal lifestyle, where you live below your means, is the best environment in which to raise kids. When children observe their parents consuming carefully, making wise spending decisions, choosing not to buy the biggest and the best, and not living on credit, they begin to assimilate those values.

By telling your children, “We don’t choose to spend our money on that,” you send a positive message that you have money but make intelligent choices about how to spend it.

Clearly, attitudes of entitlement are a serious problem. But they are not terminal. Diligent parents who are willing to be consistent examples and limit setters will find success in tearing down attitudes that have the potential to do great harm.

Excerpted from Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary Hunt (Revell, 2012). 

Question: If you’ve been successful in breaking down attitudes of entitlement with you or your children—or both—tell your fellow EC readers how you did it, here

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13 replies
  1. Barbara Cleveland
    Barbara Cleveland says:

    My son had a bike which he didn’t take care of, left it out in the rain so of course it rusted. His birthday came around and he asked for a new bike. I told him we will take any money you get for your birthday we will use to put a bike in layaway and you will pay it off with your own money. He was only 12 but worked down the road on an Emu farm. He continued to pay the bike off, and guess what? He never left that bike out in the rain!

    Reply
  2. Maxi
    Maxi says:

    One of our rules was that I wouldn’t buy it if it were advertised on TV. I explained that those toys were overpriced and easily broken. Exceptions were made if it was an old, established toy, like the game Clue. Our girls received allowances for doing chores. If they wanted something we wouldn’t pay for they could buy it themselves.

    Reply
  3. Granny Nanny (retired teacher)
    Granny Nanny (retired teacher) says:

    Not sure this fits, but yesterday I took my grandkids to a big box store to get cat sand and maybe a jr monoply game for the 4 year old. The 9 yr old had a new Yahtzee game “Santa” brought but it was still in plastic wrap. We had played that w great success.
    I was babysitting for 5 RAINY days in so CA and their house had no tv or computers or internet due to renovation of entire wiring… also dishwasher & phone had no power.
    We did not find the monopoly so they wanted other expensive games w batteries or cartoon related themes as seen on tv. I said they were not on my list of educational games, but just pure entertainment which was not well received. Also I said I didn’t plan on spending $30 or more. Finally I spotted Crazy 8s and Old Maid cards for $3 each. The little one was not thrilled so I said fine, we’ll forget about them and just go pay. Then she decided the card games were better than nothing. Even big brother played one game each with us cuz he had never played them before. These have been in action ever since. And a bonus, in addition, the old Maid cards had people of different professions in picture & name and today she started copying the words on a paper on her own and asking me to read them!
    Priceless!

    Reply
  4. kaetra
    kaetra says:

    We’ve always been forthcoming with our daughter about where money comes from and how it gets spent. We’ve never had a “sit-down” where we layed out the budget, instead we add it to the regular discussion in everyday life when the opportunities arise. I don’t think a child should be overly burdened with worries about money, but they should be age-appropriately educated about how economics work. It’s an ongoing process and as they get older they learn a bit more. We have also been very lucky that our daughter has never been hugely interested in buying lots of things. She’s only 10 now, but I hope that lasts into her teenage years. Haha! We’ll see. 😉

    Reply
  5. kls
    kls says:

    My kids were raised wearing garage sale clothes, yet they dressed as good as any of their friends. A local business has a “coat drive” every Christmas and insist that the coats that are donated are new. My daughter read that in our local paper and said, “That’s really silly. There is nothing wrong with a nice looking used coat.” It was a proud moment for me.

    Reply
  6. Gram
    Gram says:

    When my son was 9, he wanted a Nintendo game machine. I asked him how much it cost. “One hundred dollars,” he said. I told him that I thought it only was worth about $30, but then I said, “I’ll tell you what. If you can raise $70, I’ll give you the other $30.” He groaned, “Where can I get that kind of money?” I simply told him, “Get a job.” Yes, he was only 9, but he did go out and get a job cutting grass for the man who lived next door. He earned $7 per week. Of course, I required my son to give his tenth, but the rest was his. It took the entire summer, but he earned the money. Then we shopped for the Nintendo and found it on sale for just $94. I let him keep the change. This was such a powerful lesson. To this day he is one of the most frugal and hard-working men I know.

    Reply
    • Guest
      Guest says:

      It’s often easier for parents to just give the kid the money up front. Your lesson was much hard on both you and your son … which proves the easy way out does not always have the best outcome!

      Reply
  7. Tiana
    Tiana says:

    As a learning exercise, hubby and I sat down with our boys to go over all the money we take in versus what has to go out for bills and savings. They were very impressed with our income (silly boys will soon learn) but when they saw how much we pay for the house, utilities, medicine, groceries and not to mention paying off our credit card bill, they got a good dose of reality. Now they rarely ask for expensive things and they talk about saving their money for stuff they really want – including a family vacation! We did this exercise with them when they were 10 and 7 … we recently revisited the issue as a refresher now that they are 14 and 11. Add in my stories about how I graduated college debt-free by taking longer and working through it along with daddy’s stint in the Navy to help pay for his education … we HOPE that our boys have more of a clue than even most adults about working hard and saving.

    Reply
  8. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    The email article on 01.28.13 is Excellent!!

    Life starts at ‘attitude’ which then determines ‘choices’. Adjust your Attitude!!
    God comes first.

    Reply
  9. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    This article should go VIRAL!!! It is so true how this all starts with keeping up with others and the free use of credit.
    Thanks for your help through the years by making me aware of so many things that draw us into the debt. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  10. Beck
    Beck says:

    When my kids were young they would complain that we had no cable tv, we ate bread that was generic not name brand, didn’t go to Florida on spring break, expensive cell phones, (we had tracfones prepaid) and so forth. At each complaint I would explain we are going to pay their college in full and the reason we can do it is we don’t buy things we don’t need or pay for higher brands if it is the same quality.

    One of my children has now graduated from college and the other is a junior in college they are both thankful to not have debt like many of their friends. Also, my son saw a good friend have to quit college for financial reasons. It may be hard for a parent to say no and keep on going frugally while all your kids see their friends blowing money left and right. Eventually though it goes full circle and they can actually see mom and dad knew what they were doing. Teach them to see the big picture and the long term goal. When our kids tell us how thankful they are that we did this for them it is music to my ears.

    Reply

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