Are you unknowingly too child-centered?
We wrote recently about the problem of entitlement among children — about how many well-meaning parents, without thinking about it much, have become too child-centered. The article struck a nerve. Some felt offended or were defensive, while most strongly agreed but asked for more ideas about how to keep their kids from feeling entitled.
The simple answer we gave to parents was this: As soon as your child is capable of doing jobs, take the time to teach her to do the jobs and then gracefully hold her responsible to do them. When doing those jobs benefits others, help her understand the benefits. Because when kids use their talents in ways that bless others, they begin to find their way into the purposes for which God created them.
Unfortunately, even parents who agree with this often have spoiled kids. They cook for kids who are capable of cooking. They clean for kids who are capable of cleaning. They wash clothes, shop, buy, and even speak for their kids.
It starts innocently enough. In the kids’ younger years it’s more efficient to do the stuff instead of to teach our kids to do it. It takes much longer to grocery shop in ways that involve, teach, and encourage our kids. As they get older and more capable, we keep doing all the work, because the fight to get the now-spoiled kids involved just isn’t worth it. And the snowball keeps rolling and growing.
In the name of “taking good care of their kids”, many parents have become little more than service providers, and their kids have become masterful, manipulative consumers of those services. Their kids do anything they can to avoid responsibility for their own lives, and the parents help by picking up the slack. Ultimately, as long as this continues, parents unwittingly communicate a powerful message to the children: “You are not responsible for your own life. Someone else is.” And as kids learn this message, they grow up expecting others to take care of them and their messes.
With kids of any age, the answer to this problem is simple, though the work to re-teach them may be hard:
Stop doing stuff for your kids that they can do for themselves!
It will help greatly if you gracefully:
- Let your kids know you believe they are capable.
- Let them know that by doing many of the things they can do for themselves, you’ve robbed them of the opportunity to learn responsibility.
- Let them know that you are going to change your ways.
- Ask for their ideas about how you can accomplish the goal.
- Take charge of making and clearly communicating the plan.
- Follow through.
By doing this you will help them learn some of life’s most important lessons: you will encourage them to grow in independence.
The older your kids are the more likely they are to resist. It’s better to start now than when they start job hunting. So make a clear plan. Calmly and gracefully state your plan. Ask the kids which parts they think will be the hardest to learn, and work together on solutions.
By doing this, you will be communicating to your kids two powerful messages all children long to hear and learn: “You are capable, and you are responsible.”