How to rescue your child from self-entitlement

My eight-year-old son recently purchased his long awaited fidget spinner from his allowance money. His eyes were delighted, he learned new tricks, and showed it off to his friends.

Then about a day later, that black old fidget spinner became familiar to him. I even found it neglected on the living room floor. Nothing was wrong with it, but he came to me and said, “Mom, I want another fidget spinner. A rainbow, glow-in-the dark one – like the one at the grocery store.”

I stared into his big brown eyes. I knew exactly what he was getting at. He wanted the better and brighter one. The black one just wasn’t as exciting anymore.

“John, you’ve neglected the one you bought. You haven’t taken care of it. You don’t need another one. I’m sorry, but no.”

This little incident reminded me of the incessant craving for “more.” It creeps in so subtly in our own adult hearts, and we spot it in our children, too. This thought-pattern results in thinking that, I am self-entitled to what I want, when I want, at whatever cost. And I deserve it.

As parents, we all want nothing but our child’s happiness, pleasure, and delight, but in our journey we must create boundaries. We have to draw a line in the sand to protect them from self-entitlement, self-destruction, and this false reality that the world revolves around “Me, Myself, and I.”

This is no easy task as we live in a culture that eats, sleeps, and breathes independence, idolatry of self, and a lack of consideration for others. But even more so, every day we’re engaged in a battle with our own sinful hearts that wake up coveting the phone screen, the latest Amazon deal, fitness product, bigger house, better car, and more.

To think our children are not engaged in this battle is foolish. The fight for their hearts is alive and well, too. So, how do we help them with their own cravings and lusts of the flesh? How do we give them the discipline and boundaries they desperately need? Here are just a few ways:

Say “no” to your child.

The word “no” will not hurt your child. It will help them see that the world does not revolve around their wants, desires, and cravings for more. Withholding a toy, treat, new gadget, or play date with a friend doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It speaks that you know what is best for them in the right timing.

You know what will affect them emotionally, physically, and spiritually. You have the power to use your “no’s” and “yes’s” with great discernment. Your “no’s” will help them see that they don’t get everything they want and that’s a good thing. These lessons will carry with them through their whole life.

”But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:37

Walk with your child through life’s letdowns.

Disappointment is a part of life. If you save your child from being hurt or let down, you aren’t teaching them how to work through the struggle. A hurtful word, conflict with siblings and friends, exclusion from a group, and more are a normal part of life. Letting them wrestle through these let downs while they’re young will help them as they grow up and face bigger mountains.

Assuring your child that you’re there for them and love them through the hardships will give them security and hope that they can persevere. Working and praying through conflict with them instead of coming in as a helicopter parent will teach them some of life’s basic lessons: Life is hard, but we’ll get through this. You are still loved deeply.

“Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer. – Romans 12:12

Don’t do everything for them.

Self-entitlement is birthed out of our children having everything done for them and having things always handed to them. But this can result in an unhealthy co-dependency that can hinder growth and maturity. It can also foster pride and other harmful patterns. Thoughts like, “Well, Mom and Dad will just do it for me, so I don’t need to clean my room, take out the trash, or work hard to earn money.”

Within each developmental stage, our children are capable of doing so much more than we think. Allow your child to take responsibility of age-appropriate tasks. Be their model for a strong work ethic.

“Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” – Proverbs 12:24

The only perfect blueprint for helping our kids out of self-entitlement is by living and obeying God’s Word and loving him wholeheartedly. Jesus is the ultimate rescuer of our selfish hearts. As his hands and feet here on earth, we can be used in a great way to come alongside our children and show them a better way to live—even if it’s foreign to the culture they live in. In turn, they can teach us what needs changed in our own lives.

Fidget spinners won’t be the craze forever, but giving your child boundaries, discipline, walking with them through conflict, and building a strong work ethic into their hearts will produce an abundance of fruit in their life for years to come.

Now read this: Hope for the parents of a prodigal 

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