For years, scientists have spoken of the "entitlement epidemic" that we are facing, where children are demanding more and contributing less. The one proven "antidote" that research has shown to present entitlement is to actively convert entitled mindsets to grateful ones. Entitled minds expect things to be easy, have problems dealing with difficult situations, and believes that they are owed something. On the contrary, grateful minds see opportunity in hardship and believes that they are not owed anything, and that what they do have is a gift.
Here's what Psychology Today lists as 9 traits of an entitled child.
Leadership speaker Rory Vaden says "The antidote of entitlement is gratitude. Entitlement says that I shouldn't have to do this because it shouldn't have to be so hard. Gratitude says that I am thankful for what I have. We need to be practicing gratitude."
Let's temporarily suspend our knowledge or what we've known of as gratitude and relearn it from the ground up.
Gratitude is based on the Latin word gratia which means grace, thankful, and goodwill. Webster defines it as "appreciative of benefits received, giving pleasure or contentment." Harvard researchers define it as "thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible."
Positive Psychology explains that there are a few levels of gratitude.
Concrete Gratitude: Manners like saying "Thank you"
Connective Gratitude: Fully appreciating something in a heartfelt way
Concrete gratitude is good in that children are developing manners but connective gratitude is the key to feeling the benefits of actually being grateful. The reason some activities to express thankfulness are not as impactful is because the activity didn't reach the connective gratitude level.
Remember a time when you almost missed a flight or a train, and then you made it just in time. How did you feel the moments right after you made it? Gratefulness. Our "benefit received" was getting something we were at the risk of losing. But unfortunately, shortly after, we typically go on with our days and that feeling of gratefulness passes. Studies show that if we can relish that feeling and learn to practice it more often (even without the experience of almost losing something), we can live happier, healthier, and longer lives. And when our children see us practicing gratitude on a daily basis, they are more attuned and more likely to practice it themselves.
The Root of Entitlement
The bad news is that entitlement is in a large part due to parenting. No parent purposely raises entitled children, we all do the best we can but sometimes it is easier to give in and buy the toy, or give them the extra screen time to avoid meltdowns and tantrums. The good news is that slight adjustment in our parenting can transform their entitled behaviors to grateful ones.
Converting Entitlement to Connected Gratitude
Reward just for showing up, this devalues the reward and doesn't encourage hard work.
Reward when they have put in actual effort. This encourages hard work and places more value when they are rewarded.
Simply force a "Thank You" when your child receives something.
Dig deeper. Ask them questions like, "How did you feel when you received that gift?". "How do you think Grandpa knew you liked it?"
Bribe a Child with Treats, which is giving them a reward to stop bad behavior.
Do everything for them.
Give them age-appropriate chores and responsibilities like cleaning up their toys, putting dishes in the sink, or simply helping with laundry. When they are part of the efforts, they will understand and appreciate more.
Step in immediately when they experience difficulty.
Guide them through difficulty by asking questions but let them solve it ultimately. For instance, if a child is struggling with a button, let them practice and work through the frustration. When they are finally able to do it, they will develop self confidence.
Tell them to just get over failures or losses.
Give them space to feel that emotion and name it, then validate it. This helps them tolerate failures later in life and learn ways to deal when things do not go their way experiencing gratefulness when they do.
Let them push boundaries.
Say "No" when appropriate in a loving and caring way and explain why. If you bend the rules frequently, they will think that boundaries do not apply to them.
According to positive psychology research, practicing gratitude can increase positive emotions like happiness, self esteem, and hopefulness and decrease emotions like anxiety and depression but the key is to experience it in a heartfelt way. Not only can small changes transform entitlement to gratefulness but the nurturing of a grateful mind can benefit them mentally as well as physically as they grow up.
Let us know when you think and share your ideas on how to change entitlement to gratefulness in comments below!