The thing with entitlement is that it happens slowly. So slowly that you barely notice it until BAM! It’s screaming at you from the floor at Target, demanding that you buy it a 2-million-dollar Thomas the Train. It doesn’t care that it has the entire Sodor Bay spread across it’s bedroom. It wants more and therefore feels it should have it.

The other thing with entitlement is that it seeps into everything and shows up everywhere.

It is the abandoned backpack overflowing in the middle of the kitchen that you have asked your child to put away every afternoon; the demand for a fork from an easily accessible drawer after everyone has sat down to dinner; the mess of toys strewn throughout the house that no one has thought to pick-up; the immediate request for another gift after one has just been opened. 

All of these are understandable offenses for children. But they are also teachable moments. And I’ve been slacking on my teaching. This has enabled my kids to climb up some pretty tall towers and get real comfy. But now, my dear children, it’s time for you and your entitlement to take several seats. Like, all the way down on the floor.

I would like to think that my contribution to my kid’s escalating entitlement was mostly unintentional. A negative consequence of striving to give my children the best of everything. However, I know that I have consciously taken the easy way out of many situations in order to avoid conflict. I have acquiesced to many demands that I know I should not or have done more than I know I should. I also know that the desire to give children the best of everything requires better regulation and oversight than what I have exercised.

The need to begin to un-entitle my children feels increasingly urgent because I know that it will only get worse. An abandoned backpack can be a gateway offense to increasingly obnoxious acts of entitlement. I also fear the deadly combination of entitlement and privilege. My children experience a certain level of privilege, which will potentially increase as they grow. If they do reach positions of power, I sure as hell don’t want entitlement joining them.

Now that I’ve come to grips with this reality, how do I respond? How do I begin the process of un-entitling? I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I can tell you one thing: you can’t yell away entitlement. Getting mad and yelling at your children about how lucky and thankful they should feel is not very effective. I’ve tried it. The yelling only skews the intended message and causes children to fixate on how their mom is mean and angry. Similarly, stomping around the house barking orders to pick up a long abandoned 5,676 piece lego creation before you let the 1-year-old have her way with it doesn’t go far in un-entitling either. My children grumble about having to pick something up and then complain about having a mother who is such a neat freak. Why can’t everyone just learn to step around all their toys on the floor?

While I don’t have all the right answers, I do have a great place to start. Education. Education for myself and my children. Reading, seeing and experiencing in order to educate ourselves and better understand and appreciate those around us. From education comes better informed actions, a mind that is opened and strategies that are researched. 

I know that for education to be most effective, it requires that I slow down and be mindful. It asks that I utilize teachable moments instead of rushing past them. It also requests that I have the courage to engage in tough conversations, and see and do tough things. I also know that it is most effective when coupled with love and support, in lieu of yelling and demanding.

So education. It’s a good place to start. That and ensuring that your kids actually begin to pick their backpacks up off the floor.

That’s a great place to start as well.

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a mom to three lively and spirited children under five. They are her reasons for living as well as her reasons for questioning all of her life choices. She spends the majority of her time brewing way too strong coffee or coming up with reasons why she can just shower tomorrow. Find her at The Play Collective and on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest