Friday, June 21, 2013

Battling Entitlement in Our Homes

"Mom, give me some gum." 
"Gimme a piece of candy." 
"I need a cracker."
"Can I have something to drink?"

Every.single.time we get in the car those are the very first words out of my children's mouths. We haven't pulled out of the driveway even, and they're asking for something

Sure, I'm at least partly to blame. I have acquiesced so many times that they've become conditioned to expect those things, so when I say "no," they don't understand.

And when they hear no from me, they cry and whine and demand

"Mama, why?" 

And the why isn't just: 

"Why can't we have a piece of gum?"

It's really: 

"Why can't I have what I want? Don't I deserve it? Don't you love me?"

Well, the truth is that I'm sick of it. I'm sick of this insatiable desire for more and the whining that commences when that demand isn't fulfilled.

I'm sick of feeling guilty for not giving more to my kids. This foolish idea that parents should want to give their children a better life than they themselves had is rubbish. The goal for our children should not be happiness but self-denial for the sake of the Cross. But right now they're not getting that, and that's largely my fault.

My kids aren't the only ones suffering from this heart condition, this "I'm-entitled-and-deserve-more" disease that distorts reality and diminishes God to god status. This illness afflicts many Christians I know and, I'd venture to guess, a great percentage of the population in this all-too-abundantly-blessed nation.

Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful to be living in this country, but if I hear one more time that everyone deserves to go to college, I think I'll be ill.

I'm sick of people feeling entitled, as if they've done something grand and wonderful like cure cancer or rid the world of mosquitoes, that they've earned the right to say, "I deserve this."

I'm fed up with people whining about missed opportunities and shattered dreams, about lost chances and wrecked plans, about misrepresentations and disappointing childhoods.

Get over it already. Move on. Count your blessings and name them one by one. Stop missing out on the good in your life by dwelling on the what-might-have-beens. There's a reason. Figure it out, and if you can't, ask God.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
Matthew 5:6

I'm tired of hearing my own kids grumble when I don't oblige their every whim and buy them new princess dresses or sparkly bracelets, when I don't cave to their tantrums and take them to "McSonic," when they think I'm being outrageous for not giving them what they deserve.

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."

Matthew 5:5

I'm annoyed at myself for thinking I deserve something more, something better than this beautiful life I've been given.

As if I deserve anything.

 As if this house, these clothes, my car are something I've earned.

As if this flesh is anything more than dust and dirt.

As if my breath is my own.

As if in one moment, I could choose to destroy everything and everyone.

As if I'm the Maker, Creator, Life-Giver and Life-Taker-Away.

As if God owes me something. 
"Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 5:3

We are blessed beyond our own comprehension, and yet our human tendencies scream:

"I deserve more!"  

"Give me more!"

"Stop telling me no!"

"I'm special. I'm somebody."

And sometimes I want to tell those people--myself and my own children included:

"No, you are nobody. The only thing we deserve is death. We have done nothing and can do nothing to ever deserve what all we've been given. The only one who deserves anything, the only one who has earned the number 1 spot is Jesus, the one who gave up everything so we could argue we deserved it."

But then I would be accused of harming their fragile egos and destroying their self-esteem.

Those are three adjectives I never want ascribed to or characteristic of myself or my children. But right now, they're in danger--I'm in danger--of all three. Something has to change. 
So, I'm on a mission to reclaim my family from this pack of lies, empty half-truths that pollute our lives and whisper seductively in our ears that we are all those things and more.

I want to empty my flesh and mind of those lies and re-fill that void with these adjectives instead:

It's going to take some serious work and lots of prayer to see this happen, but the Holy Spirit has put this issue on my heart, so I know He will see it through. I'm not finished with this; expect to see more posts in the coming weeks.

What about you? Do you see this entitlement attitude in your corner of the world? If so, how do you work against it for your self and your children? 

I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you have to offer. 

Praying for wisdom,

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  1. Totally agree! I also blame myself for fulfilling every whim. No ideas yet, but I am going to pray too!

    1. Salena, let me know if God reveals anything to you! I have a few ideas that I hope to share in the next few weeks. Let's just keep praying in the meantime!

      Keri :)

  2. another excellent post! I love what you said about college! LOL! That's great. I think you're smart for recognizing this behavior now, rather than when they get older. The best thing that you could do is teach them that treats, whether they be food or toys, are an exception, not the rule. I have 8 kids, the oldest is 12. We tell them that they get toys for christmas and birthdays. That's it. When we do buy something that we think they'll enjoy, it's usually a group gift like bubbles, crayons, a dvd, things like that. If there's something that they really want during the year, we remind them that they need to wait till christmas or their birthday. It may seem mean, but it works. I can go to target with all the kids and I don't have to deal with them begging me for this or that. They point things out to me, but I just tell them to remember it so that they can put it on their wish list. I say this to encourage you, not to boast. We'd be broke if we didn't have strict limits. :)

    1. This is EXCELLENT advice, Jillian. I am totally taking your wishlist idea. It's so freeing! Yesterday, while my big kids were away, I cleaned out all their unworn clothes, toys, shoes, etc. and took them to good will. Plus, I did the same with my stuff. Ahhhh.... It felt good. I think decluttering and getting rid of excess especially stuff we've hoarded is one way of showing God that we aren't a slave to material possessions. If I can't let go of something, then I've made it my idol.

      Thanks for your great advice! Keep it comin'!

  3. Powerful words, Keri! I'm sharing to FB and pinning. I grew up with Depression Era parents, and my father was a paraplegic as a result of a construction accident when he was 16. It was never preached to me, but I saw my dad work a job and be involved in the community without ever complaining about his handicap. I grew up grateful just to be able to walk.

    We also do what Jillian does. We don't buy stuff for our children except birthdays or Christmas. They can save their money for something, but that isn't often. Come to think of it, I don't think any of the children have made a purchase yet this year. So much of it is our attitude as parents. If we are always whining about wanting more -- new furniture, bigger house, new car, vacation -- our children will pick up on it.

    1. Meghan, you're right! When I'm discontent, wanting a bigger house and nicer furniture, my kids see that and imitate it. I really have to watch my attitude towards "stuff" because they really do pick up on it! Great point!

  4. Just glad to know we are not alone....fighting the same battles

  5. Amen! This perspective is so important for raising children and for our personal growth.

    1. Yes, Gail, when we're raising our kids, all the good, bad, and ugly in us comes out. I'm seeing firsthand how refining being a parent is. Some of the qualities I want my children to possess I myself don't possess, so I have to work on them in myself first if I want my children to have a chance at developing them.

  6. I have no suggestions, just a loud AMEN to add to your post. The ONLY thing we deserve is the full wrath of God, which he poured out on His son instead. Thanks for this great post! I'd love to share it with my readers.

    1. Thanks, Gabby. Please feel free to share this post.

  7. Yes, we have entitlement issues in our home, too, and I feel the same passion to raise children who count their blessings. :) One way we deal with entitlement in the moment is to deny a child who hasn't asked politely, and to remind them that many of the things they have or enjoy are privileges, not rights. Our 7-yr-old has taken to helping himself to the snack cabinet. So the last time I caught him, I made him throw it away. Our 4-yr-old daughter often tends to whine at mealtimes because she gets cranky when hungry, but if she doesn't ask politely, she doesn't receive. We also avoid buying things for our children just because they want them. Or if a child wants something "cooler" or more costly than what we are willing and able to provide (typically at back-to-school time), then they must come up with the extra from their own allowance to make up the difference. I agree that entitlement is an issue that is crippling our homes and our country today. Kudos to you for recognizing the need to raise up a new generation! :)

    1. These are great suggestions! I need to do a better job of reminding my kids that "many of the things they have or enjoy are privileges, not rights." Love that! We take so much for granted, don't we?

      Thank you for your concrete examples. Those are very helpful.

      Blessings to you.

  8. Totally agree! Thanks for sharing, I came over from Wise Woman Builds.

  9. Hi Keri,

    I am new to this community and "hopped" to your blog from a comment of yours at The Measured Mom. I am loving all your tips and tricks, 'it's the little things' bits of wisdom, and most of all the unrelentingly uplifting and inspiring tone of this blog, even (especially!) in the face of chaos. :)

    I feel like you've got right to the heart of the matter. It's so easy to fall into feeding wants and trying to make things *easier* for people, and no wonder - after all, just as you said, we are at our best when we are humble and serving others! So if we are to be selfless in giving, how do we keep our children from learning only to take - how do we show the importance of denial? How do we help others see that "we deserve nothing" is a POSITIVE message?

    This sounds like a non-sequitur, but I have a soft spot for kind of out-there science fiction. I find even the most surreal or dystopian story can hold timely lessons in the most unexpected ways. One I read recently had a real hidden gem tucked into a tiny side plot, where a bit character was fascinated with the ideas of "nutritious" and "delicious." Not regarding food, but actions and impulses. Does this action "feed" or improve me or someone else in some way? Does it help me or others to grow, though it may not be immediately rewarding? That's nutritious. Does this action merely satiate a desire - is it otherwise useless or even counter-productive in the long run? Does it make me feel good Right Now but leave me empty and demanding more, to the exclusion of nutritious things? Then it's delicious.

    Maybe I'm kind of a space case too, but this concept was so novel and yet straightforward, and it's stuck with me. It's so easy to act impulsively without thinking - procrastinating, caving in, speaking rashly in anger. I've found that I'll check in with myself sometimes - am I being nutritious to myself right now, am I nourishing those around me? Or am I just handing out candy and feeding cavities? I still have a ways to go (of course!), since those times when I need it most, I least want to think about it. But it helps me remember that so often, truly serving others means NOT making them happy!

    1. Tessa, you make several valid points that I do not have the answers to. I'm working through how to deny my self right now as well as how to teach my own small children that self-denial is a beautiful thing. It's hard. We are surrounded by abundance and to tell them "no" is tantamount--to many--to being mean. I think we do need to learn how to discern between needs ("nutritious") and wants ("delicious")--using your analogy and terminology, which I love. Does what I'm doing help others to grow and improve or is it a quick fix, satisfying only temporarily? Does what I'm doing show Christ to others, spread the Good News, etc.? If it does, carry on, but if not, stop and consider what else you could be doing or how you can do it differently.

      So much to think about! I love your last point though: " often, truly serving others means NOT making them happy!" That is definitely the case with my children. Happiness is not God's goal for His children, and neither should it be my goal for mine.

      Thanks for your thought-provoking comments, Tessa!

  10. This is spot on, Keri. It's a daily battle. We are in such a culture of want, want, want, more,more, more. It's so easy to get caught up in feeling entitled. We may not have all the answers but just to have others who share in our struggle is great comfort. We are all in this together :) Great post! And thanks for stopping by my little piece of the world today too.

  11. Just being aware of this is HUGE! It's definitely counter-cultural. At our house we try to focus on the word "Simplify". We try to distinguish between wants and needs. We discuss how blessed we are, and how many others are in want all over the world. We talk about privileges verses rights. We've taught our oldest to save up his money to buy the big things he wants (for instance he recently bought a used trampoline). He is not only more choosy about what he spends his money on, he appreciates them a lot more too! I definitely don't have all the answers. I will be tuning in to your suggestions coming up. :)

    1. Rachel, I've been working on my post about how to teach our kids not to be entitled, and you have offered some great suggestions! Thank you! I have posted on how I'm dealing with my own issues of entitlement if you would like to check it out.

      Thank you and God bless!

  12. I concur! My problem is I think I am entitled to perfect kids because I teach them how to be perfect :) What a goober! We will never be perfect on this side of heaven. My children's and my imperfections are reminders of just how perfect our God is and our need for a savior. Which of course we do not deserve! Thank you God for your grace and mercy!

    Now I just need to extend some of that!

  13. Ha, Melanie! I do the same thing and need to do the same thing!

  14. This is a really interesting post and discussion. I agree that we, who live, in privileged societies need to raise awareness of how blessed we really are.

    Thank you for putting this discussion out there.