My oldest daughter and I were walking out of K-Mart several years ago when an old, rusty carousel caught her eye. She was barely two and had never actually ridden one before because I was cheap and never put money in them. They’re fun to just sit on, right? But this time, I thought Why not? and ran to the car to scrounge for a couple quarters.
Triumphant, we marched back and dropped the coins inside. I watched her giggle and smile, and giggle and smile, and giggle and smile, as she went around and around. I was sure I was the best mom in the world, because just look at her. Look at all that joy. I did that. Me and that metal pony.
Then, the ride ended. I lifted her off the seat, hitched her to my hip, and headed toward the car. Cue tantrum.
“AGAIN! AGAIN!” she wailed.
“I don’t have any more quarters, baby. It’s time to go home.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! RIDE IT AGAAAAINNNN!” Tears upon tears streamed down her face. And I got mad.
As I buckled that tiny toddler into her carseat, I went on a mom-tirade that would put Tami Taylor to shame. I preached about “saying thank you for one instead of throwing a fit for two” and “do you think that makes me want to do nice things for you” and “I’m still waiting to hear a thank you.” Ask me how well that went.
That freshly-turned-two-year-old cried until we got home. Eventually, she said thank you, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t know what she was saying thank you for.
It was not one of my best parenting moments to date. But I was so hell-bent on not raising an ungrateful child that I saw a “teachable moment” and got a little too enthusiastic.
As a former teacher, I had just seen too much. I was still recovering from the ingratitude and entitlement I had seen in the kids I’d taught and had thus sworn that One day, when I have kids . . .
Then I had kids. Now I see how easy it is to just let entitlement happen. It’s what comes naturally – both to us and to them. Fighting against it is gritty work, while letting it go requires a lot less effort. So we do. We let it go. And we accidentally raise brats.
So here are five ways you might (unwittingly) be raising entitled kids:
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