Overcoming the sense of entitlement

If you ask my children what they want for their birthday it will most likely be some type of electronic device.  Jared got a new cell phone last week for his 14th and Matt is already talking about what he wants for his birthday in September.

We are a fairly conservative family financially.  We don’t have debt, other than our mortgage and student loans, and have really tried to communicate our financial values to our boys.  Sometimes, I feel like we have failed miserably.

It was difficult for me to explain to my kids why we aren’t replacing our desktop yet, why we haven’t bought a Wii console, why they can buy clothes that are on sale- period.  I have always deep down felt mama guilt at not being able to provide them with the lifestyle they desire.

My mama guilt has changed it’s focus since reading the book Radical, by David Platt.  I am realizing that we are actually doing our children a favor by not allowing them to feel like the center of the universe.  By reminding them that they are not entitled to the biggest and the best just because they are alive.

My focus has changed to educating them about the fact that “the war against materialism in our hearts is exactly that: a war.  It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably.  It requires strong and steady resolve to live out the gospel in the middle of an American dream that identifies success as moving up the ladder, getting the bigger house, purchasing the nicer car, buying the better clothes, eating the finer food and acquiring more things”.  (Radical, page 136)

Does it scare you that kids today are growing up with such a sense of entitlement?  What do you think we can do to turn the tide for our kids or do you think we should?

As always, if you have a post about raising teens/tweens, please link it up below!


  1. Melissa,
    First, I applaud your financially conservative lifestyle. My husband and I try to do the same. We’re just starting out, so we do have a car loan (but no mortgage) and we aggressively pay on that note–it has a term of only two years! Because we’re developing our credit, we wanted to find a way to pay as little of an unavoidably high interest rate as we could, so the tax-free benefits of his deployment are our way of really cutting into our only debt.
    We live without cable, we don’t have entertainment expenses (we focus on enjoying what we already have in multimedia and spiritual development for entertainment). Sure, meditation isn’t everyone’s version of a night on the town, but we want to keep our budget lean and spend only on essentials while we build up our savings–especially with our first child on the way.

    Regarding entitlement, I absolutely against such beliefs in politics, in child-rearing, and in any form or fashion. We are not entitled to material things, we earn them through our hard work. I think you’ll see just how much you’re helping your kids out when they get their own incomes and need to budget out their money, prioritize their expenses, and save for the big-ticket things they want.

    As I grow older, I realize my mom’s savvy grocery shopping and her on-sale clothes policy helped me to be a more responsible adult. Same for my husband. We don’t come from money, we aren’t entitled to every new gadget, and we are working to build a financially free and secure future.

    Just my $0.02, hon!

  2. Sheri_at_UnexpectedBliss says:

    I need to read that book! I completely agree with you; kids today want and expect everything RIGHT NOW. My kids understand that we buy mostly thrift store clothes, and in the past they've had to use money they earned mowing yards for any electronics they wanted. Now that the mowing jobs have decreased so much, they just have to do without. But when my oldest turned 14, it was like a switch flipped! All of sudden he's begging to go to the mall – which I hate, because all his friends get to shop there. We are struggling with this, because we have to say no. Even if I wanted to, we just aren't in a position to spend money on them. But I also know that they are fine, they have plenty, even if it's not brand new.

    I worry about this generation of kids. So many will graduate college and expect a high paying job, fancy car, big house and lots of toys. Whatever happened to living in tiny apartments and sitting on crates until you could afford furniture? Their expectations are way out of line with reality.

    Great post!

    • great points Sheri! And I do think you are right and this age makes it more
      difficult. We just have to pray! And, yes I recommend a hundred times over
      read Radical!

    • 14 was a really HARD age for both of my older boys….it does get better, but you have to stick to your guns about them needing to earn their own money. I think they appreciate the stuff that they buy with their own money so much more than things that are just given to them….no matter how desperately they claimed to want it in the first place.

      My 3rd son just turned 12 so it won't be long before he is 14, I think I need to get this book too!

  3. It is a constant struggle to strike the right balance, and hubby and I don't always agree on this front. He wants the kids to have what he didn't have growing up, but he also wants them to realize that money doesn't grow on trees and they cannot have everything that they want.

    I suppose where we agree is on teaching an attitude of gratitude. Whether they have a little or a lot, we emphasize that they should be thankful and when they're not we start taking their stuff…We also help cultivate this attitude with a thankful jar where we as a family jot down things during the year for which we're thankful. These can be material things, but mostly they're the activities we do as a family. We share these at Thanksgiving.

    Ultimately, these are seeds that are being planted and we know that God will grow them in His time.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don’t have any tweens/teens yet. But I have worked in youth ministry with teens for the last 15 years, and I can’t tell you how much I respect this concept. It’s hard for me to remember this idea, even as an adult, but I know that it is Godly and my hubby and I strive to teach these values to our two children (5 and 7). I work with lower income students through a ministry to Pregnant and Parenting teens… and entitlement is rampant even there! It’s disturbing. They turn their noses up at hand-me-downs… they complain about the free diapers that aren’t brand name… it’s amazing!

  5. Our oldest two kids are now 22 & 20, the next two are 12 & almost 10….in the 10 yrs since our oldest was 12 I've seen a HUGE increase in the number of electronics that are geared specifically at this age group. Our middle kids feel like they are “underpriviledged” because they don't have cell phones or texting devices. I don't see a NEED for these items for them! Our first two didn't get cell phones until they were old enough to have a job & pay for the service themselves & we are trying very hard to continue this precedent with the rest of our kids. We also do not have cable tv….we missed it at first, but I've found that the expectation to own every new electronic device that comes out is lower now that they aren't watching all those shows about bratty smart mouthed teens who seem to have limitless bank accounts to get anything they want whenever they want it.
    Our 20 yr old complained when he was in high school & I wouldn't buy him the biggest brand names in clothes, but now that he is buying his own clothes he shops for bargains & isn't above checking the 2nd hand stores.

  6. Jill Berry says:

    We struggle with the haves and haves not, too. My oldest is finally OK with buying from the sale rack. Now that she has some of her own money to spend from grandparents she gets a kick out of getting a bargain. She stills buys an item or two that to me seem overpriced due to flimsy fabric.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa Smallwood and Sheri, Manners Mentor. Manners Mentor said: Such good advice! RT @multitaskingme: Kids and entitlement- what are your feelings? http://bit.ly/cZBn1n […]

  2. […] Multi-tasking Mama ~ Overcoming the Sense of Entitlement  Are kids today growing up thinking they are entitled to the biggest and the best that life has to offer? I love this post! […]

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