How do you Handle an Entitled Child?

How do you handle an entitled child? Now, I would first say, that means, how do you handle every single person in the world? Because that’s literally all of us. Adults included are entitled children. Hopefully we’ve grown in our discipleship. But that’s the point. That’s the point. As I think what I’m saying is, it’s the default settings of humanity, right. 

And the same way you open up a phone and it has default settings, entitlement is the default setting of sin, of the curse of death, of decay, because the antithesis of that is thankfulness and the gospel, right. The opposite is the good news of Jesus, the declaration that he has come, lived, and died, and rose again, and brought new creation, and that you are only indebted and thankful for that, and that everything is a gift. That’s the opposite of entitlement. 

And that comes later, right, as the gift that you receive in life when you start following Jesus. So yeah, what would you say, Jeremy, though? Practically, how do you handle that?

Yeah, you guys, so we have an epidemic really of growing narcissism in our culture. And a lot of this came from ideas about parenting that really were popular, especially in the ’80s, and in the ’90s, that basically said, if your child has incredible, self esteem is what we called it, right, then if they think they’re amazing, then you’re doing an incredible job as a parent. 

And, you guys, the Bible could not be more against that as being the primary goal. It’s really important that kids have a certain level of confidence for sure. But that is … The difference between confidence and pride, there’s a very thin line there. And if you’re not using the gospel, and you’re not really helping your kids understand a fuller context of who they are in the family, in the community, then probably narcissism and entitlement is almost inevitable from the confidence you’re trying to pump them up with. 

And before you know it, you have this incredibly entitled child, and you can win awards for that as a parent. And your kid will not only suffer, but all of their relationships will. So it’s not healthy, and it often does not lead our kids to Jesus. So if you’re starting to notice this happen with your children. And a lot of them are just naturally entitled. And so it’s not necessarily always what we’re doing as parents. 

But one thing you want to begin to do is train them to serve others, and expect them to serve. You say, “Look, you were blessed to be a blessing. And so we expect you to do hard things.” Give your kids real responsibility, and hold them accountable for really following through on those responsibilities. And help them to serve people, especially if they’re feeling entitled. 

Help them to serve people that they might see themselves as more important that, right. Their younger siblings for example. Or if there’s others that are around in your life. Really train your children to be servants. And work with them, help them see you serve. 

And when you’re telling them the story of the gospel, make sure that they understand that the story of the gospel begins with us in slavery. We did not earn this. It’s really important that we understand … One of the things where this really became real to our family is in Deuteronomy chapter five, the second lists listing of the 10 commandments, when it talks about the Sabbath. One of the things that God says is, “On the Sabbath, remember that you were slaves, and I brought you out.” 

And so, one of the stories that God expected the Israelites to tell their children every single week was, “Remember, we were slaves in Egypt. And we were freed.” So there was a sense of this story that we’re identifying with isn’t, “I’m awesome. I’ve always been awesome. And that’s the beginning, and that’s the end.” Which is what a lot of Western parents teach their kids. 

But it’s important that we help our kids understand, we didn’t deserve anything, guys. We were rebels against the Lord, we were slaves to our sin, we were in desperate need of rescuing. There’s nothing we could have done to be freed ourselves. And Jesus, in his grace, came and rescued us. And all that we have comes from him. And so that gospel foundation to their lives is really important. 

But often times, when kids are little, and you’re teaching that story, they really need to experience that, and live that out through a life of service. And so the gospel really collides with their internal motivations when you are presenting your kids with an opportunity to serve. Serve the family. You can always start there. We have a whole … One of the things we did in home room was, how do you create a whole culture of service in your own kitchen? Which I just love using that as ground zero for how to train your kids to serve. It’s such a practical place to go that we have to eat every day, clean every day. 

And so that’s a great place to begin to help your kids work out that entitlement. That’s where I would start with a lot of kids. But then move into, what is the story you believe about yourself, about reality, about God? And train your kids in both ways. But yeah, Jeff, what are your thoughts?

Yeah, I would just add two things. And the first one is, thankfulness truly is the antidote. And the scriptures even go so far in Thessalonians and say that this is God’s will for your life that you would be thankful. So it’s actually so paramount, and central. 

And so yeah, so we do something as easy as a little piece of, not parchment. I don’t know what kind of paper it is. The cardboard color paper that’s on a roller, in our dining room. And we just … Or a chalkboard. And we just write every single night at dinner, a couple things we’re thankful for. Because you can’t be thankful and entitled at the same time. Those can’t coexist. And when you’re thankful, it boots it out of you. 

And then two, like Jeremy already said, yeah, just serve as a team. One way that we do that really that I’ve noticed with the kids is, we really, really call them to help us serve when people come over. So we’re all getting the house ready, we’re all setting the table. I do give them jobs when people come over that I want them to greet everyone, and stuff like that. And of course, they don’t do it perfect. But creating that atmosphere where, hey, we’re all serving, and it’s a joy, and we have this house, to use it, and to bless other people with it. So stuff like that, I think is really, really important, and a big deal for sure. 

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