The Problem With Raising A Prince

I have to admit it, I have a problem with the prince and princess mentality I see emerging in some families. I enjoy the fairy tales; the Disney franchise that introduces preschoolers to the epic stories through media, merchandise, and theme park experiences; and the ideas of a quest to win the princessfight the dragon, or find my prince; but I sense a darker side to this whole prince and princess emphasis – it seems to fuel a sense of entitlement with our preschoolers, children and teens. Kids can be entertained in seconds with a digital device, and their requests for a new toy or fashionable clothes can be responded  to in a flash with Amazon Prime.  We may be fueling a generation of entitled princes and princesses.

A healthy family is not centered around a child or children, but values and virtues that are larger than any individual. It’s fun to play prince, but we don’t want our son to grow up acting like one and expecting to be served. We want our sons and daughters to grow up with a sense of confidence and capability, balanced with a sense of compassion, because it’s not all about me. 

cf92459d6e55deffead418b9e048189ff1279272

Research affirms that kids who grow up with a sense of entitlement are more than spoiled – they are actually more likely to be at risk. They are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, loneliness, isolation and digital OCD (obsessive-compulsive texting or social media addiction). How do we, as parents challenge entitlement in our kids and teens? Here are three ways:

  1. Do it myself.  I recently heard from a mom of three who had attended my presentation in Connecticut on The Relaxed Parent – Helping Your Kids Do More As You Do Less. She wrote, “My boys, ages five and seven, like to do things for themselves, but they also like to have me ‘help’ out with a lot of things. Who doesn’t like to be served sometimes! After I came home from your presentation, I spoke to my boys about family team work and I drew your triangle of my help getting less and their triangle of doing more over the years. A few mornings later, I was dressing our one year-old daughter while my boys were having breakfast. My older son wanted his waffle, so I told him – here’s a chance to do it yourself. I explained how to do it. Once he was done, he looked up and exclaimed, ‘Mommy, if I had to wait for you I would still be waiting for my waffle! But since I did it myself it was much quicker!'” This mom had learned the principle: Don’t do anything for your kids that they can do for themselves. 
  2. Let them struggle – don’t always rescue them. Making life too easy for our kids – like they are princes and princesses actually can make them less capable, less resilient and less motivated. Learning to push through discomfort is a gift we can give our children. I’m not saying create discomfort for your child – that would be mean. I’m saying let them experience a little adversity so that they can persevere and generate hardiness. Learning to walk and ride a bike involves a lot of falling. Just because your child falls doesn’t mean he’s a failure, but that he is learning. To stop him from falling would keep him from the autonomy of walking and riding his bike. Challenging entitlement involves being patient. Train your child to delay gratification by waiting, or earning what he wants. This will foster contentment and generate confidence. frostykids1
  3. Model and Teach Other-Centeredness. Empathy is the best antidote for entitlement. Since children learn what we do, more than what we say, provide an example of compassion and other-centeredness that is age appropriate for your child: For preschoolers – you could be like the mom my wife saw at the grocery store parking lot with a baby swaddled to her chest and a three year-old holding her hand, she pushed her empty shopping cart back to the cart corral, in a natural, routine manner. If anyone would have a reason to leave the cart by her parking place, she did. But instead, she chose to model empathy for the employees who have to gather the carts. For elementary age children – you could be like the dad I saw in Home Depot recently with his son, who looked to be around eight years old. He was in line with a cart full of stuff, and I had a box of screws. He said, “You go first,” and modeled to his son thinking about others. Teenagers tend to be self-involved, so when we model other-centeredness, we are giving them a liberating option from most of their peers. Recently, right before a presentation to parents in New York, a dad came up to me and said, “I heard you speak eight years ago and talked with you afterwards. You coached me to ‘enter the world of my thirteen year-old’ because I felt disconnected, was too busy with work and felt like I was losing my son.  I entered his world and did things he was interested in. It wasn’t always comfortable, but we connected, and today, while he’s in college, we have a terrific relationship.”

Watch this short video on the danger of raising an entitled child.

Try these three tips with your child or teen to challenge entitlement and raise a capable, compassionate human instead of an spoiled prince. Feel free to share it with parents who may be raising a royal pain.  https://vimeo.com/152184399