Mom Tip Monday: 3 Tips to Avoid Entitlement

by Heligirl on November 15, 2010

in Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles

This is a hard one, especially with the holidays barreling down on us faster than most of us would like. How do we celebrate holidays that are filled with gift giving without developing materialistic entitlement attitudes in our kids? Over showering our kids with gifts, even over the holidays, helps develop materialistic attitudes that kids are entitled to get what they want.

Additionally, children with an over abundance of toys and other material possessions gifted throughout the year develop a lack of appreciation for what they do own while simultaneously developing a sense that they’re entitled to anything else they may want. In fact, some experts warn that over gifting throughout the year can also cause kids to relate gifts with love, which itself is a whole other issue.

Alternatively, limiting materialistic and entitlement attitudes develops a sense of respect for what they already own and a deeper appreciation when they do receive gifts. This isn’t to say stop giving gifts. Heck, that’s just not rational in my book. But there is a way to approach gift giving that helps curb some negative side effects of too much gift giving.

I’ve been doing some serious research into this as I want my kids to be excited for the holidays, and there is a certain thrill about the gifts when you’re a child, but at the same time I don’t want to overdo the whole “it’s all about giving not receiving” message in a way that tunes the kids out. Here are three pieces of advice I found to be both realistic and logically sound.

  1. Shop for a gift to charity. Begin a family tradition where you and the kids take a trip to the toy store with the sole purpose of buying a toy (or two) for a charity such as Toys for Tots. (Or a family in need you’ve adopted, etc.) Toddlers and preschoolers won’t fully understand the concept in the beginning, but as you talk about it and do it year after year, they will first realize this is something the family always does (a family tradition). Then, as they get older, they’ll understand discussions you have about people being less fortunate and the spirit of the season is helping others. They’ll come to understand the concept of charity and giving. Another benefit is the kids are going to the land of temptation (the toy store) and leaving empty handed. Keeping them focused on choosing something for another helps develop the foundations of thinking of others first while also planting the seeds of delayed gratification – another positive anti-entitlement attitude.
  2. Manage gifts for the kids. Develop a reasonable gift list that includes practical things (the next size clothes, new bike helmet, etc.) in addition to fun things (a new toy, designer jeans, etc.), then share it with family who typically give gifts to the kids. Consider suggesting alternatives to extended family, such as a donation to each child’s college fund. A $20 a year gift from three family members for 18 years is more than $1,000 of today’s dollars, which could be worth almost twice that amount in tomorrow’s dollars depending on your investment plan and college choices. You can’t say the same for material gifts.
  3. Donate older, less used toys and items. Young ones (toddlers and preschoolers) won’t be able to participate directly, but as the kids get older, include them in choosing a box of toys or items to donate each year. This achieves several goals while teaching some valuable habits and values. Take the opportunity to talk about conservation and recycling as well as charity and helping others. Children will develop respect for limiting consumption as well as reducing waste. Just be careful not to donate anything that your child is deeply attached to still and chances are they won’t notice the reduction in playthings. The extra bonus is you’ll enjoy less clutter and the peace of mind that the once beloved playthings are now loved by another child.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are a number of other things you can do, but I put this together to help get you thinking.

What have you done in the past to help reign in entitlement and materialism? What advice would you offer? I’ve love to hear your thoughts, especially from more experienced moms who’ve had to deal with this issue.


Twitter: solarchief
November 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

This is a great list. I tried to incorporate all these ideas with my children’s holidays. Also, limited prices of gifts from others, as well as gifts my children gave… Nothing is more ridiculous than getting a TV from an eight-year-old! But, I’ve seen it happen… Going to blog about this within week on my alternite site, so keep in touch… Come visit when you can…
SharleneT recently posted: Solar-Baked Tuna Cakes with Lemon Sauce

Booyah's Momma November 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

I love the idea of shopping for others. We’ve been doing this since Bobo was very little… picking a child similar in age off the Giving Tree, and it’s something we look forward to doing each year.
Booyah’s Momma recently posted: Sex- drugs and rock &amp roll

JP November 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

Jen, my son & his wife have already taught Mia (2 next month) about donating her toys. What’s funny is that they store them in the garage & when she sees them, she asks if she could play with them “one more time” before then tie off the bags for donating!!!
JP recently posted: My Life- Country Life

Kate Walton November 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Great tips, Jen! Also: I would just add that special experiences make wonderful gifts–and they don’t have to be expensive experiences…as you know, a day at a farm can be pretty much the best thing ever for the 2-3yo set. : )

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