Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Hardest Thing to Teach


{WARNING: Long post ahead}

There are textbooks that teach Math, Science, History and Spelling....but there is no textbook for one of the most important lessons a child should learn.

Unfortunately our culture sends our children a subliminal message about entitlement. That they deserve...indeed SHOULD have.... the newest cellphone, toy or clothing. They look at the world around them...their friends, their parents, the media and they see it all the time. They see the excesses of consumerism as normal. That buying and having the newest and best things must automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment. If that's what Mom and Dad are striving for then naturally that is what a child sees as the example for their own lives.


Its easy to get caught up in this cycle of wanting, buying and having. We have all done it...but what of the effects on our children and their future. They develop a sense of entitlement that they take into their adult lives and inevitably it leads to financial irresponsibility, rampant consumerism and greater social inequality. When it's all abut "Me", the needs of others become irrelevant. So how do you teach them that buying the newest motorized sccoter is not what life is all about?

I have a couple of theories...( as you might have guessed)

1 - First....say "no".
"No" you don't need those $200 shoes. "No" you don't need a new ipod just because they sell them in pink now. Saying "no" can be powerful. Now I don't mean that you should say "no" all the time and and to everything and I don't mean to just say it to your children. Sometimes you have to say "no" to yourself when it comes to buying that new cell phone. Children learn by example and when they see Mom being OK with last years model cell phone that works perfectly fine, then they will see that owning that new cell phone themselves won't really make their life any better either.

2 - Give them a healthy respect for money.
There are plenty of theories about how you should go about doing this. Each family has their own approach. Our approach is that our children must earn their money. If they don't "work" for it then just giving them pocket money for doing nothing reinforces this whole sense of entitlement...that they deserve it with really earning it. All work has value..including theirs.

3 - Teach them to think of the needs of others first.
This can be practiced as part of your daily family life and in a larger sense as part of your community. Getting your kids involved early in community service is a priceless gift you can give your children that will last them a lifetime.


This year we decided to go global for our community service project. I had heard that a delegation of people including Bishop Skylstad from our local diocese would be going down to Guatemala this November to visit the missions that have been established down there. The people who live in the mountaineous areas of the country are very poor and the missions provide health care and education for those in some of the remotest rural areas of the country. So after many emails back and forward we organised with the groups leader to take some Christmas gifts down to the local children.


The logistics have been a little challenging but everything is finally ready. Well over 120 gifts for the children from toddlers up to teens have been purchased, wrapped and packed. And the most amazing part for me is being able to watch the joy my children have experienced preparing all these gifts...for others. Maybe this entitlement thing isn't quite SO hard to teach after all!


  1. That is a hard thing to teach. I worry a bit about entitlement.

    Katie is only six, but we're trying to teach her that she isn't owed anything. One thing we do is collect McDonald's toys to send to kids in Iraq and also on church missions.

    I can't wait to take her on a church mission one day and show her the way some people live. I think that will be a big eye-opener.

  2. What a fabulous mission for your kids. I keep trying to make plans of that myself, but find time to be severely lacking!

  3. Yay! Comments are back! Thank you, Donna. =) It sounds like you are doing an amazing job in teaching your children. Entitlement was something that I struggled with when I was a cheer coach - not with all the girls, but with one or two. It certainly wasn't fun to deal with. Good for you for setting and teaching by example.

  4. What a great project for your kids to work on, and such a good lesson to teach.