“That’s not fair!”
Chances are, you've heard these from your child at some point. It's a rite of passage: learning how to avoid spoiling your kid. It's easy for children to feel entitled during their early stages. This is because they don't fully grasp the value of the things that they've come to expect from you. And this starts to become an issue once your little ones start thinking that a pampered life is their birthright and not a privilege.
Who put this idea of entitlement in their heads? We did.
As parents we always want the best for our kids, that's why we choose to shower them with the greatest advantages, the latest doodads and the newest stuff, which is completely understandable behaviour. The problem is however, by always giving them the best, we are also slowly turning them into the worst. So how do you prevent your child from feeling overentitled, you ask. A field of study called behavioural economics has the answer.
1. Set the Norm
Let's say you let your kids eat sweets after dinner, if you do this frequently enough, soon they will think of it not as a luxury, but rather a right. In behavioural science this tendency is called "hedonic adaptation," which states that humans can become acclimated to almost anything if they're exposed to it routinely. From a parenting standpoint, this means that whatever you do or don't do for your children on a regular basis will become their new normal.
Ask yourself these questions: What default environment am I setting up for my kids? Am I giving them ample opportunity to learn independence or am I bringing them up to feel entitled to luxury? Once you've figured it out, you can now adjust your parenting style. Remember, there will always be resistance at first, but once you're able reset your little ones' expectations, the happier and more grateful they will be whenever you do grant them their privileges.
2. Place Them in Other People's Shoes
Humans are prone to making excuses for mistakes, it's a universal behavioural tendency. More often than not, we attribute our mistakes to external circumstances instead of owning up to them. If applied in reverse, however, when another person commits a negative action towards us, we then tend to attribute the act to that person's character instead of considering that external factors might be at work.
This is called the "fundamental attribution error." And it often stems from the notion that you are the center of the universe, a notion that unfortunately children naturally have. In order to correct this error, you need to un-center your child's universe by teaching them how to be more empathic and putting them in another person's shoes.
3. Make Things Personal
Since we've already touched on the subject of empathy, here is another behavioural tendency that we can use to teach our children how to be more caring. It's called, the "identifiable victim effect," or the tendency to be more empathic to the plight of a single identifiable person instead of a large group.
Ever wanted your child to donate old toys? Introduce him to a child who might need them.
4. Let Them Pitch In
We are, by nature, social creatures. So it's not surprising that we can also gain pleasure in knowing that we have made contributions that have benefited our peers. Rewards don't always have to be material, sometimes all that's necessary to enforce positive action is the potential for emotional satisfaction.
In that light, here's some golden advice that you can apply in your household: Let your children do house chores, but do not pay or bribe them into doing it. Instead, frame house chores as necessary contributions for the family. For the best effect, let them pitch in early, then maybe, just maybe they will be the ones to offer to help out. Not only will it make for a cleaner home, but also a better disciplined child.
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