“Chosen and earned ownership” is the antidote to entitlement. When one chooses to earn and own something, it can bring a kind of pride, independence and initiative that overcomes the laziness and boredom of entitlement. To rescue our children from entitlement we must give them opportunities for true ownership.
We’ve discussed the profound problem of indulgence and laziness among our children before. And, predictably, the question that came in over and over from readers like you was: How do I overcome their sense of entitlement? The answer almost sounds too simple: We must find a way to replace entitlement with a sense of chosen and earned ownership.
As parents, we must find reliable methods to get our children to feel the kind of ownership—of toys, money, goals, grades, choices, their bodies, their conflicts—that will foster responsibility and displace indulgence-based entitlement. And if possible we must do it while the kids are young, before the exponential consequences of entitlement trap them for good in their teenage and adult years.
Ownership is the lever that can spring kids out of the entitlement trap and motivate them to work for and earn what they want, to take care of things, to fight through difficulty, to face up to their own problems, and to decide for themselves what they want from life.
Get started on the ownership path by doing three things:
1. Instead of giving an allowance, set up simple tasks that your kids can do around the house, and have a way for them to keep track of what they have done. Make Saturday “pay day” instead of allowance day, and pay kids according to how many tasks they accomplished. Since they have earned it, they will now perceive the money as theirs. Make it so they can earn substantially more than they got before, and let them start buying all their own things, even some of their clothes. You will find that they will take care of the things they buy with their own money because they will perceive ownership.
2. Let your kids set their own goals. Get them a foam core board and divide it into three categories: Academic, Extracurricular, and Character. Give your own testimonial of how important and powerful written goals can be, and let them set some school-year goals in each of the three areas. Once they have ownership of their own goals, they will find a new level of motivation.
3. Give your kids ownership of their choices and decisions. Get them a special journal, and on the back page, have them write the title “Decisions in Advance.” Ask them which kind of choices they can make now, even though they may not have yet faced the issue. Can they decide now if they are going to college? If they will ever do drugs? If they will ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking? If they will get married and stay committed when they find the right person? Give them little “case studies” on each decision and see if they have truly “decided in advance.” Having early ownership of key decisions will save them (and you) from a lot of grief.