Teaching our children the difference between wants and needs can help them escape the entitlement trap. Such guidance equips them with gratitude and a heavenly radar for caring for others.
As a mom of four, I am bombarded with “needs” often. Between school supplies, athletic equipment, outgrown clothing replacements, and other odds and ends of childhood, it has begun to feel as though I am constantly asked for something. While some of these requests are legitimate, I have found myself newly aware that a lot of them are not.
Our culture dilutes and distorts our understanding of needs and wants. For children, this is especially so. Every whim and desire feels like a need we deserve. Without proper teaching, our kids will not understand that there is a difference between replacing outgrown jeans and replacing outgrown jeans with expensive jeans. Without proper teaching, our children may believe that an iPhone is essential when a land-line can meet the same need to communicate.
If we are not intentional about how we instruct our children and how we respond to their demands, we may quickly find ourselves living with a family stuck in the entitlement trap:
As parents, it is our job to help our children grow up to become grateful, hard-working, and faithful. And these qualities fall at the opposite end of the entitlement spectrum. We must also help them to understand that there is a broader picture to see. We are called to look beyond ourselves to care for the needs of our neighbors.
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" Philippians 2:4.
As Christians, we must not only consider our own self-interest but we must look to the needs of others. Many, many others have true needs, and we need the eyes to see them. We can help our children choose to use their talents and resources in a way that benefits one another instead of gathering more material goods for ourselves. By offering opportunities for connection with others who will benefit from our talents and resources, we are helping our children to see that they have a part to play in the way God will grow His Kingdom here on earth.
Consider these ideas to combat entitlement:
Our children may request many things. But we have a part to play in teaching them what it means to earn, to offer, to give…and not just to request or demand. We can help them escape the entitlement trap by offering opportunities to understand a compassionate response to true need and helping them to see what part they can play in the life of another. We can foster this spiritual growth in our children as they begin to find the lifelong role they will play in God's Kingdom on earth.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster