A Problem of Entitlement

Are We Raising Kids Who Can't Help Themselves?

Problem With Entitlement (1)

Researchers have told us that American parents are too child-centered. Is making our kids happy eclipsing our determination to teach them responsibility?  According to the cited study, “Parents intend to develop their children’s independence, yet raise them to be relatively dependent, even when the kids have the skills to act on their own.” (Wall Street Journal, 3/13/2012).  As a result, kids generally are growing up less prepared to take care of themselves and others than ever before. We call this problem “entitlement,” meaning kids who do not feel inclined to be responsible and helpful as part of daily life.  Lynne and I have encountered this issue time and again in our own work coaching families.

Not so long ago it was different. For all of human history, until the last 60 years or so, kids were expected at young ages to do what they could do to help their family survive. In other words, their contributions were necessary to keep others afloat. Faith and values were passed naturally through this process as children and parents shared in the responsibilities of day to day life. Every child was an asset because every child was another worker in the labor force of the family/clan. Kids felt significant not just because parents said ‘I love you’ at bedtime or sent notes in their lunchbox, but because they knew that if they didn’t do their part others would suffer.

This concept of being needed is absent in most American homes. Instead of growing up to believe they are here for others, kids grow up to believe that others are here for them. Add to the mix a child’s selfish, sinful nature, and we’ve got a real problem on our hands.

Welcome to what some sociologists call the Age of Entitlement.  Once upon a time it was normal for kids to say, “please” and “thank you”, and they were conscious that they were contributors to the welfare of others. They now generally say, “I deserve what I want, when I want it, without earning it, and I’m bitter if I don’t get it”.  They believe the world is theirs to manipulate for their own pleasurable purposes.

Your family can be different!

The way to change this cultural epidemic is to change what happens in our homes. The first thing Lynne and I suggest for countering this trend is to give your kids meaningful jobs as early and often as they are capable of carrying them out. Give them jobs that if not done will negatively impact other people. As much as possible, set up systems and structures that truly depend on the child’s participation. Being needed gives kids a healthy sense of significance and purpose.

Practically, are you willing to take the time now to train your two-year-old to set the table? Are you willing to give a five year-old the responsibility of preparing and serving breakfast, or your ten-year-old that of mowing the lawn?

Of course, if you’re in your easy chair scrolling through your phone while he works, your child will likely become bitter. But if you use that time to bless someone else – even someone outside the family – and then tell stories about how everyone’s contributions blessed others, you’ll be well on the way to developing a strong sense of the value that your family is blessed to be a blessing.

So get to work inviting your kids to join you in being a blessing to others. It may be the most important thing you can do to combat selfish entitlement and grow a healthy sense of significance.

To learn more, register for our online course The Entitlement Fix: Growing Hard Work and Gratitude In Your Kids!

This fast-paced 4-session course is designed to give parents a solid strategy for stamping out entitled attitudes, and moving toward greater meaning in life.

You’ll learn to take your kids through a simple process for helping your family have constructive conversations about rights, responsibilities, and privileges in your home. You’ll learn graceful responses for the inevitable conflict that emerges when parents confront selfishness.  Most importantly, you’ll learn a perspective that grounds all your efforts in eternal truths from the Bible.

Join us today! At $23, we believe this is a fantastic value. If this is still out of your reach, simply contact us for a scholarship.



Please note: Connected Families reserves the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

74 thoughts on “A Problem of Entitlement

  1. I want to say Amen to this multiple times. As a college professor, I see the negative effects of this mentality every day. As a father myself, I have worked hard to instill this “how can I help” concept into my own children. It’s not all that hard to do, but parents must be intentional and consistent about it. It does make a difference. Well said!

      •  Tim, I am embarrassed to say but I did have to rise above my raising, as the saying goes. Since, I have greatly made changes in myself that have made my ready to raise a child later in life. I am saddened by how the majority of children are being raised. I can only imagine how hard it has been over your years of teaching to see the product of poor parenting. Some of us out there are teaching our children yes Ma’am & no Sir, please & thank you, holding the doors open & picking up what you’ve dropped. We start chores early, while working right along side them and give back to our community. I wish you well Sir. 

  2. @5254db49915b08c40eee0bd4dbe6700c:disqus – it’s why we LOVE entrusting the care of our growing offspring to folks like you.

  3. I completely agree! Our job as parents is to take this tiny helpless infant that The Lord gives us and raise him to become a responsible, fully functioning God fearing productive adult. Everyday should hold lessons in this. Love, comfort, responsibilities, consequenses and routine are all part of this. I fully believe that children do what is expected of them. More than once a day, someone says that “I wish my child was like yours.”. It’s not magic, It’s consistently expecting the best.

    • Great thoughts! Yes – high expectations, loving environment, opportunities for meaningful involvement. Keep up your great parenting, and remember to encourage and mentor others along the way. 

  4. Children who are raised to feel entitled will find it hard to have gratitude for anything they are given in life, because they think it is their right to be given it.
    Additionally children raised this way feel significant by what
    others can give to them, instead of what they can give to others.
    They could spend a lifetime trying (unsuccessfully) to get others to make them happy.
    When you teach your children to join with you in responsibility, they can start to appreciate what it takes to make things happen. When they are not just given everything they want. When they see that the world does not revolve around them. They can start to feel gratitude for what they are given and appreciate the people who give it to them. And they can start to get a taste of what it’s like to give for the joy of seeing another blessed through their actions.

  5. This article has definitely struck a chord with many people.  Since I bookmarked (or pinned) this article to Pinterest, it has gotten over 600 more pins and over 20 comments.  I am raising a 1 and a half year old and I constantly think of the future and how to help my child become a respectful and compassionate member of society.  As a former elementary school teacher, I saw students each day who thought they were entitled and parents that felt they were too.  It was rare to find those gems in the classroom that showed their teachers and peers respect and kindness.  I only hope that my husband and I can raise our son to think of how he can contribute to the well-being of others. 

    • Gina – Quite a deal this Pinterest thing. Thanks for your affirmation. Keep up your postive approach – and look in our blog topic “chores” and you’ll see how we enlisted the two-year-old in our house to set the table. 

    • Thanks friend. We have a new workshop we’re developing about setting goals for your parenting that you can meet everytime! As you might imagine, it’s not goals for controlling your kids (we really have no control over them), but goals for the kind of parent you want to be. We have total control of that. We’d love to come and present again some Saturday!  

  6. Wonderful article! I found you through pinterest. I too feel strongly about preventing my children from feeling entitled. It is, however, easier said than done, which is why I always appreciate the reminder! Time to set up official chores for my toddlers! 🙂 

    • Erica – glad to hear this encouraged you! My wife and I teach on the four most powerful messages our kids long to hear from their parents. “You are Responsible” is one of those messages. Too many parents, in the name of efficiency, or even love, do things for their kids that the kids are capable of learning to do for themselves. But it backfires as the kids get older and expect it.

      So let us know how the chore chart goes!

  7. Good one. I think that I could frame their chores in the light of helping the household that might help in the long run, heartwise. Thanks!

  8. Pingback: The New Age of Entitlement – Connected Families « What About Our Kids?
  9. so what do I do when the child is now 17?  I am at a total loss and so frustrated at how he  has become and how I have failed him…

    • @twitter-141838259:disqus  – It is never too late to help a child learn that he is responsible for his life. You didn’t fail your son. You love him. You did what you knew how to do and you can still learn how to do more. The biggest thing is to let your child feel the weight of his choices. If he’s getting in trouble at school – let him deal with the school, not you. These are his grades, not yours. If he is leaving your house a mess, tell him you’ll confiscate the stuff he leaves out. It’s not about you, it’s about his stuff. If he doesn’t come home on time with the car, take the keys. If you pay for his insurance, let him know that when he pays for the car or insurance he can do whatever he wants with the car.
      He’ll likely work really hard as you give him more of his life to keep you feeling guilty or bad about it. You can just keep telling yourself and him, “This is not about me son, this is about helping you become responsible for your own life.”

      Your biggest two keys to doing more of this is to learn to not do stuff for your son that he can do for himself, and to not nag or get emotional with him when he keeps expecting you to take care of him.

      This is not to say you quit taking care of him altogether, but that you will do it on your terms and not on his. 

      If after working on this you still feel stuck, you can visit our parent coaching page under the “Parent Help” to see if you might want to enlist our services.

  10. My son is 7.  We expect him to do chores, we don’t have a lot of money so we don’t buy things for him that he wants, I don’t do everything for him.  Yet he still very much has this attitude of how you perfectly put it “I deserve what I want, when I want, without earning it and I’m bitter if I don’t get it”.  He is the oldest and even acts this way towards his younger siblings.  He really is a sweet kid and has a kind heart unless you tell him no.  Then out comes the spoiled brat. Why is this happening? What are we missing or doing wrong?  What should we be doing instead?  I too believe this is a major problem with kids and his attitude really concerns me.

    • @822683c4cf0dba2ad7b74b2f534e25d1:disqus  – This could be a simple thing, or it could be quite complex. On the simple side your son may simply need validation for and help learning to express his disappointment when he doesn’t get what he wants. He sounds like a very expressive young man, and expressive folks especially need to know that what they feel is valid. But if what he gets when he feels disappointed is an order to a buck up and live with the answer, he has had no valid way to express his disappointment. So I would start by working hard to validate his feelings. It’s not apples to apples exactly, but this recent article about dealing with explosive kids might shed some light on what’s needed: 
      Give this some thought and let us know if we can help further.

  11. Love the article…totally agree with its premise.  The photograph, though, is disturbing.  That little boy with the lawn mower…WAY too young for chores with gasoline (or electricity) and whirling metal blades!  PLEASE find a better photograph!  Meaningful jobs are plentiful and do not have to be dangerous.  A responsible parent would not allow a child to operate a mower.  (And trust me, there are those who think there’s no real danger and will end up taking their child to the emergency room to have a finger (or worse) sewn back on (like my younger brother). 

    • Glad you like the article. About the picture…It captures the reality we discussed in the article. We agree there are dangers, and that kids ought to be trained about the dangers. Perhaps we could have taken a bit more time to discuss that training. Thanks for keeping us sharp. 

    • I however, love the photo!  I learned how to mow the lawn when I was 7. I did my chores around the house that were musts (my room, my laundry, the down stairs bathroom, etc).  However, this was my first job that I got an allowance for!  I earned $7 a week after I mowed the lawn.  Of course the first several times my dad was outside doing some other yard work (along with my siblings, usually weeding or something).  I loved it!  Yes it is a scary large moving operating machine, but my father talked it completely through to me.  If anything stopped or didn’t work, I had to go to him to have him fix it, I did NOT touch any of the more scary parts until I was aloud too.  And I must say that I’m looking forward to teaching my kids how to mow the lawn.  In my opinion it was the funniest chore…. of course my parents had to deal with my creativity (a large heart shape, once I learned how to adjust the height I did the lawn in a plaid pattern).  I also enjoyed being the only girl in the neighborhood that did it!  Even today my husband looks at me funny whenever I mow the lawn.  I’m kinda annoyed that it has become a “man only” job. 

    • I think that responsible parenting is subjective. While some kids who have not grown up with responsibility, mowing may be dangerous, but for kids who have grown up knowing that consequences don’t always come from parents, it’s completely acceptable. That boy looks to be 8 or so? My 9 year old is learning how to drive large farm machinery (with dad right next to her) while my 6 year old is learning how to shut down equipment in an emergency and can navigate a skid steer with no assitance (still with an adult right there, of course.) My 4 year old already knows that the work day isn’t done until everything is completed and can not only tell you everything the cows eat, but can point out all the danger spots on the farm, equipment and around the animals. They can each make their own meals and are very proud that they are important people in our family, not just because they are there, but because what they do matters. Sure, they have gotten scrapes and burns, but never any injuries as bad as those from riding a bike recklessly or doing irresponsible, mindless stuff that accounts for most emergency room visits.

  12. I certainly agree with this 100% and find myself failing on so many levels, either because of lack of time to train them, or becuase I’d rather do it myself and have it done right. Any tips on how a single parent such as myself can go about incorporating this into our family life? I know I also struggle with a lot of guilt and try to compensate by providing gifts for the kids and taking them places way more than is neccessary.

    • I’m copying a response from below – it may not be apples to apples, but the principles are still the same. Let us know if we can help further: 

      It is never too late to help a child learn that he is responsible for his life. You didn’t fail your son. You love him. You did what you knew how to do and you can still learn how to do more. The biggest thing is to let your child feel the weight of his choices. If he’s getting in trouble at school – let him deal with the school, not you. These are his grades, not yours. If he is leaving your house a mess, tell him you’ll confiscate the stuff he leaves out. It’s not about you, it’s about his stuff. If he doesn’t come home on time with the car, take the keys. If you pay for his insurance, let him know that when he pays for the car or insurance he can do whatever he wants with the car.
      He’ll likely work really hard as you give him more of his life to keep you feeling guilty or bad about it. You can just keep telling yourself and him, “This is not about me son, this is about helping you become responsible for your own life.”Your biggest two keys to doing more of this is to learn to not do stuff for your son that he can do for himself, and to not nag or get emotional with him when he keeps expecting you to take care of him.This is not to say you quit taking care of him altogether, but that you will do it on your terms and not on his. If after working on this you still feel stuck, you can visit our parent coaching page under the “Parent Help” to see if you might want to enlist our services.

    • The way I combat it, is make it fun! At an early age (my son was 2) they can put away their own toys.  He is now 3 1/2 and loves to take in my plates into the kitchen.  When they want to help (my son always comes in and says “Help you?”) I try and let him do something he can do, lets face it though some things they can’t (when I’m putting on makeup and he comes in and says “Help you”).  But he did go through a phase of making excuses and saying “I’m sick” to get out of doing what he already should be doing.  I turned it into a game, had music blasting and as long as the music is still going you keep cleaning, once it stops you have to freeze! Kinda like musical chairs.  You want your house cleaned before you go to bed, right?  My son knows that part of his going to bed routine is to pick up all his toys and books.  As for having it done right, at first I just let him put his toys away, but now I have to go in and check on if it is done properly.  If it’s not I explain why it isn’t proper and that he needs to either do it again or straighten it.  Some times I have to remind him as I ask him to do it (put away the shoes, properly.  I also notice that it helps when I ask them to do something that I say “please” and as soon as it is done properly say “thank you”.  This way he knows he isn’t being demanded but I think of him as an equal working member of the family and that I appreciate that he did it. He loves it when I remember to say “Thank you”.  On the harder days of “I don’t want to!” or “No!” days, he knows he still has to do it, I’ve notice that if I start it and ask him to finish it, he’s better, and once it’s done we do the “I did it Dance”  (I did it, I did it…. I DID IT) and he loves it and is excited that he actually did something!

        I don’t think you can go any place more then necessary as long as your interactive with your kids and not just kicking them out of the car and “appeasing them”.   I just recently read another article on “loosing a childhood” and how many kids are just wanting your eye contact and interaction and not another toy or gifs.  I recommend reading the 5 love languages… it’s interesting to see how each kid is differently… like my sister, all you had to say was “I love you” and tell her things and she felt loved and accepted.  My oldest brother had to be held or touched or cuddled, very physical (so is my son).  My other brother just wanted and needed quality time… once you realize what each child needs it’s so much easier to discipline and talk with them and even let them know they’re loved.  (I say discipline because for me growing up all my parent’s needed to say was “go to your room” or show they were disappointed and I was crushed… my brother on the other hand you could put hi in time out, take away gadgets, but the only thing that really got to him was grounding him from friends).   Good luck, I know it’s hard, if not a lot of hard work!  

      • The Five Love Languages people just came out with a kids book “A Perfect Pet for Peyton”. My daughter LOVES it and it’s great for teaching kids (and parents) about the five love languages.

    • Thank you for the helpful tips and encouragement! My childrens salvattion is more important to me than anything else in this world. And reminding myself that I am raising adults not children helps to keep focused. It is hard work but the payoff is so great and when physical and emotional weariness start to take over I remind myself that God in His infinite wisdom is never going to give me more than I can handle and I start viewing myself as His warrior princess! Lol, super heroes can motivate girls just like they do boys!

  13.   I am PROUD to say that my 13 year old can cook, clean, and take care
    of her younger brother- maybe not quite as well as her father and I, but
    infinitely better than most older teens/ young adults! We have taught
    her to contribute to the household, and since she can’t contribute
    financially, she contributes through other ways – such as cleaning and
    doing laundry (she does almost all of her personal laundry!)

  14. Thank you for this article..! I sometimes feel bad for making my daughter do her “chores”. This really helps that guilt fade, for I know that it does instill great value in the home. My parents did a great job at keeping us accountable, and making us valuable to the family. Absolutely positively agree with you!! <3 Pinned it, Facebooked it, and Tweeted it!!

  15. This was a great article and much needed for parents to hear, as many parents think they are doing the right thing or don’t know how to change . I would also like to mention that when you work Alongside your child you build fellowship and camaraderie. While at the same time instilling the values and character that you want in your child. Also the feeling of being needed has been shown to increase a child’s confidence.

  16. Children have to be taught by adult action…and that comes when the child actually “sees” the parent “doing” what he/she is teaching. Count the hours parent is on computer, games, texting, blogging, watching tv vs time interacting one-on-one with child to “teach.” Any wonder we are having children so dependant on mom, dad, grandparents. . . .        Justice anyway you want….we reap what we sow!

    • Glad you added this! It is true that if we legislate without exemplifying we’re missing the connection needed to truly influence our children’s values.

  17. Great post!  I love the idea of “blessed to be a blessing.” I am a grandma now, I have raised seven children (over a twenty year spread), and I have lived long enough to see the changes in society and the attitude and quality of work that has resulted. It is true that little children used to work as part of the family unit, and still is the case in many agrarian communities.  Most often this work was shared work, working along side parents until a child could do adult level work; typically about puberty.  In working along side a parent in family work, parents were able to take advantage of teaching moments.  When parents work along side a child they can model the habits of work and how each task plays out in the system. Parents can model-  priorities, staying on task, quality work, details, finishing, as well as, habitudes of cheerfulness, gratitude, respect, and accountability.  In some families, due to hardship, children of younger ages carried out work alone. 

    I have noticed that families that participate in family work, helping each other they seem to have a more cheerful attitude about work and seem much more adept at looking for ways they can be helpful. Family work seems to be a spine or structure on which their family culture is built.

    I have also noticed that many children who were just assigned chores and have to work in isolation, form a elementary age, or even pre elementary age, tend do avoid work when they can. They become task oriented, but do not seem to know how systems work, or how to create a system to orchestrate care for a home.  They also do not seem to be good team players. A common attitude I have seen is “Good Enough.” I feel that stems from, “what do I need to do to satisfy mom, or what is the least I can do to get mom off my back?” The parental response?  Parents “pay” their children with privileges like TV Time, Computer time, money, etc.  They say after all dad gets paid to work.  This is their work. But mom and dad do not get paid to work in the family.  Where do children that are paid to do chores learn how to serve others? When pay no longer works, parents tend to withhold privileges, ground, threaten or otherwise punish. I also see a feeling of isolation in the the children.

    Many parents struggle to get their children to clean their room.  An adult mind can think in an orderly and organized fashion.  While no task in a bedroom is too difficult, often the problem is “where do I start?”  Many children can be overwhelmed by caring for too much stuff. Each time the room is a mess it is a different equation to solve, it can be very difficult. Too often the parents cleaned the child’s room themselves until one day they say, “you are big enough, you do it.” Parents rarely think about how cleaning a room is not something you are born with…it is something you are either trained to do, or some kids eventually figure out as the organization area of their brain develops. Hint: Having a systematic, daily routine for family work, can help brain development too!

    I started out naturally doing family work, because that is how I was raised. My mom had been raised on a farm.  I have sense spoken with people of that age group from other areas of the country and it was true for them as well. Then a friend influenced me to get my children on a chore cycle.  We did chores for 20 years. I have known friends up my children caught in this power struggle.  They were full willing to spend most of Saturday in their room, rather than do a chore that would take less than 10 minutes.  In 2003, I switched back to family work. Whew!  I am glad I did.  It is not entitlement promoting.  It is not hovering.  It is learning to work together.  Yes, they do grow up, and when they do they are more capable, their attitudes for work are great.  There does not seem to be a generation gap.  Why?  Because while working together children can be listened to and this conveys “You are valued, your ideas are valued.” Relationships are forged.  Character is developed.  Skills can be learned. I love Family Work!

    • This is a blog post on its own! Love your personal point of view/experience on it with your children. What you said is something this post is missing.. The part where is *family work* not to just send them off to do their chores but work together as a family. I am a first time mommy with a soon-to-be 4 month old, and I’m sure glad I scrolled down to the comment section and read your reply. This is something I will definitely be using in the near future as my son grows and with my future children. Thank you.

  18. When I was 10 years old, I started mowing lawns. I did this until I went to college as a way to earn my own money. I had to save half of what I earned. I also, when I was 14, had a select amount of my own money and an amount of money from my parents that would go toward clothing and had to learn to budget that money and buy my own clothes. Both experiences helped me throughout my life as I was given responsibility early on and learned the value of hard work and money. I’ve always had a strong work ethic  and have never feared getting a job or making my own way in the world. I think it is important to pass those types of values and lessons on to my own children. I had friends in college that were terrified upon graduation because the thought of earning money for themselves intimidated them. My children are young (2.5 and 1), but my toddler already cleans his room up himself every evening. Plus, we teach him the value of taking care of the world around him. I shared about this in a post earlier this year – http://jennifischer.blogspot.com/2012/03/cesar-chavez-andthanksgiving.html. Great article. 

    • My mom and dad did this with my brother–they made him save half of what he earned too. I don’t recall being made to save my money, but my mom did teach me about budgeting and balancing your funds at an early age. So if I wanted something that cost more than what I had, I could either a) save for it or b) put it on a lay-away or c) if it was something that might be available for a limited time, my mother would put up half of it and then I would usually have to pay her back.

  19. I’ve wrote very similar blog posts to this one as well!!! I get a lot of slack because I refuse
    “to do” for my kids and instead give them chores and expect them to act respectful and with manners at all times whether they are at home or out in public. http://www.tidbitsofexperience.com

    • Your child’s teachers will love you for teaching them personal responsibility. Believe me, as a teacher, I love parents who actually parent. 🙂

  20. I love the idea of letting my kids know how their contribution helped the bigger picture for everyone.  I am good at giving my kids responsibilities, but I haven’t quite reflected it in that way.  

  21. This is a great post. My parents taught me to take pride in my work and had us start chores at a young age if we wanted allowance. It baffles me how many kids today don’t even show an ounce of respect to anyone but themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have been literally pushed aside from walking inside a public door, 4 months pregnant with a 1-year-old in a stroller, by teenage kids and their noisy friends. Ugh!

    • Thanks for the input! We’d be honored if you pass this post and others to your network of moms! We’re doing all we can to help turn the tide of insensitive and disrespectful kids. We need the help of people like you! Let us know too how we could promote your moms to moms work!

  22. Thank you for the article. As a mom of a large familyl, I couldn’t agree more! This has been our philosophy. If we didn’t have jobs for the children to do, we created them. As a result, the children learned how to work hard and felt a sense of accomplishment, taking pride in what they had done.

  23. The child in this picture is too young to be mowing the lawn by himself. A ten year old is too young to understand machine safety, and is too small to maneuver equipment that is bigger and heavier than he is. A five year old is not capable of preparing a meal. While the general concept of this article is on point, the application is woefully lacking. Parents need to be aware of stages of development and assign tasks that are in keeping with their level of development and physical and cognitive abilities.I also believe the parent needs to be doing the task alongside the child and modeling what is expected of the child. If you assign them tasks that are beyond them, you are setting them up for failure, and you will end up with kids who don’t want to do or attempt anything.

    • As a guy who fixed my own meals at age 6, and mowed the lawn at age 9, I beg to differ. I was taught well, and monitored well. I was given these jobs in the context of close relationships, where working together and parent modeling was the norm.

    • What is the difference between the children 100 years ago that were working on the family farm and the children today? The parents! So many parents say their children “can’t” do this or they are “too little” to do that. Have you taught them? Have you taken the time out of their day to show them the safe way to do things? I’m not saying let a 6 year old take the family car out onto the freeway, but there is no reason a 10 year old, who is of sufficient size, can’t push a lawn mower. My oldest daughter started push mowing at 9. My younger one may have to wait a bit beyond 9 because she is very petite. YOU are the one stopping your child from doing harder tasks.

    • are you seriously saying that a 5y.o. cannot fix a bowl of cereal? make toast (probably with supervision, depending on the child)?

      • Yeah, I was definitely doing way more than that at five. Not because I HAD too (I mean, mom wasn’t going to let me starve) but because I wanted to. I recall her letting me pour apple juice at a very young age (I must have been about three) because I dropped it and it spilled everywhere and she didn’t fuss but just said “Next time, you’ll do it better.” She definitely believed in letting me learn things hands on and the sooner the better when it came to chores and stuff. 🙂

    • When I was 7 my mom got pregnant with my youngest brother and had some very severe health problems that required her to be on bed rest for 4-5 months of the pregnancy. One night we had no one to make dinner and she couldn’t stand long enough to do it, so I pulled a chair to the kitchen counter (so I could reach), and followed her directions one-by-one to make dinner – baked chicken and all. Even now – 20 years later – I remember feeling a huge sense of accomplishment and pride in my work. I also was doing the family’s laundry myself and making lunches for my (other) brother every day (granted, he was forced to eat PB&Js for 5 months, haha). All that to say – if a 7-year-old can make baked chicken, I think a 5-year-old can fix a bowl of cereal.

      • When I was seven, my mom got the flu and my dad was working long hours at a construction plant during the day, so I “took care” of my mom when my dad couldn’t (sometimes my grandmother would come over and help, but they didn’t live close by so it wasn’t a daily thing). I distinctly recall making sandwiches for myself and for her, and drawing her pictures to “brighten up the room.” At seven, I was old enough to see a need, determine what needed to be done, and to do it.

    • More dangerous than telling a child–or anyone, old or young–that they don’t -have- to do something is telling them that they -can’t-. Being severely underweight my whole life, my parents often threw around that “C” word when they feared for my physical safety. Concern for safety is one thing–but not taking the time to realize each individual child’s potential strengths & weaknesses, then applying them to everyday feats, sets them up for failure more than anything else.

      Moreover, even though I was really little as a kid, my folks let me make my own dinner since before kindergarten (they both worked 60+ hours a week for most of my life), I’d help my father change the oil in our cars, work on my own bikes, etc. My daughter is only an infant right now, but I look forward to having her help me making food and working on bikes–and her dad looks forward to having her help work on cars–as soon as she shows an interest. All kids like to help out. It’s figuring out how to include them in ways that are safe, applicable, and not-condescending.

  24. I don’t like the line about “sitting in your easy chair while a child works.” In most families, a parent works all day AND does more things around the house when they are off of work. There is a time to rest and a time to work. As long as the child sees you working around the house on a regular basis, it’s fine if he or she also sees you sitting down.

    • Julie – agreed! This line was only to illustrate that if kids feel used becasue we lounge while they work, then we’re potentially sending a message not that they are a blessing, but they they are enslaved. So we’re asking parents to be mindful of this.

  25. As an Early Childhood educator, your article struck a cord that I see on a daily basis. I often feel that the parents just don’t get it! So my teaching team and I made a conscious decision to teach the children (5 year olds) in our care, life skills, that includes manners, empathy,morals and unselfishness. Parents often comment that they see such a difference in their children in just a matter of weeks. This tells us that children want and need to be taught consciousness of others and to think of others before themselves. As your article stated, we “use” to be taught this way. It starts in the home. The very fiber of society depends on it.

  26. Sweeping generalization much? Every generation says “oh my, kids these days”. Really, there was a generation of kids that just naturally said “please and thank you”? Come on. Once upon a time we lived in agrarian societies where the labor of kids on a farm was necessary and useful. Now they are sadly priceless emotionally but an economic liability. No one disputes that kids need responsibilities. But let’s not pretend that this is just some strange phenomenon that rears its head in a vacuum because of poor parenting.

    • Not a sweeping generalization. A research born fact. As a group, American kids feel less responsible for their lives and their world than at any time in history. Parents who work to combat this raise kids who feel responsible. Parents who don’t, dont.

  27. Something I’ve noticed is that many kids, not all of course, take cues from their very busy parents and use the busyness as an excuse/reason to not have time to help the family. We had only two kids, but are blessed with 10 grandkids. When our kids were younger Saturday was the house /yard day. If dad and I did all the work it often lasted all day. We couldn’t do a fun family thing until the work was done because during the week we did the minimum. It didn’t take long for the kiddos to figure out four people doing the work cut the time in half and so then there was day left for something fun. From time to time actions really do speak louder than words.

  28. I like your post but can’t breast to think that you believe children are sinful by nature. I think they are ego centric by nature..not selfish. Those are two different words. Children are curious in nature…. Not sinful.

      • We wondered about the word choice – so glad you clarified. About the sin. It is our belief that every human is born at the core more inclined toward self than toward others. Life is all about me. Left to it’s own devices, this core will go astray every time. We believe that kids whose parents are not thoughtful and graceful about how they teach and train their kids will reinforce this inclination to self; that only through effective teaching and training do we learn that there is a far greater purpose and benefit than to serve self.

  29. This is a really, really good article! I find that in my own life, and in the lives of many of my friends, our parents didn’t take the time to teach us how to do things because it was an inconvenience to them. They didn’t think we could clean it as well as they would, and they didn’t want to stop to be bothered with the time and stress of teaching something to us. As a result, lack of character and irresponsibility is bred. As an adult with four children now, I can now try to correct my own tendency to “just do it myself” rather than taking the time to teach, train and then supervise and re-teach/re-train to achieve a desired result. Whether the parents’ motive is simply one of laziness, or that of spoiling the child, the result is a child who becomes lazy and has more emotional problems as an adult. You simply FEEL GOOD when you do a good job and work. 🙂

    • Sin is the word our faith tradition uses to teach the notion that every human is born at the core more inclined toward self than toward others. We believe that kids whose parents are not thoughtful and graceful about how they teach and train their kids will reinforce this inclination to self. We believe that a person’s sin creates separation from God and God’s ultimate purposes. This sin must understood and confessed in order to most fully live in God’s purposes.

  30. I’m loving this article. I’m often appalled by the lack of responsibility given to children/teens and I see the effects all over. Not to long ago I was teaching an 8 year old family member how to make pasta (just premade sauce and noodles). All she had to do was stir the sauce on low heat. Her mom *freaked* when she found out; telling me how dangerous it was of me to help her daughter stir sauce on an electric stove. Never mind that when I was 8 this same woman expected me to watch her other children and cook for them while home alone. I did great and I grew up to be very responsible. What I’m saying is that children have the capacity to be extremely responsible from any age if they are simply taught and encouraged. Don’t underestimate your children; with enough love and practice, you will be amazed at what your children will accomplish!

    • I once had a grown woman ask me to help her cut up an apple for her child because she had never sliced a piece of fruit in her life before (the woman, not the child). I’m assuming its because she never had to, because I’m sure she had eaten sliced apples before. She also didn’t know how to do any chores at all, but I’m glad to say she was a good sport about it and learned–and now she is an excellent mother. 🙂

  31. While I agree with the argument and the message, I refuse to speak of children’s “sinful nature”. Kids are selfish- that’s natural. No child is sinful.

    • Anna – we understand this perspective but we disagree. As we see it, sin and selfishness are at the core of humans, right alongside the image of God we bear as his creation. The journey of life is to sort out which is which and be set free from sin by confessing it and turning away from our selfishness toward an intentional relationship with God. This is how we live in the fullness of what God created us to be and do.

  32. Jesus was the greatest servant of all. He is our example and we should mirror this in our personal lives as examples to our children. They learn more from watching our example than listening to us preach at them. If we serve joyfully we help to train them to do the same also. Of course the world says ‘it’s all about me’. They have dropped God out of the equation…that’s why the world is in one huge mess! Great article.

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