In our role as parent coaches and educators, we hear it all the time: “One of my kids just doesn’t seem to get it!” Parents go on to describe the child in their home who frequently resists and escapes chores and assigned tasks in spite of all the clear instructions. They then tell us that, in contrast, the other kids in their family seem to be mostly compliant.
Resentment builds as these kids become increasingly aware of the comparison between themselves and (what they perceive to be) their favored siblings. Discouragement settles in as distraction, resistance, and conflict grow.
What recent brain science is helping us understand more clearly is that often the kids who fit the above description are not naturally more rebellious, defiant, or disobedient. Rather, they naturally have lower levels of the neurotransmitter chemical called dopamine. This predisposes them to more intensely chase pleasurable distractions of all kinds. Their need for this chemical is what’s often behind their distraction, and when you call them back to routine chores they cry, “I don’t wanna do it!”. (Read more about dopamine’s role in ADHD)
WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
Did you know you may inadvertently be dealing “drugs” to your children?
Dopamine has been called the brain’s “pleasure chemical.” It is released when pleasure is experienced. It creates healthy motivation to pursue various life-giving pleasures such as accomplishing a goal, taking on a new challenge, or connecting with others in meaningful ways.
According to Amy Banks MD, in an ideal world dopamine bursts would happen primarily through pursuit of healthy, life-giving activities – particularly through nurturing human connection. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has many of us seeking dopamine in all the wrong places, like overeating and obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and consumerism.
Related to dynamics with our kids, it starts out innocently enough. When you smile and give your child that thing they are SO excited about and you get a big hug – Shazam! a dopamine feast for both of you! It felt so good. Let’s do it again. And you do it again. And they do it again.
And pretty soon contentment becomes dependent on dopamine bursts.
Your kids are watching you. Constantly. All the subtle messages from the way you live life are being absorbed by their active little minds, even if neither you nor your child are aware of it. During the summer months, there are more chances for together time, as well as opportunities for you to show your kids the kinds of values you hope they will embrace. How you do vacations is no exception. Family vacations can be memorable and deepen relationships with one another. They can also be a wonderful opportunity to teach principles that will help your kids grow in wisdom. Before you plan your summer trip consider being thoughtful about the messages you are sending your child regarding how you vacation.
What is the purpose of your vacation?
In our hectic society, it is easy to either skip vacations because we can’t carve out the time, or collapse in an over-priced luxurious spot just to have rest and ready-made entertainment. But…
Entitlement. If we mention the “E-word” in one of our workshops there are audible groans and eye-rolling. Parents are overwhelmed by this complex problem which seems to be spiraling out of control.
Last year we surveyed parents about their top felt needs, and they were begging for help with the entitlement in their homes. Another indicator? Year after year, articles we’ve written about entitlement are consistently in the top five of highest page views.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how seemingly “entitled” your kids are, you are not alone!!
We responded to this need. As we were developing our newest online course on entitlement we surveyed our Insider’s Team. The results of this survey helped us identify the top causes for the growing problem of entitlement in homes and helped us shape our course.
Starting with number three….
3) Persistent kids that wear down parents with their demands.
“This is stupid! Why do I have so many chores! This is your job, Mom! And when can I get a phone? Everyone else in my grade has one. Why don’t I?” Sound familiar?
You don’t want entitled children, but you’re wondering how you got here and how to get out!
If helping your kids get past this sense of entitlement was a simple script or three easy steps, there would be far fewer entitled kids. We have found in our 20 plus years of working with parents that this is a rapidly growing problem – and it is not just a surface issue.
“I want it! Can I have it? I want it NOW!”
Regardless of how articulate your teen or toddler may be, most parents are familiar with variations of this demand. When we hear this from our kids we’re inclined to quickly pronounce, “No!” and the fight or flight game is on. The two options we’ve given our kids are to 1) give in or 2) dig in and fight. When our kids give in, it’s not because they understand our logic or reasoning, it’s because they know they can’t win the fight. More often, however, they dig in and the power struggle intensifies.
The truth is, whether kids give in or not, simply pronouncing “No!” misses a great opportunity to help a child learn responsibility and wisdom, and our quick, firm refusal may also provoke an even stronger compulsion to get stuff as a way of feeling significant.
So consider this approach instead:
From sports, to music, to theater and more….our kids have an endless supply of excellent extra-curricular activities at their fingertips. More than at any time in history! With this abundance, kids easily become a little (or a lot) self-focused and inclined to develop the dreaded “Entitlement” mentality unless we have been thoughtful and diligent to combat it.
Warding off the entitlement bug requires being very intentional about participation in extracurriculars, and how to guide your kids to feel more grateful and less entitled.
The first issue to address is about the “why?” – why do we participate in these activities? The answer to this question is the basis for cultivating either a sense of entitlement or a sense of gratitude and grand purpose. The answers might range anywhere from, “So I can develop good skills for life.” Or, “So I can fit in with other kids.” Or, “So I can get a college scholarship.” Each of these “why’s?” is common, but you’ll notice that each is self-focused.
We are so honored to serve you and equip you in your parenting journey. Thank you for trusting us! We always welcome your feedback and stories from how you are integrating our resources into your family. We pray there is a little something for all of you to challenge and encourage you every time you read our content.
Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of 2016!*
10. Don’t Punish Your Child’s Nervous System – Understand It!
9. Can Family Meetings Really Work?
8. 12 Misbehaviors and the God-Given Gifts Behind Them
7. An Open Letter to the Cincinnati Zoo Mom
6. How I Got My Kids to Obey Immediately…and Why I Stopped
5. When Kids Want it NOW!
4. The New Problem of Entitlement
3. Restitution Consequences
2. Your Kids: Responsible or Spoiled?
1. How a Pipecleaner Can Stop Your Child’s Meltdowns!
*In descending order, based on number of page views on our website.
One former NFL player, James Harrison, sent out an Instagram message regarding his two sons receiving “participation trophies” even though they didn’t win anything.
Harrison, the youngest of 14 kids and a two-time Super Bowl winner himself, struck a chord with many who believe that trophies should be given to those who “earned” them and not simply to those who “tried their best”.
We can hardly believe it’s 2015 already! Before we dive into a year of new blog posts, we thought we’d dwell for just a moment on some of your favorites from 2014. Here are the ten most-clicked parenting tips of 2014.
P.S. If you know a friend or relative who might benefit from some Connected Families insights, this would be a GREAT post to share with them!