The “I Want” Problem

>>Toddler throwing a tantrumIf I hear “I want” one more time this summer, I may scream.

Over the last few months, I have become painfully aware of just how many times a day my children demand things. From snacks to toys to screen time, it seems like they are always asking for things.

We now have running Christmas and birthday wish lists for each child. It seems like a child tells me every single day, “I am going to get this for my birthday.” Or,  “Santa is going to bring this for me.”

And don’t dare try to go into Target with my children and not expect to come out with a toy. Somehow they have gotten the idea that because there are toys there, we should always come home with at least one. In fairness, I say “no” a decent amount, but the screaming fits that ensue are painful for other Target shoppers.

We’ve worked on the correct way to ask for things, like saying please and waiting patiently. I think I am pretty close to convincing them that I actually can’t hear statements that are spoken like commands. We write thank you notes for gifts (most of the time) so we’re making progress there – in being polite and using basic manners.

But I realize there is a deeper issue here as well. My kids already feel like they deserve material things and non-essential things, just for existing.

They feel entitled.

And that terrifies me.

Like all parents, I want my kids to have the things they need, and I want them to have fun experiences with friends while they learn and grow.

But, I also want them to be grateful. I want them to understand that they are citizens of the community. I want them to understand that there are many without the opportunities they have and to be motivated to help those in need.

My kids are still young; my oldest is just 6, but I think now is the time to reinforce and enforce these important values. I don’t want to wake up one day and have a teenager who just expects to wake up to a car on his 16th birthday or who wants one of those MTV-esque “Sweet 16” parties.

This realization had been another powerful reminder to me that we are entering a new phase of parenting. We are finished with potty training (thank goodness), but now we have to focus on some of the bigger life issues.

There are some changes happening in our house. Chores are first on the agenda. It’s probably past time for those, but both kids are now old enough to complete simple tasks. Since I’m lousy at charts, stickers and anything crafty, we’re starting to use >>ChoreMonster to add some accountability for the kids and the parents.

I’m also looking for ways to get my kids involved in a few simple community service projects. As a family, we’ve collected toys for Christmas Boxes, Easter baskets, and Toys for Tots. Now I’m hoping to add in a few projects on which the kids can take the lead. I’ve gotten lots of ideas and inspiration from >>Start a Snowball, which actually gives grants to help kids become philanthropists. The nonprofit was started by a mom right here in the Triangle, and their website has lots of resources and ideas.

I’m getting excited about this new adventure and the benefits it will bring to our family. The good news is that my kids are already kind-hearted and genuinely enjoy doing nice things for others. Can’t wait to tap into their energy to learn some great life lessons.

>>Sara LangSara Lang has worked in North Carolina politics at the state, federal, and local levels for more than 15 years. A communications consultant, she lives in Cary with her husband, two young children, and a pampered dog.

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