When Helping Is Hurting: What NOT to Do for Your Kids

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What parents don’t want the best for their children? We want them to be happy. We want them to be admired by others. We want them to be successful. But, here’s the rub. In a genuine effort to help our kids be happy and successful, sometimes we do things that actually work against our objectives.

From a parenting perspective, consider this scenario:

Say two-year old Joey is hungry. Mom says, “Joey, do you want a banana or some grapes?” But Joey doesn’t want a banana or grapes. Joey wants a cookie. Mom tells Joey he needs to eat what is offered to him. He pitches a fit. So, Mom sends Dad out to the store to buy cookies. Mom and Dad are happy because Joey’s happy. Everybody’s happy, right? Wrong.

If this style of parenting continues throughout Joey’s life, as it does for many, what do you think Joey will grow up thinking? How about:

  • He will always have choices
  • His happiness and satisfaction should be priorities to the people around him
  • He doesn’t have to comply with what he is told to do
  • Mom will always advocate for him to get his way and come out on top
  • Other people are there to serve him, not the other way around

Granted, this scenario is overly simplistic, but here’s the point I want to make: Out of our desire to provide the best for our children (and keep them happy), some of our parenting methods may be contributing to their perception that the world revolves around them. (If this is the case, they’re in for a rude awakening when they leave home and find that the world owes them nothing. And this is exactly what is happening—in astronomical proportions. The entitlement mentality isn’t happening by accident! (And it’s precisely why the first chapter of our book, Parenting for the Launch, is entitled “Give Them Wings, Not Strings!”)

Here are some other ways we see this in action:

  • Parents doing their children’s homework, chores, etc. (easier than fighting about it)
  • Parents defending their children’s unacceptable behavior in meetings with teachers
  • Parents complaining to and threatening educators, coaches, and even employers when their children aren’t receiving their desired rewards/playing time
  • Parents whose lives and schedules are dominated by their children’s activities and wants
  • Children, teens and young adults who don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls or show respect to others
  • Children and adolescents who expect teachers and employers to accommodate them instead of the other way around

Entitlement is what we call this attitude…this sense that other people owe us something—that we are deserving, regardless of whether we have done anything to earn it. As a result, children feel entitled to get their way, viewing rules as arbitrary and voluntary, their needs as paramount, and other people as existing to serve them. And often parents, unwittingly, can be the ones cultivating this mindset.

If we want to give our kids wings to soar, we can’t coddle or cave in to them. If we’ve been doing it up to this point (as revealed in our children’s behavior), we need to turn it around fast, before they head into the real world! We can’t set our kids up as the center of our universe and let them think the planets revolve around them. It may seem a short-term solution when they’re pitching a fit as a two-year old, or even as an immature teenager. But in the long run, it will come back to bite us—and them.

Image Credit

Arlyn Lawrence is the co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, and What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead (available as a leadership and life skills curriculum for teens in standard and Christian editions). Arlyn is the mother of five grown children and grandmother of two. She and co-author Dennis Trittin speak and provide resources for parents, teens, educators, and mentors about building “life literacy” in children and young adults. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter!