Our culture cultivates an entitlement mindset. In the name of equality and fairness, children receive awards for showing up, rather than for the accomplishment. Children are promoted through grades to remain with peers, not because of mastery or readiness to learn new knowledge.
To learn money management, children receive allowances they did not earn. Children are confused by adults that cannot distinguish the difference between equality and fairness. As a result, many feel that whatever someone else has earned they are entitled to, regardless of consequences.
The intentions that led to creating this mindset were probably good, but those intentions seem to have backfired and may have contributed to entitlement thinking.
Let's face it, "Life is not fair," so, get over it.
A large problem comes from thinking that fairness and equality are synonymous. They are not. Yet, this confusion is taught to children in the schools, scouting programs, and sports. That which is equal is often not necessarily fair. We could all eat the same diet, regardless of size, health, and caloric expenditure. Prison camps did that. So did orphanages and breadlines. Each person got the same, even though needs were different. That would be equal, but not fair. What if we let everyone eat according to their needs? That would be fair, but not equal. That which is fair is often not equal.
What about in performance or production? Why put yourself out if you are rewarded the same? We try to make education equal by placing children together by age. Yet, children the same age develop at different rates. Though this may seem equal, it is not fair. It is not fair to the child who is developmentally ready to move on before the the group is ready to move on. It is not fair to the children who are moved forward (due to their age), who are not yet developmentally ready for the material, the pace, or the expectations. Equal here, is not only not fair, but can be damaging.
Our constitution speaks of being born equal. What does that mean? We are equal in our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This does not guarantee an equal life or equal outcomes.
So why do we hamstring children by on insisting on teach them that equality is defined as fairness, and that this means equal outcomes? Schools and youth organizations are very entrenched in this philosophy. This can lead to entitlement thinking. In the real world, employers reward employees with continued employment, raises, position for productivity. Yet, schools do not help prepare children to function in this real world when their focus is this fairness/ equality false narrative conundrum. Born equal and equal rights, speaks to opportunity, not outcomes. So what can parents do?
What mechanisms in the home can lead to the entitlement mindset? How do allowances contribute to the entitlement mindset? Many parents want to teach young children money management by giving them allowances. Some tie the work to chores, treating children like adult employees. But children are not adults and not employees. they need training. And when we pay them, they work for themselves. If the pay is not enough incentive, they do not work. They feel entitled to choose and the chore wars often ensue. Some parents give allowances with no work attached. Unintended lessons often follow. This can send the message that others owe you things you did not earn. In other words, others owe it to you. Also, do children really learn to manage or spend? With many children the lesson is that they get and spend. How does this teach a healthy relationship with money? How does this teach money management?
What is the remedy? How do we help our children not have an entitlement mindset? The remedy for entitlement thinking is cultivating a serving heart. Ask not what your family can do for you; but what you can do for your family, village or country! A serving heart is created in the forge of the home. Creating a serving heart is a real and vital part of a child's education, and takes the focus off what themselves and places their focus on others.
Christmas is a great time to cultivate a serving heart. Here are some ways to develop a serving heart through Christmas traditions.
1. While many are placing the Elf on the Shelf, some are busy filling the manger. Placing an Elf on the Shelf may motivate some children to behave. Yet, it only works on actions not motivations. Filling the manger is placing straw in the manger for each act of anonymous service. Simply print off a little note that says, "Merry Christmas, you have been served!" Make several copies. Place the papers in a bowl next to the manger. Explain to the children that the family will be doing secret service. Each time they do a secret service they leave a note. The person that finds the note, places a piece of straw in the manger. Then the note is returned to the bowl.
2. Shared reading of classic Christmas tales can help focus the family's mind on service. Some books to consider: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. Many of the stories in our "A Classic Christmas Devotional also treach service, such as the excerpt from Little Women by Louisa may Alcott or The Elves and the Shoemaker by Hans Christian Andersen.
3. My mother-in-law, a divorced mother, raised four children alone. Often struggling financially herself, always found a family to bless at Christmas. We have carried this tradition on with our children. Some years have been very lean, but we have found someone we could bless.
4. Other families open their doors to neighbor children for activities like making a gingerbread house or Christmas presents with them while their parents go shopping.
In future articles, I will discuss ideas for a serving heart throughout the year. Serving traditions enrich Christmas. Merry Christmas! May your family find joy in serving!
Enjoy the Journey!