When we go out to eat at a restaurant, we kinda make a scene…but not the kind you might imagine for a family of nine. No one is climbing on the table or punching the person next to him. We expect all of our kids to place their own orders – with manners – and to help each other out. When the food comes, we insist each kid says, “Thank you,” and usually it’s just The Littles that need to be reminded. You’ll see our 13-year old cutting food for our 3-year old and our 10-year old helping our 5-year old figure out her straw. If a little kid needs to go to the restroom, a big kid takes him/her. I’m not saying it’s perfect. Or clean! But the scene is a lot of small people helping out and being respectful.
Just about every time we go out, someone remarks about how many kids we have AND how well-behaved they are. One time a couple was so impressed they paid for our whole meal! That left a big impact on all of us, and we talked about how cool it would be if when our kids grow up, they could each pay it forward to another family too.
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.” Proverbs 29:17
I recently read this online: “Undisciplined toddlers become obnoxious children who grow into spoiled teenagers and entitled adults.” I immediately recognized it as the progression I am trying to fight every day; I do not want my children to turn into another bunch of entitled adults. So when I feel lazy – like NOT following through with a consequence – I try to imagine how that behavior would look a few years down the road and remind myself that it’s worth the effort now!
So today I thought I’d tell you some things we do that seem to help:
- Say what you mean, mean what you say: If you’re not *actually asking* then don’t ask. Tell them what to do. For example, “Do you want to come put your shoes on?” should be, “It’s time to go. Please put your shoes on.” (Unless you’re actually curious if they want to??) Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one (Matthew 5:37). Be clear. Be consistent.
- Set high expectations for words: If I call a kid in the house, I expect him/her to say “Yes?” or “Coming!” (not “Huh?” or “Yeah?”). And as a sign of mutual respect, I do the same to them (and to my husband). Also, if we say “No” to something they’ve asked for or want to do, they cannot respond by asking “Why?” (or show any form of pouting/sighing). They can say “Ok” and then know we will talk about the “why” later.
- Follow through EVERY TIME so they know you mean it. I know this is exhausting, but it. is. worth it! Once I told the kids that I was going to vacuum the playroom in 5 minutes and that anything left on the floor would go to the Goodwill. When the timer ended, I made them watch me bag up a pile of Legos that was left behind and we all took them to the thrift store to make a point. Because of this repetition and consistency, our kids believe us when we say something will or won’t happen….and that REALLY matters when you’re talking about teenagers!! For example, this morning our 13-year old was *this close* to an eye-roll and I said, “Be careful with your face or you will not go to your basketball tournament this weekend.” She gulped and straightened up because she knew I meant it!
- Hold a Reset Meeting: anytime the kids are taking a little bit longer to respond, seem to be forgetting some of their chores, or have just a touch of attitude in their tone, we have a reset meeting where everyone loses privileges for a couple days until they can show their best behavior and earn back screen time, playdates, etc.
Setting all these rules sounds strict and maybe even “mean” to some people. But those who know us recognize that the boundaries and consequences actually allow for a lot of fun and joy in the space that could be filled with nagging and complaining! We enjoy being around each other (most of the time)! We have family game night every Sunday, we read and cook and travel together, and we intentionally have one-on-one time with each of our kids.
I believe that we can raise our children to become unentitled adults, and in order to decrease their sense of entitlement, we should set high expectations for them. They can help more around the house, be kind to their siblings, communicate respectfully, and express more gratitude for the things they already have. If we, as parents, can provide consistent consequences, our kids will know that we mean what we say (and that we love them!). So let’s start a movement toward raising unentitled adults!
Andrea and her husband have been married since 2004 and they have 7 kids. She was a child/teen therapist for 5 years, then did in-home daycare for 5 years, and now has been home with “just” her kids for 5 years. She loves to host marriage small groups and gatherings for friends, read, and go on walks. Her family has done medical mission work in a remote village in Nigeria where her father-in-law was born and raised.