Raising grateful kids in an entitled world can be downright challenging at times. Kristen Welch tells how her family is trying to break the mold of entitlement to raise grounded, grateful kids.
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There comes a time when every parent is smacked in the face with it – the ingratitude, the entitlement, the sense that even though the world has been handed to your kids, it’s still not enough.
For Kristen Welch and her husband Terrell, those attitudes surfaced during a cherished annual family outing: the Houston Livestock Show.
Each year the Welch family drives down to Houston to attend the show – the biggest indoor rodeo in the United States. But this year was a little different. This year, the Welches decided it was time to buy their three kids cowboy boots at the show – an expensive and somewhat extravagant purchase, but a Texas rite of passage nonetheless.
The day had been fun – there were treats and games and most of all cowboy boots.
But once the Welches headed for home, complaints and ungrateful remarks were heard from the backseat. One of their kids had been showing signs of entitlement for weeks and this attitude was flaring up again. Their family outing had been a splurge from the beginning but apparently wasn’t enough.
Warnings had been given but the complaining didn’t stop.
Terrell had enough. “That’s it. When we get home, I want you to pack your boots back in the box.” he said. The plan was to return the boots to a local shoe store.
How to Raise Grateful Kids in an Entitled World
The title of Kristen Welch’s book “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World” sounds like the typical how-to parenting book. Do this, and your kids will be like that.
But Welch’s ability to tell stories, stories of her own life and others, pulls the reader in, exposing Welch’s failures, mistakes, and successes.
We’re right there with her as she wrestles with her decision not to allow her kids to have smartphones until high school. And cringe as a special family outing is cut short after escalating quarreling and ingratitude don’t stop.
The tone of Welch’s book feels more like chatting with a close friend than advice from an expert. The successes the Welch family has experienced are both insightful and inspirational and their challenges help us feel we’re not alone.
And while Welch’s book is chock full of research and lessons learned from other parents, there’s no doubt where Welch’s real source of inspiration lies – in her Christianity. God and Jesus are mentioned nearly every other sentence in the book.
For some readers, this blatant Christian message will be inspiring. But even if you’re not Christian or even religious, don’t write this book off – it’s still loaded with great advice on how to raise grounded kids.
What Parents Need to Do to Stop Entitlement
Raising kids is hard. Raising kids who are grateful and show few signs of entitlement can seem downright impossible at times.
Welch describes how easy it is to get sucked into the Western, and especially American, culture of wanting more, of never being satisfied and pursuing happiness with material things. But she concludes:
“My buy-in to the notion that I needed more of the best for myself and my kids didn’t satisfy me. Its pursuit actually left me feeling emptier than when I had less.”
It wasn’t until she went on a trip to Kenya with Compassion International that Welch realized her perspective was all wrong. The experience flipped a switch and made her realize that entitlement doesn’t start with kids, it starts with parents. Parents entitle kids because parents themselves are entitled.
So in order to raise grateful kids in an entitled world, according to Welch, we need to first look at ourselves. As she says in the book:
“And as uncomfortable as it sounds, parents who want less entitled kids have to be less entitled themselves, and parents who want to raise more grateful kids need to start by living more grateful lives.”
But there is more to raising grateful kids than just simply demonstrating it ourselves. Welch suggests we look carefully not only at the way we are spending money on our kids but also on how we discipline them and guide them through life.
Some of the over-arching themes of the book include:
- Be a parent, not a friend to kids: you can be their friend once they’re independent.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no” and experience the resulting fallout: no matter how ugly it is.
- Stick to rules you think are best for your kids, even if it makes them uncool: for example, holding off on giving them smartphones.
- It’s OK if kids experience failure or unhappiness: sometimes the best way to help our kids is to not help them, Welch says.
- Don’t let your home become a child-centered home: “In a child-centered home, kids expect more of us and less of themselves.”
None of these directives is easy. They go “against the flow,” Welch says, against our mainstream culture where many kids are given what they want and parents cater to their every need.
Parents need resolve to raise kids who go against the grain. To raise kids who look outward rather than inward, who rely on their own abilities rather than mom and dad’s, and who are grateful for what they have and what they have been given.
And About Those Boots…
After that tough car ride home from the Houston Livestock Show, Terrell threatened to take away his child’s boots. The only problem was he couldn’t find the receipt.
Instead, the boxed boots were placed on a high shelf in the laundry room. Payment to get the boots back was to work – three days of weed picking in the huge mulched areas in the front and back yards of the family home.
And work the child did. Over the next few days and even through a rainstorm, those weeds were pulled.
After an apology, the boots were returned. “You earned these,” Terrell said as he handed back the boots.
This wasn’t the only time ingratitude was expressed in the Welch household, Kristen explains, and it certainly wasn’t the last.
And it was hard. Hard to see the boots taken away. Hard to see the child get to work.
But as Welch says: “…it was the day we called out entitlement in our home and waged war against it. It was the day we reestablished the fact that we wanted to raise grateful kids more than anything else.”
And so the quest began.
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