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Ruined Children: What's Worse – Spoiled or Entitled?

Ruined Children: What's Worse – Spoiled or Entitled?

Spoiled: Donna stood dumbfounded at the grocery store check out as her three-year-old crumpled into a heap on the floor. He was screeching so loudly Donna was sure everyone in the store would think his very life was in danger (and maybe it was as Donna’s anger began to well up).

Finally Donna gave in to her son’s wailing and allowed him to choose a candy from the shelf at the checkout. Immediately her son stopped crying and began to eat the candy before Donna had even been able to pay for it.  

When she reached to hand to the checker the wrapper of the half eaten candy the screeching started again. Donna’s face reddened as she quickly handed the candy back to her little boy.

The older woman in line behind them said loudly, “That’s what is wrong with this country. They’re raising a whole generation of kids who are spoiled rotten.”

Upon hearing the woman’s comment, Donna just wanted to get out of the store. She knew that giving in to her son’s whims was making him a spoiled brat and yet she had no idea what to do about it.

Entitled: Carol sat with her computer in her lap clicking away at every electronic gadget her son, David, had put on his birthday wish list. With each click, Carol felt excitement well up within her. She couldn’t wait until David’s birthday so she could give him the gifts.

Carol knew she really couldn’t afford to buy all the things she was putting on her credit card, but she also knew David’s father and new stepmother would be taking David to an amusement park for his birthday and she just couldn’t stand the thought of their gift being better than hers. 

On the morning of David’s birthday, Carol made him his favorite breakfast and then showered him with the wonderful presents she had wrapped ever so carefully. One by one, David opened the presents. The smile on his face and the jubilant response was exactly what Carol had hoped for. 

Afterward David called his friends to tell them all the great gifts his mother had given him. Carol felt even more satisfaction!

When David left for his trip to see his dad, he was excited to bring the handheld video game along with him on airplane.

It was never easy to say goodbye to David when he left to visit his dad, but having him leave on his birthday was especially hard for Carol. She consoled herself that David 

would have a good time and that the gift she had given him would make his travel more entertaining.

When David returned home he had lots of stories to share with his mother about his trip. When she asked him if the video game kept him entertained on his trip home he replied, “Oh man, I think I left it on the plane! Sorry mom,” As he walked down the hall to his room. 

“Sorry mom? Sorry mom? That’s all you have to say is ‘Sorry mom’?” Carol shouted as she followed David down the hallway. 

“Do you have any idea how much money that game cost? I paid for it with my credit card. It won’t even be paid off by Christmas!” Carol continued.

David poked his head out and said, “Mom, calm down. I said I was sorry. I’m sure dad will buy me a new one if I ask him.”

Carol could hardly believe David’s response. How was she raising a son who felt so entitled? And what could she possibly do to help her son change?

Spoiled or Entitled?

Donna’s son was spoiled when his mother gave in to his demands. Carol’s son’s sense of entitlement was reaffirmed as his parents both clambered to shower him with presents. So what’s worse––to raise a kid who is spoiled or entitled? Let’s unpack this question.

First we have to look at the root of the problem. Each child is born with a propensity to feel entitled and to demand that their needs be met. If you’ve ever spent any time with a newborn you know this is true. 

Jeremiah 17:9 says that every person is born with a heart that is evil and desperately wicked. So it should come as no surprise when our kids do what comes naturally to their sinful little hearts.

And while it may be fun to give your child all the wonderful things you never had when you were a kid, if you constantly buy things for them, you actually rob them of the fun of working for–or the excitement of waiting to receive–something they really long for.

Whether the pendulum swings toward spoiled or entitled, the answer lies not in trying to keep your kid from becoming one or the other. Rather, the goal should be to guide your child’s heart toward becoming more like Christ.

How you ask?

First, by your own example. Does your child see you denying yourself to bless others? If so, by example you are teaching your child to be more like Christ. Jesus denied His very throne in heaven to bless you and I with a way to salvation through His death, burial and resurrection. 

Living selflessly does not come naturally to any of us, but Christ in us––our hope of glory––grants us everything we need for life in godliness in Christ Jesus (see Colossians 1:27, 2 Peter 1:3).

Second, don’t live to please others. Whether it is to keep your child’s tantrum from embarrassing you in public or to buy your kids what others have so he won’t feel left out, remember that people pleasing isn’t pleasing (I wrote a whole section about people pleasing in my book Moms Raising Sons to Be Men.)

When you keep your focus on pleasing God rather than man you will be able to break free from worrying about what others think (see Galatians 1:10).

When this happens, you won’t feel guilty for disciplining your child in public or denying your kid the expensive shoes that everyone else is wearing. 

Third, be thankful. First Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Take a moment to ask God if you are a thankful person. And then ask God to help you live with contentment. 

You satisfaction with what God has given you will bring you the most peaceful life, and will guide you to train your children to be thankful as well. 

Finally, focus on eternity. Remember we are only here for a short time, and the treasures we store up in heaven are all that really matter. “The more time you spend with Jesus the less time you will spend obsessing over having enough.”*

And the most important gift you can give your children is to guide them to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Living with this as the goal of your parenting will help you discern how best to bless your children so they will be neither spoiled nor entitled.

*Excerpted from If My Husband Would Change I’d Be Happy by Rhonda Stoppe 

Rhonda Stoppe is a pastor’s wife, speaker, and author. As the NO REGRETS WOMAN, Rhonda has more than 20 years experience of helping women live life with no regrets. Through humor, and honest communication, she helps women build NO REGRETS LIVES by applying sound teaching from Scripture. Rhonda appears on radio programs, speaks at women’s events, MOPs, and homeschool conventions throughout the nation. Rhonda Stoppe’s book Moms Raising Sons to be Men is mentoring thousands of moms to guide sons toward a no-regrets life. Her new book If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy: And Other Myths Wives Believe is helping countless women build no-regrets marriages. 

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