Sunday, May 6, 2012

Holidays and Entitlement

Full question: How did you know how much to provide to or do for your kids without them feeling entitled, especially around birthdays or holidays?

Summary:

Many parents mentioned how this was easier for them because money was tight at their house, but this wasn't always the case. It's possible to still teach the principles against entitlement without money being tight, but maybe in that case parents have to be even more obvious in communicating why they're not buying things for their kids?

Philosophy
"We didn't want them to feel deprived or entitled - a fine line to walk.  It was all about learning...work ethic, the worth of things, and motivation." "I think it is important to help our children learn to distinguish between needs and wants. We wanted our children to understand that occasionally we would give them something they 'wanted,' but only occasionally." "Think, is it really necessary? Save up for things and then it's easier to indulge. That's where parents can be in 'control' without arguing about it." "I believe we also set the example of living simply and seeing our time and means as a stewardship to be shared." "Our philosophy is that if you are a member of this family you are entitled.  You are entitled to  our love, protection, humor, and our money.  We treated each individual situation with as much equity and as best we could.  Everyone was expected to contribute to the family as they had ability." "I...recognized that appreciation for what you have and are given by your parents and life’s circumstances was very important so I monitored the entitlement syndrome very carefully with my children."

Gift giving
"Holidays and birthdays were usually the only times they got special gifts, clothes, etc and that was carefully budgeted. We usually told them the parameters of the budget ahead of time and urged them to think of what they wanted the most." "If the children understand there is a 'limit' they can deal with it. 'Everyone has one' was not a good argument for us, and who is everyone anyway? We don't get everything we want." "We purposely gear our birthdays and Christmas to the things we do instead of the things we buy.  We prefer to create memories rather than gather a bunch of 'stuff'....In later years we have been able to provide some wonderful gatherings for our family, which are truly priceless, but our birthday and Christmas giving is quite conservative.  We sponsor family activities instead." "As for birthdays, we had a budget amount.  We didn't get extras on other days so they were usually appreciative of birthday gifts." "We did our best to be sure they were able to participate in activities and have the supplies and clothes that would make them feel like they fit in." "At Christmas, our children were allowed, or encouraged, to make one request from Santa.  We didn’t want Santa to be a big part of Christmas, so we tried to keep it at that.  They received plenty of other gifts, but they were from Mom and Dad...Looking back, I would have made Christmas gift giving much more simple.  I thought it was important to have lots of gifts to open, so I would wrap every little thing in a package to open.  That was a mistake.  Less is better."

Partial payment by kids
"As things eased up financially for the family, they still knew that the way to have nice things was to work and earn them.  As they did work, they often changed their minds about what they really wanted to do with their hard earned money.  When it was their money instead of ours they made better choices." "We made it clear that if there was something they really wanted beyond our budget, we would help them find a way to earn half the money and we would pay the other half  (That eliminated many of their desires.)" "If any of them wanted something badly enough, we suggested they pay for it.  We were always willing to give them ways to earn money.  We were not overly generous with their wages.  They really had to work for what money they earned from us." "If we knew it was just too much we offered to contribute to getting it and they would have to help too." "There were times when a child wanted a particular item for their birthday that was out of our price range, and we let them add their own money to what we considered our limit of money, and the bigger ticket item was purchased.  When they were spending some of their own money, they had to really consider how important it was to them, and they did take greater care of it. We provided the necessities, but most of the time our children worked to pay for other things that they wanted.  That helped them make careful decisions as to what was and was not important."

Ideas
"When they were young, we had a job jar with difficult or tedious jobs that were beyond what was daily expected of them.  These were age appropriate chores for which they would get minimally paid." "One Christmas, we...asked our children if they would be willing to give up their Christmas so that we could do a sub for Santa for a family that had much less than we did.  They were actually quite willing.  It turned out that they received enough gifts from grandparents that they didn't feel left out, especially after having seen how little the family we were helping had."

Other thoughts
"My husband is a psychiatrist and had many teenage patients. He has always said that the most important thing parents can do in their attitude toward childrearing is to be united. They can be strict (within reason) or they can be lenient (within reason), but they have to be in agreement. So our children never played us against each other." "One time when 'building funds' were used when a new church building was needed, our family was asked for a huge sum of money to be paid in three months time. This was going to be impossible unless some very drastic  frugality was put in place. We had a family counsel, and made our plans. No extra spending money, frugal meals, and NO CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. We discussed the blessings involved and all agreed. We had a fun Christmas and all the kids talk about that to this day, 35 years later."

Full answers:

Marianne and John
Money was usually tight in our household when our children were young so it wasn't hard not to have them feel entitled.  Holidays and birthdays were usually the only times they got special gifts, clothes, etc and that was carefully budgeted.  We usually told them the parameters of the budget ahead of time and urged them to think of what they wanted the most.  We made it clear that if there was something they really wanted beyond our budget, we would help them find a way to earn half the money and we would pay the other half  (That eliminated many of their desires.)  We didn't want them to feel deprived or entitled - a fine line to walk.  It was all about learning the work ethic, the worth of things, and motivation.  When they were young, we had a job jar with difficult or tedious jobs that were beyond what was daily expected of them.  These were age appropriate chores for which they would get minimally paid.  As they got older, they found odd jobs outside the home.  We never had much begging or whining because they always knew if they wanted something (extra) bad enough, it was up to them. Sometimes we felt bad that we couldn't give them more but now as we look back we think it served them well.  They are all hard workers and very financially savvy. 

Rachel (and Bennett)
As we were raising our kids, this was an important consideration for me.  We lived in a neighborhood where many of the kids had a lot of "stuff" and privileges. We tried to keep our giving to a minimal, always fighting the "keeping up with the Joneses" attitude.  I think it was helpful that we kept expectations low, and insisted our children save their money for things we thought were luxuries.  I think it is important to help our children learn to distinguish between needs and wants. We wanted our children to understand that occasionally we would give them something they "wanted," but only occasionally.  It's when they always receive what they want, that they begin to feel entitled, and are not grateful.

Karen and Lance
They just knew we couldn't do some things, money wise, and we weren't about to go into debt for "stuff". When we went to the show or games there was no food as we ate before we went. Think, is it really necessary? Save up for things and then it's easier to indulge. That's where parents can be in "control" without arguing about it. Our children do spend a little more on their children as there is more pressure now on them, but they may also feel they were deprived too, who knows. We grew up in the same kind of circumstances so that was all we knew. If the children understand there is a "limit" they can deal with it. "Everyone has one" was not a good argument for us, and who is everyone anyway? We don't get everything we want. Now we have a good retirement and can treat our grandchildren once in a while.

Abigail and Martin
Knowing how much to provide for birthdays and other holidays to prevent a sense of entitlement wasn't too difficult. With our first three children, it was a matter of finances.  We didn't live in an especially privileged neighborhood either, so there wasn't a lot of pressure to get extravagant gifts. One Christmas, we also asked our children if they would be willing to give up their Christmas so that we could do a sub for Santa for a family that had much less than we did.  They were actually quite willing.  It turned out that they received enough gifts from grandparents that they didn't feel left out, especially after having seen how little the family we were helping had. When we moved to a more affluent area it was hard sometimes because kids wore name brand clothes that we didn't buy for our kids.  My oldest was teased at a soccer tryout for wearing fake Sambas. Once we were able to get an incredible deal on some Adidas brand winter coats.  While my son was thrilled to have it, he was embarrassed to wear it when all of the rest of us were wearing ours. One cold winter night, we drove downtown amid all of the homeless and suggested that he give his coat, which had become an embarrassment to him, to one of those who were freezing without any coat.  He didn't, but we also didn't hear any more complaints if we wore the coats at the same time. We also had some neighbors who gave their children brand new cars on their 16th birthdays.  Our kids drove our old car or took the bus. That was just how it was...no questions asked. We did discuss with them why however, that too often people DO get a sense of entitlement when they have everything they want just handed to them. Our younger two children had the example of the older three siblings. If any of them wanted something badly enough, we suggested they pay for it.  We were always willing to give them ways to earn money.  We were not overly generous with their wages.  They really had to work for what money they earned from us.

Marsha (and Richard)
We had a large family and had very little beyond the basic necessities ourselves, so it was quite natural that our children did not expect us to supply anything that was not a necessity or close to it.  Because they were conscious of our need to be careful financially, they are all pretty conservative.  Habits established in one’s youth die hard, thank goodness. Our children’s needs were taken care of.  I know some of them were more inclined to want nicer things while others felt very blessed by what they had...a difference of attitudes in the individuals. As things eased up financially for the family, they still knew that the way to have nice things was to work and earn them.  As they did work, they often changed their minds about what they really wanted to do with their hard earned money.  When it was their money instead of ours they made better choices.

I don’t think they had a lot of expectations. Because they felt responsible for their own extra expenses, they were grateful for anything we offered to contribute or gave as gifts.  It’s truly easier to raise children when every penny counts in a family and they can see that in order to provide special things for them, it means a personal sacrifice for their parents.

We purposely gear our birthdays and Christmas to the things we do instead of the things we buy.  We prefer to create memories rather than gather a bunch of “stuff”.  We liked to live lean, less to take care of and store. I think this attitude rubbed off on the children.  In later years we have been able to provide some wonderful gatherings for our family, which are truly priceless, but our birthday and Christmas giving is quite conservative.  We sponsor family activities instead.

I believe we also set the example of living simply and seeing our time and means as a stewardship to be shared.  We had a foster Indian son and shared our home with nieces and nephews several times through the years.  I saw very little entitlement during those years.  I think society has fostered a self-centered attitude and parents have bought into thinking their children need much more than they do. Society now gears their marketing toward teens and parents buy things for their kids that they often have never had themselves, in an effort to please the children.  I’m grateful that our children lived simply then and just pray that they can keep a sense of modesty in their expenditures on their own children.

Mary (and Robert)
No clue here!  I'm sure we always spent too much at Christmas.  Every year we would say it's going to be a small Christmas this year and it always ended up looking huge.

As for birthdays, we had a budget amount.  We didn't get extras on other days so they were usually appreciative of birthday gifts.  (It might have helped that we asked them what they wanted and tried to make it happen.  If we knew it was just too much we offered to contribute to getting it and they would have to help too.)

What I really think happened in this arena is that we were always honest with our kids about our situation financially, time availability, etc.  We tried to make time for them most of the time.  We did our best to be sure they were able to participate in activities and have the supplies and clothes that would make them feel like they fit in.

Our philosophy is that if you are a member of this family you are entitled. You are entitled to  our love, protection, humor, and our money.  We treated each individual situation with as much equity and as best we could.  Everyone was expected to contribute to the family as they had ability.  Little ones had chores and needed to play.  Young children had chores, needed to play, needed to learn, and had to help with whatever was needed at the time.  Teens had chores, needed to learn, had homework, had outside interests and they needed to help take care of the younger kids.  Parents had responsibilities to each other, supervisory responsibilities for the children, decision making responsibilities, and needed to have a sense fairness and humor for all situations.

There were a couple of times when we were accused of being grossly unfair.  As I look back I see that we probably were.  Once we had two cars for the kids to use.  One was better than the other but the other was acquired by special request of one of the boys.  Both cars needed to have brake work done at the same time.  We could only afford to have one professionally done so the "special request car" would have to be a DIY project.  Our son struggled for a couple of days working on it and eventually had a neighbor help him with the final stages.  He didn't want his brother to help, his dad was out of town, so he did it all on his own and  he was angry that we didn't pitch in more money to have it done.  He was annoyed with that for a number of years and I felt bad and wondered if we were really wrong on that one.  But as I look at this man today, he is the one who believes he can do just about anything and he usually can.  He is the man on call for many people in his acquaintance.  If there is a job to be done or figured out, he is the man to call.

Anna (and Gerry)
This is a hard question.  Both my husband and I grew up in homes where we didn’t have “a lot”, and money was tight.  That was our background, which made it a somewhat easier for us to not “overdo”.  However, it was hard, and if I had it to do again, I would do some things differently.

At Christmas, our children were allowed, or encouraged, to make one request from Santa.  We didn’t want Santa to be a big part of Christmas, so we tried to keep it at that.  They received plenty of other gifts, but they were from Mom and Dad.   We discouraged our children from making tours of their friends’ homes on Christmas, to see what they all got.  We did not like to have them compare, whether they received more or less than others.

Looking back, I would have made Christmas gift giving much more simple.  I thought it was important to have lots of gifts to open, so I would wrap every little thing in a package to open.  That was a mistake.  Less is better.

We did not subscribe to the idea that many of our friends did in giving gifts for Easter and other holidays.  An Easter basket, and maybe a new spring shirt or dress, but no toys at our house.  We did not want Easter to turn into another Christmas with expectations of gifts.

There were usually a fun thing for Christmas or birthdays, but we used those times to purchase more practical things as well,  such as clothing or a needed piece of furniture for their bedrooms.  Some of our children may have resented our being so practical.

There were times when a child wanted a particular item for their birthday that was our of our price range, and we let them add their own money to what we considered our limit of money, and the bigger ticket item was purchased.  When they were spending some of their own money, they had to really consider how important it was to them, and they did take greater care of it.

We provided the necessities, but most of the time our children worked to pay for other things that they wanted.  That helped them make careful decisions as to what was and was not important.

Cynthia (and Brad)
I came from very humble circumstances. There was no spare money around my house during my childhood. My parents were not college educated. They worked hard, and I worked hard from a very early age, babysitting, cleaning houses, and working at a drugstore. We had only one car, which I was not allowed to drive, as my dad could not afford the insurance. My mother sewed all my clothes. There was no spare money for much running around as a teenager. I worked while going to college, and was very much aware of the sacrifice my parents were making to facilitate this. My mother actually gave me her only winter coat so that I had a coat while in college. I never resented any of this, recognizing that my parents were doing the best they could. However, I also determined that a college education and marrying a responsible man was going to be a big help, though not guaranteeing it, that my financial future would be brighter. Consequently, when I had children, I tried to make sure that their childhood was not plagued by agonizing money worries, but I also recognized that appreciation for what you have and are given by your parents and life’s circumstances was very important so I monitored the entitlement syndrome very carefully with my children.

My husband’s parents had similar childhoods as did I, struggling to educate themselves and my husband’s mother became a teacher and his father became a doctor. HOWEVER, they raised my husband in the same way I was raised, to work hard, and appreciate his circumstances. He also worked while in college. When we were married at the end of our junior year in college the agreement was that we would never ask our parents for money to help us make our way. Consequently, I taught school and helped my husband financially through medical school. When he finished his training, we did not owe a cent to anyone.

So I feel we both approached childrearing with a common goal in mind: raise responsible, hard working children who would contribute to society and who would  appreciate all that they had been given, and not expect the world to owe them a living. All of this is tempered with the clause that this attitude will lovingly take into account accidents, bad health, etc.

My husband is a psychiatrist and had many teenage patients. He has always said that the most important thing parents can do in their attitude toward childrearing is to be united. They can be strict (within reason) or they can be lenient (within reason), but they have to be in agreement. So our children never played us against each other.  We also made it very clear what was expected, and we never wavered. The whole family goes to church every Sunday. No activities took the place of Sunday church attendance. This wasn’t even a consideration. We also limited the number of extracurricular activities our children participated in. Time and cost were factors which were clearly laid out. No teenager was given a car of their own. It was a family car owned by the parents, loaned for use if good grades, church activity and respect were evident. One time when “building funds” were used when a new church building was needed, our family was asked for a huge sum of money to be paid in three months time. This was going to be impossible unless some very drastic  frugality was put in place. We had a family counsel, and made our plans. No extra spending money, frugal meals, and NO CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. We discussed the blessings involved and all agreed. We had a fun Christmas and all the kids talk about that to this day, 35 years later.

When it came time for college, we did not require that they work while attending college as long as grades were good.

Next week's question: How did you teach your young kids to minimize whining?

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