After seeing one of the world’s largest and poorest slums during a trip to Kenya in 2010, Kristen Welch had a revelation. “I began to see my life and my own entitlement in the light of how the rest of the world lived,” she writes in her book, “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.”
Once she returned home to Texas with her husband and three children, decided to fight back against a culture “obsessed with the right to have what we want.”
“I was surrounded by people who wanted the best of everything — cars, homes, education, jobs — and it didn’t take long for us to join them,” she writes. “But now my kids felt it too — this pressure to keep up and be like everyone else … Suddenly, my third grader and first grader were asking for certain brands of clothes, lavish toys, and expensive electronics. They wanted what they saw everyone else had.”
Welch, who also runs the blog We Are THAT Family and founded Mercy House, a non-profit ministry that empowers women around the globe, uses and outlines the following seven strategies to raise children who aren’t spoiled in her book:
1. Teach ownership through household chores.
Welch gets her children involved in the 'family economy' by assigning them household chores. Each child is responsible for four chores along with preparing and cleaning up after dinner, and keeping their rooms clean. In return for their work, the children receive a salary.
'Often I'd rather do the jobs at home myself because I like them done a certain way lest I end up redoing them,' Welch writes. 'But I believe when I operate in this mode, I rob my family. I take away the opportunity to teach them.'
2. Teach them to distinguish between 'wants' and 'needs.'
After being inspired by 'Focus on the Family,' a podcast with guest speaker Mary Hunt, founder of Debt-Proof Living, who talked about her book 'Raising Financially Confident Kids,' Welch began experimenting with one of Hunt's suggestions.
At the beginning of every month, Welch gives her children a lump sum of money based on their age. She staggers the amount from youngest to the oldest, but they still have to earn it through chores. Welch does not call this money an allowance, but rather a salary they earned for the work they did.
They use the money to buy what they want and Welch helps pay for their needs. The needs include: a new pair of school shoes, new jeans if an old pair has worn out, haircuts, and music lessons. The 'needs' do not include the latest video games, toys, cute tops, or the newest gadgets.
'We want our children to understand the difference between needs and wants, know how to save a buck, live frugally, and have the means to be generous when the opportunity presents itself,' Welch writes. 'It's tough in a culture that thrives on instant gratification, overspending, and debt.'
3. Emphasise the value of hard work.
Sometimes actually making your kids sweat a little and get their hands dirty is good for them, according to Welch.
'Last summer, we noticed a lot grumbling when we asked our kids to help with the yard work or complete their chores, or even wake up before the entire morning was gone,' Welch writes. 'For me growing up, we cleaned the house every Saturday without fail and then we did yard work ... We didn't sleep until noon or play video games until the middle of the night while our mum fixed lunch and did all the laundry.'
To get their attention, Welch told her kids to fill the uneven yard with sand and water, just as her husband did when he was younger. It took a family effort to finish the job, but both parents and children, realised the value of hard work and doing it together.
'Hard work not only teaches kids to be grateful for what you as a parent do all day long, it also creates a work ethic in them that will carry them into adulthood,' writes Welch.
4. Let them deal with their own consequences.
After Welch's kids were old enough to understand their responsibilities, Welch stopped reminding and nagging them about their chores. When they chose not to do their laundry, they would run out clothes to wear and usually resort to asking to borrow a pair of socks or a clean shirt. Welch would say no.
This is about much more than dirty laundry; it's about being responsible and following through with consequences ... If we don't require something of them, they won't learn the lesson and they will keep making the same mistakes.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to not help our kids out, but when it becomes a habit or we want to see some responsibility in our kids, that's the last thing we should do, Welch writes.
5. See the benefits of delayed gratification.
When Welch's daughter Madison was eight years old, she wanted a historical American Girl doll. But Welch didn't have the money to get her daughter the brand new one she dreamed of. Instead of settling for a secondhand doll from eBay, Madison started saving and even started working around the house. Three months later, she had enough to buy it herself.
Madison is now old enough to drive. However, Welch writes that the doll still sits on the shelf because 'the gratification of working for (the doll) isn't something Madison will forget. It made the prize even more special.'
Our culture is known for its demand for instant gratification, Welch points out. 'Whatever we want, we want it right now.' By having her kids work hard, save their money, and reach their goal of being able to buy something they really want, 'not only do they appreciate it more, they learn something in the delay. The reward is much sweeter.'
6. Give your kids a larger worldview.
Welch and her family joined several others joined The Refugee Project to help clean up a 'clubhouse' in a government housing complex in Houston, Texas where over 50,000 refugees had relocated.
There, they helped with a crocheting and knitting class for the refugee women, fixed up the apartment, and worked with women and children. It was a lot of hard work, but no one complained, according to Welch.
When our hands are busy serving others, we aren't thinking about what we don't have. Instead, we are thankful for what we do have. We drove an hour away from our house to step into a different culture, and its broadened our worldview.
It is important for parents to realise that kids have a perspective based on what is in front of them, writes Welch. 'If we see life through only one lens, we believe the misconception that everyone in the world has what we do, and our blessing starts looking a lot like expectations.'
7. Don't let them quit every time they stumble.
It's easy for kids to give up when they find things difficult, or when they are not getting where they want to be. But by giving up so easily, they miss out on a learning opportunity and would make it a habit of just doing it every time a challenge comes their way, according to Welch.
In sixth grade, Welch's son Jon-Avery didn't get an award he had been hoping for at the band concert. His friend won it instead, and Jon-Avery's initial reaction was to proclaim it wasn't fair and say he wanted to quit.
'I leaned over and asked, 'Why did that boy win?'' Welch writes. 'Jon-Avery told me all the things his friend did right, from his practice ethic to achievement to behaviour ... When he was done, I asked, 'Did you do all those things?' He thought about it for a minute and said, 'No, but I will.''
Jon-Avery was challenged to do better. The following year he was moved to the top band and was one of the only two seventh graders to make the all-district band.
'Persevering when things aren't easy is often when we find our greatest reward,' writes Welch.
And, she adds, as important as it is for children to follow these strategies, it's also important for parents to be consistent in implementing them no matter how difficult or heartbreaking it is to do so.
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