All of us have some feeling of entitlement. We feel like we are not supposed to be the ones waiting in line. As humans, we are streaked and stained with selfishness. The proof is not how you respond when you don’t get anything but how you react when you don’t get everything. The chance our kids won’t get anything is slim to none. But kids can end up throwing a fit if they don’t get everything. It is like when they are crying and whining at Disney World because they didn’t get one more ride after their parents spent thousands of dollars to pay for fun the whole week.
How do we teach kids to be generous people? First, let them feel the value of a dollar. For example, if your teenager is needlessly going through tennis shoes like toothpicks, you can tell him that this year Mom and Dad are going to pay for a big percentage of the first pair of shoes, a smaller percentage for the second pair of shoes, and an even smaller percentage for the third. I’m not talking about needing new shoes because he outgrew the old ones; I’m talking about just wanting new shoes all the time. If he wants to buy the brand or model he likes, the first time around he will have to come up with some of the money he has saved. If he wants a second pair and he doesn’t think that what Mom and Dad can pay is enough, then he will have to figure out how to cover the difference. This will make him feel the value of a dollar.
Another way to do this is to pull out your credit card statement and, without showing your kids the amounts, you can say, “Look, if we paid off the minimum, it would take us five years (or whatever your estimate is) to pay it off. Besides, we will also pay much more in interest rates and taxes. But if we pay off the credit card bill today, we can be free to do whatever we want with the rest.” Ask your kids, what would you choose to be: An interest maker, or an interest payer? It is better to be an interest maker. This way you are teaching them to use the card, rather than letting the card use them. It is hard to cry for something you could not get.; It is much worse to cry because of a debt that won’t go away.