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How to Un-Entitle Your Kids in 6 Easy Steps

Photograph by Twenty20

I love making beds. I'm a rarity, I know, but there's something satisfying about the simple act of making a bed. I love making beds so much that I tend to function on autopilot in the morning. I travel from room to room, making beds and restoring the appearance of calm to each bedroom.

Sounds innocent enough, right? Making beds gives me a few moments of focus in the morning, while I run through the mental to-do list and prepare to tackle the day. What's the harm in that?

Cut to the day I'm running late and yell up to the kids to make their beds and meet me in the front to get shoes on and out the door on the double. They stared back at me with blank faces. While they often thank me for making their beds "neat and organized," and are generally filled with gratitude, I completely forgot to step back and show them how to make their own beds. So when I yelled up for them to take on the task for me that day, they didn't know where to begin. Oops.

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Needless to say, we altered our plans and spent some time practicing bed-making. Now they take pride in making their own beds.

Are my kids "entitled" because they didn't make their own beds until recently? No. But in taking on tasks they are capable of completing simply because I enjoy those tasks, I rob them of the chance to learn a new skill and build more responsibility into their lives.

When parents routinely do everything for their kids and put their kids first every single time, entitlement can occur. Over time, it can reach unbearable levels. We have to step back and guide our kids toward independence and responsibility instead of running in for the save, fixing what needs fixing and answering every demand.

In her new book, "The Me, Me, Me Epidemic," Amy McCready takes on the problem of entitlement with a positive spin. Entitled children can trigger feelings of frustration and anger in exhausted parents who are constantly stretched too thin. That can lead to yelling and excessive punishments, strategies that typically yield little reward and cause children to fear punishment instead of making better choices.

"When kids act up, they're doing more than pitching a fit over a candy bar (or permission to go to a party)," McCready says. "Without even knowing it, they're on a mission to achieve the belonging and significance they crave."

Instead of punishing undesirable behavior or constantly rewarding positive behavior, McCready outlines specific strategies grounded in positive parenting to help empower kids to grow into responsible and un-entitled adults.

"The truth is kids everywhere—from toddlers to teens—are ruling the roost and they're not about to abandon their posts without a fight," she says. But there are ways to make the transition away from entitlement as a family.

Check out these great tools from McCready's "Un-Enititler Tool Box":

1. Mind, body, soul time

Parents today seem to thrive on being busy. There is always something that needs doing or somewhere to be. But in all of this doing and going, it's very difficult to connect with our children in a meaningful way.

It might feel like your kids are constantly interrupting you at inopportune moments, but, in the mind of a child, it's an attempt to connect on a deeper level.

Make the necessary adjustments to empower your kids to help out in the home.

McCready suggests setting aside 10 minutes of complete focus for each child, at least once (hopefully twice) each day. Turn off the distractions and connect with your kid on his level. If he wants to make paper airplanes, make them. If he wants to dance in the rain, go for it. Establish a meaningful connection by being present and focused during that time.

2. Sail out of the wind

Do you ever feel like parenting is really just a series of power struggles? You're not alone. Kids want things and they push boundaries to see how far they can get you to bend. That's normal. Pushing back, however, is not the answer.

A power struggle over an ice cream cone can turn into a full-blown screaming match when parents go back and forth with kids. McCready suggests sailing out of the wind, instead. Remove yourself from the power struggle. Make a decision. Stand by the decision. And leave the power struggle behind.

3. Adapt the home environment

I think most parents wish for a cleaning fairy at some point, or at least for a few extra hands when it comes to prepping meals, cleaning the house and getting various chores done. The good news is that kids are great helpers when we empower them, especially if we adapt our homes to make them kid-friendly.

I keep my plates and bowls within reach of my little ones so that they can prepare their own snacks and help set the table. All toys are also organized at kid level so that they can be responsible for cleanup.

Take a look around your home from the viewpoint of your child. Make the necessary adjustments to empower your kids to help out in the home.

Kids don't have a ton of choices on a daily basis and that can be frustrating.

4. Ditch the 'don't'

Kids hear a lot about what they shouldn't do each day. Sometimes we do this to keep them safe, other times we do it to save time or get things done. Whatever the reason, parents dish out a lot of "don't."

Reframe your thoughts and replace "don't" with "do." Empower your kids to take on more responsibility and learn new tasks by helping them learn what to do.

5. Take time for training

The bed-making fiasco reminded me that I need to think about things my kids can do, but I haven't necessarily taught them to do. They have always enjoyed folding laundry with me, so they are great helpers when it comes to laundry day. But I find that teaching them how to load the dishwasher, how to scramble the eggs and how to make the grilled cheese makes them feel confident and increases their responsibilities in the home.

6. Create a decision-rich environment

This is a big one. Kids don't have a ton of choices on a daily basis and that can be frustrating. A great way to stop over-parenting is by allowing your kids to make their own choices as much as possible.

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Let them choose little things, like how they want their hair and what outfits to wear, to bigger things, like what chores they want to take on. My daughter mopped my bedroom for me the other day because I listened when she said that she wanted to learn how to use a mop.

Take the time to teach and empower your children, and then step back and watch them grow.

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