Vacations. Lessons. Hi-end sneakers. Starbucks. Devices. Your time and attention. In many families the kids assume that their wish is your command. Your generosity button is pushed. They have only to ask (or to outlast you) to get what they want, with no strings attached. You love them and want to show it.
Here's the problem: in the end, there are strings attached, and your generosity may well be creating an entitled child. You're probably not aware that expectations exist until... you feel unappreciated, that what you provide is undervalued and taken for granted. You're waiting for gratitude that never comes. Look deeper. Is there something in it for you?
Pure generosity has no strings attached. No expectations. No 'if this, then that'. It means you may not receive acknowledgement for what you have done. It means doing for the pure love of giving and serving, for the love of seeing another's joy. That's a tall order, especially when faced with your teen's less than stellar attitude. . . .
Let's begin with the understanding that, more often than not, we all want and need acknowledgement and recognition. We are human and we feel these things. We also love deeply, and sometimes equate love with giving... without obvious conditions.
When giving and doing for the kids, you hope they will show some gratitude. You've told me that it goes beyond the words 'thank you'. After the fact, you want something that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, or at least shows basic good manners. That might be greater effort, more participation, appreciation, a better attitude, and increased cooperation.
These are big strings.That wasn’t your intention at the outset; however, they are unrecognized and unexplored motivators. You may be taken by surprise at how intense your reaction is. Examine your motivation when making decisions about what to give and do for your kids, or you‘ll end up resentful, angry and impatient.
There was a time when my husband and I would say to ourselves, “After all we’ve done for this child, this is the thanks we get?” Does this sound familiar? Now I understand the flaw in our thinking.
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When you become aware of what your unintended expectations are, it’s time to think about whether a boundary (or restriction or requirement) is more appropriate than an outright gift. Example - The Status Sneakers Regardless of your ability to pay, consider letting your child have some skin in the game. “Here’s what’s in the budget/I’m willing to contribute for new sneakers. The rest is up to you.“ Some kids will go right to resourceful mode and figure out how to make it happen. Others, who are not used to earning and contributing will not be happy. When you recognize that it’s in your teen’s best interest to be accountable for his life and choices, you’re helping grow a self-reliant, confident person. Returning to the original topic of generosity I ask you, “How much generosity is enough or too much? How much instills entitlement?” Think carefully about what is best for your child versus what makes you feel good. Your job is to raise healthy, competent adults. If your giving is about you feeling good, think again.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.