Entitled. Greedy. That’s how the world sees young people today. It doesn’t have to be that way. Whenever I notice a greedy or entitled child or teen, I have found their parents are almost always making one or more common parenting mistakes. Since Christianity is about sharing what you have rather than focusing on amassing more, it’s important you are doing everything you can to avoid raising the stereotypical greedy and entitled child.
So what are some concrete things you can do to avoid raising greedy kids? Here are a few of our favorites.
- Avoid toy aisles and stores. Parents who raise greedy kids often believe it is necessary to walk through toy aisles and stores as some sort of reward or incentive for good behavior on a family shopping excursion for needed items. The truth is your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists. Constantly parading them in front of all the things a kid can possibly want is going to make your kids want them. Toy aisles should only be visited when purchasing toys for someone else.
- Stop watching entertainment with commercials. If your kids are watching entertainment, encourage them to avoid commercial tv. When they are young, screen time should be severely limited anyway. When they do watch, PBS and some streaming platforms don’t show commercials. As with the toy aisle, your kids can’t want what they don’t know exists.
- Discourage them from playing the comparison game. When I was growing up, the day after Christmas was spent calling friends and comparing gifts. Remind your kids that playing the comparison game is hurtful for those who can’t afford what other families can or whose families have different values about gift giving. Comparing gifts can even convince them they really, really want something that they actually don’t care about at all. They’ve just gotten caught up in the competitive aspect of the game. Teach them how to change the subject when anyone asks them, “What’d ya get?”
- Call out greed when you see it. If your child visits Santa or someone asks for a gift list, it should only contain two or three reasonable items. If your kid creates a long list, send them back to edit it. You may also need to set price limits on the gifts they can request. It’s never too early to understand money is a finite resource that must be used carefully and in godly ways. Define greed for them and choose a great Bible verse that reminds them God does not condone greed.
- Clearly define wants versus needs. The slippery slope to a greedy heart often begins because we think we need something we actually just want. Spend time serving the poor. Point out that there is often joy in homes where people own less than your family does. Encourage them to think about from where that joy could come. Never allow your kids to define something they want as something they need.
- Make them pay for any items they want if they can’t wait until their birthday or Christmas for them. Tolerating delayed gratification is one of the building blocks of eliminating greed. If they just can’t wait, but are too young to get a work permit, find extra jobs they can do around the house to earn the money. The bonus is developing a strong work ethic in the process.
- Don’t use things to soothe your parental guilt. Parents who don’t give their kids the time and attention they need often feel guilty. They think buying their kids gifts will make up for their absence. In fact it’s so common, there’s an expression…”Your kids prefer your presence over your presents.” Instead, find ways to give your kids more of your time and attention.
- Set a good example. Have you ever really listened to yourself talk? How often are you talking about the things you need or want to buy? How often do you go shopping for fun? If your kids see greed in your life, they will often copy your behaviors and attitudes. Greed can become a habit. If you’ve been greedy for a long time, breaking the habit won’t be easy. If you want to raise kids who aren’t greedy though, you’ll need to do the work to banish greed from your own life.
God calls Christians to share everything they have so others won’t lack what they need. A greedy child will become a greedy adult incapable of obeying God in this area. Stomp out greed in your kids before it becomes a habit that’s hard to break.