Less, and More

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She laces her small fingers with mine, warming my fingertips. We stand united against the chill that is sure to come.

Snow glitters and glistens and shines, but doesn’t fool us.

It melts in patches revealing muddied grass peeking through white magic, confusing Brody, who wrinkles his eyebrows and asks, “Is it spring?”

Our matched hazel eyes meet and we giggle. Her voice sheds yet another layer of sparkle. “Today is better?” She asks.

I think they look heart-shaped here. (Fitting)

I want to wrap her up in the warmth of Of course it is-es! But I don’t.

Because today is better, but not good.

It’s not ignored bedtimes or stomped feet or turned heels that unravel me. Those loose threads stitch neatly before sunrise.

It’s quieter shades that leave their mark.

Thank yous skipped, presents cast aside, words talked over.

***

“They’re good kids.” Jason softens beside me. The television busies our room, but we sit still, searching for our steady.

And they are, good, that is. They’re kind and sincere and have laughs that light our space from snow tipped grass to star filled sky.

But.

But they assume.

They assume they can have, they deserve, they should get.

It’s subtle and imbedded, and feels daunting to unteach, undo, and make better.

Do we withhold? Take away? Say no?

I don’t know.

And if I don’t know, how could they?

How do we become less entitled, and more grounded? More thankful? More appreciative?

It’s freeing (and scary and humbling) to write that –  I don’t know.

Do you? (I’m hoping.)

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Comments

  1. Oh Galit. It’s my fear too, that my children will feel entitled and ungrounded. I have no idea what’s ahead for me. I do know that the fact that you’re aware, and you want to do something about it, is a great first step to finding an answer.

    And when you do, I’m going to hound you for it.

    Good luck, friend! xo

  2. I truly believe that this is an age thing. You do have good kids but they are trying to fins their way and their independence. I also believe that since you feel the way you do, you will find a way to let them know that life is a precious gift and having a wonderful family to be a part of is the big, glorious bow on top of that gift. Much love! xoxo

  3. I would say that you should just keep talking to them. Work with them to get through those issues. We live in privilege. I’m not stating that to make it OK, but to point out the tide you’re fighting against. You have to swim sideways to succeed in the face of that kind of current. Find ways to show gratitude yourself without being false. (“Gee I’m grateful as I use my microwave that your great-grandmother never dreamed about” is just going to annoy your kids.) And remember that ‘thank you’ isn’t always spoken. Sometimes, often with kids, it is shown in a shining face or delighted running. A lot of times we, as adults, expect kids to verbalize things they are communicating without words.

  4. Excellent questions! My children are still small, so my plans and ideas are more hypothetical, though I am certainly putting what I can into practice. I’ll have to wait until they’re older to see how much was absorbed.

    From what I’ve learned, to transmit the concepts of being more grounded, thankful, etc., a good way to instill this values in our children is to model them ourselves. We have to be the people we want our children to be. When we’re grateful, express it aloud so they can see. Work on being grounded, and share what we’ve learned.

    An interesting exercise in developing gratitude I heard was this: Around the Shabbos table (or anytime the family is consistently gathered together would do), each family member lists something they’re grateful for that week.

    As for entitlement, it’s our first-world challenges that are filled with so much grey area. We don’t want to say no capriciously, but we don’t want to feed the sense of “I deserve this!” We’re not big on material possessions here, which helps, but I’m sure once my kids get to school and see what everyone else has, there will be requests and desires and all that fun stuff. We’re hoping we can transmit the concept of “do you want it because everyone else has one, or because you want to use it for something?” We don’t want them to feel like they don’t have, compared to their peer group, but we don’t want to engage in unnecessary consumption either.

    Good luck to us all!

  5. This is one of the hardest things about being a parent, it’s a balancing act. Embrace a lifestyle yet appreciate it every step of the way… they will grow into it if you show them the way, it just takes a while.
    How could they know any different yet?
    Once my kids were old enough to look beyond the family unit we started volunteering together with them and my daughter decided just after she turned 14 that she wants to start working a little on the weekends to buy all this stuff she wants. Let’s just say she has a whole new appreciation for “worth” now.

  6. You even write about the parenting challenges with beauty and grace? How do you do that?

    Or maybe it’s that you do that, that you take a breath and try to figure it out that makes you a mother who is doing this right. Whatever this is. You’re figuring it out.

    It’s hard. We want to give our children so much, but we don’t want them to expect too much. Sometimes I think that Chessa (at age 2) is running our house and that I should start telling her “no” more often just because I can. Just to show her who’s boss. That’s probably not the right answer, but I’m not sure what is. How do I get her to listen when I do say no?

    Sigh. This would be so much easier if my parenting manual didn’t get lost in the mail.

  7. I feel the same way, Galit. I want so badly for my son to have the things I never had, experiences I didn’t and opportunies I lacked. But? I also want him to remain humble, honest and giving. I’m trying, I know. But you’re right, it’s difficult and we don’t have a book we can simple turn to that will help us figure it all out. There’s no manual to parenting! I only hope my efforts are enough to keep him grounded. Fingers crossed that we all figure it out soon!

  8. I don’t know, Galit, but I think it must be a societal thing. Tracy from Sellabit Mum just wrote about this last week, and I had my own post about my thoughts on the overall state of our culture and how it seems to be collectively desensitizing us. I know my child has good manners because I’ve worked hard to instill them in her, but I have to wonder if our society in all its rudeness and excess won’t try to break down what I’ve built?

    I know it may not seem right to blame society but, well, that’s all I’ve got at the moment. Thought-provoking post.

  9. I think so much of it is part of the age, and as long as you’re not encouraging it, it should lessen. My kids lost that as they got older, which is why I SO enjoy lavishing unexpected surprises on them from time to time.

  10. I think the fact that you have an awareness of what you want for your children is so important. Guiding them past the “I wants” to the “I needs” is hard but, so worth it.

  11. Sometimes I think the universe is out of alignment and we’re all experiencing the same things at the same time. My kids have been *off* this week too. And there’s really no good reason for it. I’ve asked myself the same questions this week that you have, not having answers for it.

    So I can’t answer your questions, but I can say I’m so happy we’re “in this” together. It’s the main reason I love blogging so much.

  12. Oh friend. The sense of entitlement is my biggest dilemma. Like a previous commenter mentioned, it does seem to lessen as they age…. We shall see.

    Also? They are totally heart shaped in that picture!

  13. Sometimes I feel like my oldest is SO selfish. He doesn’t share with his siblings and WANTS more all the time. He just a kid and doesn’t understand how complicated it all is but I hear about kids all the time that are so generous and giving and I wonder where I went wrong, you know? In other words, I get this. Especially the “unteach” part…

  14. I’ve been struggling with this lately with my oldest daughter. She thinks she is entitled to everything even though she does nothing to earn it. So frustrating.

  15. I think we all fear that, to some degree. Just when you think they have it down…they beg for more when they know they don’t need it. It’s hard. But that’s being a kid. Kids are fun and talkative and smart and engaging…and terribly impulsive. Every little thing is a must-have, and every no is grounds for a dramatic uprising. All we can do is set our limits, stay calm, and empathize. Because, wow, it’s hard when you don’t have exactly what you *think* you need exactly when you think you need it. I can certainly understand that. xoxo

  16. This is something that I worry about all the time. I want to give them everything, but I don’t want them to expect everything.

  17. Thank you for this Galit.
    I often wonder how to find this balance and how to teach this important lesson.
    But I don’t know how to do it.
    Through modeling?
    Through example?
    Good for you for bringing such an important message to light.
    Love you for it.

  18. I’m the “mean mommy.” And my son is perfectly rule-abiding and gentle and sensitive.

    But…

    He is soft. He gets beaten up. He doesn’t want enough. He doesn’t know how to protect. He is all empathy and no fight.

    So…

    We all do the best we can. And we all have our own worries. Something tels me you will teach them.

    You will teach your children well.

  19. Oh, I SO get it. If there is one human “weakness” (for lack of a better word) that I fear showing up in my kids it’s a sense of entitlement. I want them to be filled with wonder and gratitude–and for the most part they are. But sometimes… sometimes they take thing for granted and that really irks me. But I truly believe that they’ll get over it with a little gentle nudging–my kids and yours :-).

  20. Ohmygoodness! I could have written something like this…and my daughter’s only two! It’s so hard to find the balance between making your children happy and not letting them get too spoiled. How many times have I looked around at our playroom and thought “This is way too much c#@p for one kid!” I certainly don’t have the answer…let me know if you ever find it, will you?

  21. I just had this discussion with my husband. We’re going to a cabin next week in the mountains and my husband told the kids we couldn’t go skiing EVERY day and they didn’t get it. They are used to getting and having. I felt we didn’t convey the “you’re not entitled to everything you want” message very well. So I don’t know the answer. I’m going to look for it in your comments section. XOXOXOXOX

  22. To read this as we are here in Banff …. dogsledding, sleighriding, snowtubing … my children currently asleep in front of a stone fireplace in our suite. Their world. The one so easy to them …
    But we do our best to make them aware, we travel to other countries, they play a with children who have so little … we make them aware. We are planning a trip to an orphange in the Domican Rep – they need to live another life to appreciate the one they have.
    But the one they have comes with rules, and requiremnts,and manners and respect …
    We live in Boca, and its our job as their parents to make them aware that they are indeed very fortunate, but it is their duty, yes a duty – to give back.
    This parenting gig is hard, but we cannot fail them…

    you too, my dear, your awareness is key to your children understanding their world ….
    you are guiding them well …

  23. Life As Wife says:

    I have nothing eloquent to add to something already so amazingly crafted.

    I have no experience in the matter but I honestly think kids can’t learn the entitlement/some people are worse off than us lesson until they are a little older.

  24. As parents, we constantly struggle in finding the balance, between giving them the best we can and providing them with whatever we couldn’t have before, and teaching them to appreciate what they’ve been given with and not take things for granted.

    I grew up poor and had to stand on my own two feet pretty early in life. I didn’t have much things and always had to save whenever I wanted something. My parents couldn’t afford the ‘best’ of everything for me. Money was always an issue.

    My daughter now is much more fortunate. There’s this side of me that wants to give her EVERYTHING, especially things that were denied to me when I was young. But at the same time, I know from my own personal experience that the reason why I value a lot of things was because I didn’t get them the easy way.

    I don’t think there’s any one correct way to teach our children of this lesson in life. It’ll be different for every child. I know of cases where the parents positively spoiled their daughter rotten only to have her resented their wealth so much, she rebelled and deliberately chose a life of a struggling artist. I also know of cases where the parents were too strict that the children grew up hating their parents.

    But when it comes to your children, I know this with certainty, Galit. They’re in good hands. You are one of the most aware, educated, conscious parent I’ve known. I know that you will raise each and every one with respect to their individuality and instill in them great values they’ll bring well into their adulthood.

  25. Yep.
    This resonates.

    Good kids. And yet. They have more than they need.
    They can’t imagine what it’s like to not.

    I don’t ever want them to want for anything.
    But I don’t want everything handed to them, either.

    It’s soooo hard when you care so much.
    When you want to raise fabulous kids.

    Let me know when you find all the answers.
    (I need them handed to me – ha!)

  26. Wow, we’ve been working on those very issues. Its a challenge – I want my children to have things, but not expect them. Definitely a fine line, one that is hard.

  27. Ask your children questions. Let their amazing imaginations and your insightful asking and listening do some of this work for you. Ask how many stuffed animals is enough today? Ask which one can go live with a kiddo who doesn’t have any? Ask for your birthday how many children would you like to help? Ask should we give the second batch of cookies to the police or the firefighters? Would you like to shovel show for this elderly neighbor or that one? Will we clean the litter at the playground before we play or from the sidewalk on the way there? Ask your kids. They have your heart, and Jason’s. They will give great answers.

  28. Yolanda @ One Family Table says:

    Every time I have the opportunity to teach my kids about entitlement, I inevitably realize that I still struggle with entitlement myself. It is absolutely pervasive, no matter what age, culture, or even socioeconomic level you are at. So I start with myself, teasing apart the ways I conduct my life, my parenting, my marriage with an underlying sense of entitlement. I don’t expect to figure it out completely, but I do hope that my kids will witness it consistently enough that it also translates over to their lives and perspectives. It’s the little every day things/actions/struggles that cumulatively over time build dramatic shifts in perspective and sense of purpose. Like how we spend our money, what we live for, what defines our joy, and what we hope most in. Entitlement is very self-protective in nature; so to be free from entitlement begs the question – what would make you feel so overwhelmingly secure and content that you could freely give more and care more without the reflex desire to take/withhold/demand? It’s such a tricky thing. I work with some extremely poor families who are struggling to feed their kids. And yet, despite seeing this on a regular basis, I still have a sense of entitlement. This is not something I expect my kids to “figure out” or “mature” in; if anything I hope this is something they wrestle with all their lives and the process of wrestling with it changes them authentically in words and actions. Sometimes I like to approach it instead form the other “end”, focusing not on just being more grateful for what you have, but becoming convicted that all you have can be used powerfully to impact other lives more than just the self. My friend’s 11 yr old son just raised $1000 to invest in the building of a well for a small community in India that a group from our church had visited last summer. It’s not that he doesn’t struggle with entitlement any less than the rest of us and our kids, but he is catching a glimpse and vision for what an impact just one little person can be. It’s changing how he sees things, little by little.
    It’s so hard Galit. I want so much for my kids to “get it”. I guess one the hardest aspects of parenthood is recognizing this is something they will truly have to figure out on their own. In the meantime, we can simply model for them that it matters and we care about it enough to also work on it for ourselves. Hugs, Galit. Your kids are wonderful. Precious.

  29. This is ABSOLUTELY what we are going through with Kate right now! She takes too much for granted and doesn’t appreciate the “special” things as being special.

    It’s frustrating to me because neither of my girls ask for stuff, and we aren’t the parents who fall prey to begging/whining when out shopping either. We have never lavished them with gifts. At all.

    It often ties into going out of the house to do stuff. Like going out to eat. If we are just going to grab Chick-Fil-A, it isn’t “good enough” because she wants a sit down restaurant.

  30. Beautiful, Galit. And in response to your question? No, I don’t know. All I can do is hope that in the end, they will learn and know to be appreciative, thankful, aware of what they have is enough.

  31. I have such an opinion about the Millenial Generation and the entitlement and “fair” and overconfidence, yet I question this all the time. I wonder how you balance it as a parent. How do your create balanced, confident, aspiring kids without creating monsters or squelching their spirits? So difficult. I wish you guys the best of luck. This is when an instruction manual would be helpful, huh?

  32. We are going through this same thing with our kids now. They thing they deserve everything without earning it first. They don’t appreciate the little special things because they feel they should be spoiled with everything else. It is so frustrating.

  33. My favorite. This one.

    I struggle with finding ways to teach them, show them that they are blessed, fortunate, “rich” in so many other ways. How do you teach the evil and heartbreak of the world without wounding their spirits?

  34. I wrote a post about this same thing during the holiday season (you know, when it’s all in your face) and I worry over it as well. Even today I posted about it a bit. It is hard to know. But I think the fact that you’re thinking of it means you’re on the right track. Because you do remind your children to be thankful and appreciative. You do talk to them about children who don’t have and remind them of things that are truly important. And, they are GOOD kids that will likely grow up to be GOOD people. At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

  35. Galit,

    I think you’ve voiced what so many of us feel every day. I know I do. I think mine (who just turned 6) are still too young and part of it is just a phase—the entitlement stuff. I talk myself blue in the face, show them things, do things WITH them to illustrate/demonstrate, but…some of it will have to come with age, I think.

    Brilliant post, as usual.
    xoxo

  36. Galit, I think this is a question that all good parents struggle with. You are aware and are such a well intentioned person who is a giver–this will rub off on your children. They will model their lives and behavior after your example. Our culture is rampant with entitlement and ego and, of course, our kids are at the age where that is normal, so it’s natural to worry about this. I think just having a continuing dialogue with your kids and being the wonderful role model that you are will keep them on the right path. XO

  37. They do look heart shaped! So sweet! I struggle with this too. We have two kids. They do pretty much get what they want. they’re not spoiled, but they have no idea how good they really have it. It’s hard to find the balance between teaching them life can be hard, and protecting them from hard times.

  38. While I cannot relate to your subject matter, I find your post, your writing, truly mesmorizing. I feel that speaks volumes about your talent. I want to read more in order to fully capture your emotions. I am hooked by the second sentence. You are an amazing writer. And I struggle to find the words to convey my appreciation of your words.

  39. This was beautiful. I think that if you’re thinking about it and being mindful of it, you’re already doing a lot more for their humility and grounded-ness than most parents. When they get older and are less impulsive and at a less self-centered place in their development, you’ll be ready to talk to them, and they’ll listen. I’m so glad I stumbled onto your blog today.

  40. I know just what you are going through having this problem myself with my own children and still am having it with some of them and dealing with it with my grandchildren I am hoping that it is just a so called phase like with my older children

  41. This, my dear friend, is one of the hardest thingsI think in raising kids. We have more than we need, but not too much. But many around us have so much and take it for granted. Trying to make sure that they appreciate what they have when they see how much more others have is hard. Sigh…

  42. If you find the answer to this, please let me know! I struggle with it, too. I hope it does get better as they get older, but I have a feeling that if we just let it happen, it’ll get worse.

  43. Oh. This is a tough one. I don’t have any problem ever saying no, and explaining that we don’t have the money to buy this and that and the other. She gets it. But those are just handy excuses – it’s a life lesson that I too struggle with – how to impart that ingrained knowledge that no, you don’t deserve every little thing?

  44. it’s so hard, isn’t it? We want our little precious bundles of joy to have everything their little hearts desire, but we don’t want them to be selfish and bratty kids…
    I’ve been working on saying no more..and the kids are cool with it…luckily…
    also, my oldest is 7 1/2, and over the last couple of years his sense of entitlement has lessened…
    So maybe it’s working? who knows…

  45. Yes, I think being aware and talking and modeling are all good but just like to so many other things I think DOING is essential. And so we do. Little things. Big things. Informal. Formal. And we remind our kids that taking care of the world and the people in it is something we are all responsible for and that even as kids they can do their part. And we give that service work context by talking about gratitude.

    Does it solve the problem? I don’t know. But it has opened their eyes to the world around them and that it doesn’t just revolve around them. Until they forget. And so it becomes an ongoing lesson.

  46. It’s a good question Galit, and one I’ve been thinking about lately too. I still believe in leading by example and like you, not giving in to every whim. My kids are getting to an age where we explain how fortunate and blessed we are but that we work hard to provide for them. It really hits me the hardest around Christmas time and Birthdays when they expect SO much. I know the hubs and I need to reign in a bit and start having these discussions with them now…instead of later when they don’t care what we have to say and just want to know when we’re going to hand them the keys so they can GO!!

    Great topic, Galit. Thanks so much for bringing it up.

  47. So my daughter didn’t latch on to the poetry idea as much as I had hoped. She is a very free spirit and just likes to live in the moment, flitting from one thing to another. Oh well.

    On to your post – I think all children are like that. It’s our job to break them of the entitlement without breaking their spirit. But how to do that? Goodness, I don’t know. All I know is that just being for them and being an example will have its effect in time.

  48. John and I were just discussing this and tryingso hard to retain our sanity in the middle of it. We want to give them so much but we also know that it leads to them expecting it and that is a place we are hesitant to go.

    Even at 4 I push them to say Please, thank you, I love you and all the rest until it’s second nature and not questionable. My hope is that we can do it….

    What a beautiful, thoughtful post my friend.

  49. Thank you for writing this. It’s a deep fear of mine…. raising an ungrateful child. I believe children deserve everything under the sun, but NEVER want them to feel entitled to it. So far, it is the hardest issue I’ve had to deal with/face as a mother; giving without giving too much, learning to say no and teaching him to accept it and appreciate what he has.

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