To watch the video version of this post on skill-building vs entitlement, click here.
Are you refusing to “give in” to your child for fear of fostering entitlement? So often I come across parents, and even grandparents, that have this concern. They fear that by giving a child what they need to regulate that they are creating an entitlement. The fear is that their kids are going to grow up expecting that people will give them what they want if they put up enough of a fuss. Does it ring true for you that you can’t seem to go all-in on skill-building because when you’re in red-brain and when you feel affronted, you don’t want to give an inch because that will surrender your position as the authority? Let’s change that because it’s not true.
Managing Your Expectations
First, we need to establish the expectation. Do you care about how they do it, or do you want to get things done? Is your expectation that things be done your way, on your timetable? Or that the thing actually is done? If you want your child to clean up, you have to get clarity on what is more important to you at that moment. Is your expectation that they clean up in silence? Or is the priority, the expectation, that the things get put away? Taking a second to reflect on what your actual expectation is helps put things into perspective.
Don’t stand like a deer in the headlights next time your child misbehaves. Grab the Scripts for Managing Crazy-Making Behaviour and know exactly what to say next time your toddler or preschooler isn’t listening.
Creating The Condition Is Not About Entitlement
We know that when a child is in a limbic state, they are irrational and emotional, they cannot use reason. When in a limbic state, the part of the brain that learns and uses reason and logic, is being deprived of resources because it’s not necessary for survival. So when we aren’t regulated, meaning both those parts of our brain are pulling the same weight, it doesn’t matter what makes sense on a logical level! We’re preoccupied with sensing if we are in danger. It’s instinctual. So if they feel like they can’t do something the way you’re dictating it be done, it’s not getting done! So if being “right” is most important to you, nothing is going to get done. Your child is going to dig in their heels and become even more irrational and emotional. If your focus is on getting it done that gives us some options. If listening to a podcast while cleaning up is going to help calm your child’s nervous system enough to bring his neocortex back online and do the cleaning…who cares?! Your expectation – that the cleaning happens – is being met. That’s not giving in, that’s helping him by creating the conditions for your expectations to be met.
Meeting Emotional And Physical Needs Isn’t Entitlement- It’s The Basics
Yes, we’re their parents- but that doesn’t mean our needs supersede theirs. There are 3 basic physical needs that can’t be ignored – eating, sleep, and eliminating. If your child needs any one of those 3 basic things, it doesn’t matter how calm you are, they’re not going to be regulated. Needing to be calm and alert before taking care of other people’s tasks isn’t entitlement- it’s the basics. And in fact, if we started honouring this with our children more, maybe we would have less of a difficult time maintaining that baseline for ourselves.
It all comes down to this:
The bottom line is, by giving our children what they need, we aren’t getting rid of the expectation! They aren’t getting out of it. We’re just pausing it to take care of the big emotional stuff first. We are meeting the necessities of life: hunger, elimination, safety, and sleep to create the proper conditions. If you can recognize which part of their brain they’re using, and tailor your response to work with it, expectations get met and life goes on.
And if aggression happens, we’re going to make sure everyone is calm, safe, and secure before addressing it because we can’t reason with people who aren’t calm, safe and secure. So that discussion should happen at a neutral time so that we can work on beefing up those executive skills so that they don’t go offline so quickly.
So what do you think? Does that sound like entitlement? The mess got cleaned, the stomach got fed, and then aggression was addressed? Do you get the difference between being entitled and asking for what you need?
Now, if you’re struggling to figure all that out, and you want some guidance- you’ve got two options: first- you can join the Parenting Posse, which is my free Facebook group. Second- you’re invited to take my Misbehaviour-Proof class which goes more in-depth on the skills I mentioned. And third, you’re invited to join us in ParentAbility for personalized support.