Needs vs. Wants
Many items that kids ask for are things they want, not things they need. While your child does need food and clothing, that doesn't mean he should have a cookie or an expensive pair of shoes. Young kids are still learning the difference between "wants" and "needs" at school, and you'll probably have your share of discussion at home, too. To help make the differences clear, have your child make a poster of things that he "wants" and "needs."
What You Need:
Poster board Glue
What to Do:
First, help your child draw a line down the middle of a poster board.
On one side, have your child write "Wants" at the top of the poster, and on the other side have him write "Needs."
Ask your child about something he wants and why he wants it. Next, ask your child about something he needs. If he's having trouble coming up with the correct answer, ask questions that will guide him to answers about clothing, water, food, toys, and shelter.
Then go over the differences of a want and a need. Tell them that a "need" is something we must have in order to survive, like food, water, clothing, and shelter. Stress that to meet our needs; all we have to get is the most basic of things. Then explain that a "want" is something that we can live without, even though we may have a strong desire for it.
After you're finished going over the differences, go through some magazines together and cut out about 15 to 20 pictures of both wants and needs. Try to get different types of magazines, like clothing catalogs, food magazines, etc.
When all the pictures are cut out, have your child pick a picture from the pile and tell you if it's something he needs or something he wants. Talk about his answer and then have him glue the picture onto the correct side of the board.
Talk about how "we meet our needs" and how "we meet our wants". Meeting wants can be through gifts, allowance, rewards, or setting goals; this for you to establish as a family.
Once all of the pictures have been glued down, hang the picture in the house so that the next time your child wants something, like a new toy, talk about whether the item is a want or a need and ask your child which column of the poster the item would go under. Remind them how they can obtain "wants", then make a plan i.e. add it to a wish list, set a goal, set a reward plan, or save.
Reasonable Expectations by Developmental Stage
Here's how to grow these expectations with your child.
Between 24 and 36 months of age, your child develops the ability to handle many behavioral responsibilities. Use a timer to motivate your child to clean up specific toys and put them back in their proper place before the buzzer goes off. Make chore completion fun and be sure to help out, modeling the good behavior yourself. Be careful at the grocery store that you don't cave in and buy a toy that your little one puts into the cart — that's an easy habit to start and a difficult one to get rid of!
Between 3 and 4 years of age children are able to perform daily chores such as putting dirty clothes in a hamper (you may want to play beat-the-buzzer or dunk-the-basketball to get them moving on this) and helping you to make their beds. Threes can fill pet bowls, pull up their own elastic-waist pants and skirts, and brush their teeth with your guidance. Praise your child for a good effort — little ones thrive on positive attention, and they don't need constant treats to motivate a good performance.
Fours continue to be able to complete chore responsibilities such as putting their dirty dishes on the counter or clothes in the hamper, giving the dog water or food, washing themselves in the bath with your supervision, brushing their teeth with your guidance, and picking out their clothes for the next day. Remember to thank them for their help and note that because the child was quick to get ready in the morning, there's now time to play a word game before leaving for preschool.
Early Grade Schoolers
Fives can prepare themselves for kindergarten in the morning (getting clothes out, etc.) and work 15 minutes at a time on letters, dot-to-dots, and other pre-academic tasks. Fives are able to help to make their own simple lunches, dress themselves, and begin to learn to tie their shoes. They can also begin to help younger siblings with dressing and other tasks. These children can help clean up after their baths (hanging up the towel, putting dirty clothes in the hamper), as well as making their own beds.
Six- and 7-year-olds can work cooperatively with you on homework as well as doing some of it themselves. They can put their clean clothes in the correct drawers or hang them up in the closet, pick up their bedroom daily, and meet deadlines for baths and bedtime. Early grade schoolers can be expected to brush their teeth by themselves, answer the telephone, and respond politely when spoken to. They can help with dinner chores and take out their own articles from the car each day and put them away. Many early grade schoolers can set their alarm clocks (with adult supervision) and wake up by the alarm in the morning (again, with your guidance).
Be careful not to buy on impulse or demand for your early grade schooler. Begin an allowance system and teach them to have goals. Let them see how close they are to earning a new action figure or video game. Encourage waiting and saving.
Older Grade Schoolers
Eight-, 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds can continue with self-hygiene chores and be totally responsible for getting ready for school. Although they will need help and guidance with homework, they can do much of it on their own. These kids can bring in the mail and take out and bring in the trashcans. They can be expected to keep their rooms clean and to help out with family chores such as dusting, straightening the family and play rooms, and helping to put away laundry other than their own. Setting and clearing the table are appropriate responsibilities, as are pet chores.
Instead of giving these kids toys, treats, or possessions when demanded, have them learn to save their allowances for purchases. Teach them to buy on sale and to budget. Have them wait a few days before impulsively making a purchase — let them see that they may change their mind and be glad that they saved their money. Have them contribute at times to the rental fee for a video game or movie. Start a bank account and show them how to balance it each month.
Twelve-, 13- and 14-year-olds are quite capable of helping out with just about everything around the house. They can cook, help clean, do yard work, and wash the car. They can be totally responsible for doing their own laundry. Encourage babysitting younger siblings and doing pet chores. Watch out that you are not doing too much for them, as they will continue to be "helpless" if you allow that. Self-esteem is largely based in accomplishment, and kids who "do" feel good about themselves.
Encourage an allowance system for purchases such as CDs, video games, and movies. Kids this age can be placed on a clothing allowance system — which teaches budgeting and planning ahead. They'll learn that "wanting" doesn't always lead to "getting" — a great lesson to learn at this time in life.
Teens can be very self-sufficient — taking care of their own laundry, ironing, helping with dinner preparation and clearing, as well as watching younger siblings. If your teen is driving a car, have her chip in for auto insurance or gas, especially if she has a paying job. Encourage her to volunteer and to help with family chores, not just her own.
If she has a paying job, eliminate the allowance, but you may still have to chip in for clothing purchases. Set a limit on what you think is reasonable, and if she has extravagant tastes, let her take up the slack and put in the difference from her own savings. Don't cave in and allow privileges or freedoms that you feel uncomfortable with just because she nags you — stand your ground if you feel that her requests are inappropriate. Remember, she's learning the work ethic and frustration tolerance — skills that will serve her well as an adult!
Five secrets to stop the entitlement epidemic
From Positive Parenting Solutions founder and TODAYMoms contributor, Amy McCready -- Many parents are frustrated these days by a feeling of entitlement by today's youth. Whether it's getting almost anything they ask for or expecting everything to be done for them, today's kids have learned how to get their way and the problem is out of control like a run-away train. So who's to blame? It's easy to point to Hollywood and Madison Avenue, but while they may contribute to the issue, the real problems start at home.
Pampering and overindulging
The biggest culprits of the entitlement epidemic are parents who unintentionally pamper and overindulge their kids. No parent intends to raise a child who feels the world owes him a living; instead, the problem starts small and continues to fester. A toddler throws a tantrum at the store and her tired, overworked mom buys a toy to keep her happy and quiet. Years later, Dad is eventually worn down by his teenager's dramatic threat that her "life will come to an end" if she doesn't get the latest and greatest Smartphone. The "quick fix" does nothing to solve the challenge at hand — it only sets the stage for the next incident.
Mom also finds herself doing everything around the house because she's tired of repeatedly asking for help and getting no response. Kids quickly learn that by ignoring requests long enough or complaining loud enough, parents wear down before they do -- leaving the parent with too much responsibility and the child with not enough. And the entitlement train rumbles unrelentingly along its track.
Ready to put a stop to this behavior? Here's how to set up roadblocks for the entitlement train:
Give your kids an allowance and be crystal clear about which expenses they'll be responsible for covering.
An allowance can begin as soon as your kids start asking for things at the store -- usually around the age of three or four. It should be used for the "I wants" -- the non-essential items that fall outside of your responsibility such as toys, candy, entertainment, etc. When your child is begging for the latest, greatest Barbie, simply say, "Do you have enough of your allowance saved or would you like to put that on your wish list?"
Older kids can be expected to use allowance for school lunches, their cell phone bill, downloaded music, and even clothing. Determine how much allowance to give based on what expenses you expect them to cover and how much they'll need to do that. Being responsible for their own expenses will teach valuable lessons in budgeting, saving, making tough choices with limited resources and the consequences of making poor financial decisions.
Assign household jobs that your kids are responsible for doing every day - without pay!
I don't know about you, but I'm still waiting for my paycheck for buying groceries, cooking dinner and wiping off the counter. There's no free ride in your family and everyone should be expected to contribute on a daily basis. While an allowance is a great training tool to teach kids to be responsible for their own expenses, it is not compensation for helping at home. Paying kids to do household jobs fosters the attitude of "I don't have to help out around here unless I'm getting paid." Kids as young as two and as old as twenty should have daily family contributions that benefit the family.
In fact, it may be a good idea for you to ditch the word "chores" from your vocabulary and call them "family contributions" instead. This important distinction reminds kids that although they don't love folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher, they're contributing in a meaningful way to your family — and it makes a real difference.
Reveal consequences in advance for not doing family contributions.
Avoid the need to nag and remind your kids to do their family contributions by revealing consequences in advance. For example, "Our family rule is that your family contributions must be completed before you have TV, video or computer time." Or, "You are responsible for cleaning the toy room by dinner time. Any toys that are lying on the floor after that time will go into a box and be unavailable for the next week."
Have a Plan for Whining and Badgering.
Why do kids badger us? Because we let them! Be prepared for what you'll say the next time they want you to buy something they "desperately need." While it may seem like an easy out to simply reply "I can't afford it," resist this phrase. Kids see that as an empty excuse, especially if they see you making other purchases. Instead, when your son is dying for the new LeBron James basketball shoes:
1. Empathize: "They are cool. Do you have enough allowance saved or do you want to put that on your wish list?"
2. Or, state what you ARE willing to do: "Those LeBron shoes are cool. I'm willing to pay $50 each year for a pair of basketball shoes -- you are welcome to pay the difference if you have enough money saved.
Don't cave in to whining or badgering. Doing so adds fuel to the entitlement train and reinforces the idea that if they badger long enough, we'll eventually give in.
Foster giving and gratitude.
Encourage your kids to give a portion of their allowance to a charity of their choice. When your kids receive a gift or purchase something new, encourage them to put something in your giving box for someone in need. Volunteer with your kids at a local shelter. Help your child start a "gratitude journal" to record the things, people and experiences he or she is grateful for on a daily basis. A little gratitude — and empathy for situations more difficult than their own — can go a long way in raising kids who can think and act beyond themselves.
Pampering and over-indulging can be a temporary fix to ease short-term aggravation, but it is a monumental disservice to kids in the long run. Pampered and indulged kids will one day grow into narcissistic adults, helpless spouses and high-maintenance employees. Begin putting the brakes on the entitlement train today. And one day, believe it or not, your kids will thank you!
Note: See the list of family contributions by age for ideas for your family. Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions www.PositiveParentingSolutions.com