Children and Money

Good Versus Entitled Life: The Unintended Consequences

A Good Versus Entitled Life: The Unintended Consequences | www.TheHeavyPurse.comMy friend, Kim, from Eyes on the Dollar, shared her experiences with some entitled kids last week, and it’s a topic that deserves our attention. It is a problem more parents face than we probably realize, and the trend will only continue unless we make some conscious changes.

It’s not my intent to point fingers or cast blame. It has been my experience that most parents with entitled kids never intended for this to happen. They wanted their children to have a good life, so they gave their kids everything, hoping it would help them exceed their own success.

The reality is we sometimes inadvertently create entitled kids instead. Kids who are accustomed to receiving everything they want, simply because they want it. They have little concept of money and how to manage it properly. They want something; they get it. And expect Mom and Dad to bail them out when their money runs low or creditors come a-knocking.

As a financial advisor, I’ve helped parents who have put their own financial future at risk because they still support adult children who remain unable or unwilling to fend for themselves. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about their enablement, but it’s also much harder when it’s your own child you’re turning out.

3 Ways We Create Entitled Children

It’s been my observation that these are the common culprits to creating entitled kids. It is much harder to change behaviors and mindsets when our kids are adults, so now is the to make sure you’re truly giving your kids a good life, rather than an entitled one.

1. Money is Given for No Apparent Reason and When Asked

This is probably the most dangerous mistake parents make. When money is given without being earned or for a valid reason, kids assume that is normal. It’s not. It doesn’t mean you need to be miserly with your money or never treat your child to a surprise present. Of course, you can, but the key word is “surprise”. Seeing Lauren and Taylor’s eyes light up at an unexpected gift is one of the greatest pleasures of being a parent. But I also don’t ever want to create the expectation that I will buy girls everything they want. It doesn’t surprise me when kids ask for money or want their parents to buy them something because that’s normal, and we do them a disservice when we always say “yes”. They need to understand money is precious and earned.

2. We Don’t Allow Them to Make Mistakes

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is watch your kids suffer a failure and not prevent it from happening. We want our kids to succeed and feel good about themselves. Thus, we are constantly on the lookout for anything that may darken our child’s day and eliminate the problem ourselves. And when they do experience some sort of a set-back, we comfort them with food or a new toy or gadget to ease their pain, creating a belief that wounds need to be comforted with food and gifts.

It is our job as parents to protect and support our kids, but we also have to let them experience the real world, which isn’t always perfect. We can certainly comfort them and walk side-by-side to support them as they learn from their mistakes or recover from set-backs, but we cannot carry them every time something “tough” or “hard” comes along either. They need to learn to become nimble on their own two feet and trust in their own ability to overcome hardships. Otherwise we will be their fixer … forever.

Please note: I am well aware there are situations where we absolutely must intervene on our children’s behalf and encourage you to do so in those instances. At the same time, we need to be conscious of when we’ve moved into overprotection mode, which can be a detriment to our children’s growth.

3. We Neglect to Set Clear Expectations

Growing up, I had many conversations with my parents about what I wanted to do when “I grew up”. My parents expected me to do my best in school, go to college, graduate and get a good job. I believe I have fulfilled their expectations. 🙂 Unfortunately, some parents are more ambivalent when it comes to setting expectations with their kids. Now I don’t believe you should force a child to go to college who has zero interest in doing so. It will be an expensive lesson in futility. At the same time, I also don’t think your child should live at home and play video games all day while you make them dinner, wash their clothes and pick up after them either. You need to set clear expectations (and realistic ones too) or your kids will languish.

My daughter, Lauren, is 10 years old, and I regularly ask her why it’s important to get good grades in school. Her answer? So she can go to a good college, get a good job and buy a nice house, but not too nice of a house. She wants to have enough money leftover to travel, because that’s important to her too. Every time I hear her answer, my smile gets bigger. I have no doubt that Lauren will make this a reality some day.

A Good Life Means Financially Confident Kids

I believe my husband and I are giving our daughters a great life. One rich in love, support and experiences. They also know that we work very hard in order to make this great life possible, and none of us take it for granted. Next week, I will share some steps on how to give your kids a good or great life that prepares them to succeed in this world.


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January 13, 2014  •  53 Comments  •  Children and Money

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  1. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Really great lessons Shannon! Parenting is an active job and we need to be purposeful in how we raise our children. Of course we're not all perfect and I find myself from time to time doing things "just because" rather than because I've really thought through the reasons, but the more of that we do the less we're service our kids. I think that allowing for failure is one of the hardest but also most important points here. The sooner you can learn that failure is just a starting point rather than a tragic end, the better off you'll be.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Matt! No one is the perfect parent but it's very easy to slip into the "just because" mode, which doesn't help our children grow. I agree - it's so hard to watch our kids but it's important that they learn how to handle defeat … to see it as temporary and know how to get back up.
  2. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Great post Shannon! You make such a good point about the fact that if children come to expect parents to be their "fixer," in later life this will translate to "financial fixing" in the form of adult children constantly "borrowing" money from mom and dad, etc.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Dee! I see too often. While there are certainly times where it may be reasonable to provide some financial assistance, when we make it a habit, kids lack a motivation to make it on their own. It's one thing to know Mom and Dad have your back and another to rely on Mom and Dad to take care of you when you're an adult.
  3. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Awesome post Shannon! I think each of these are incredibly important as you raise children, especially #1, but think #2 is key. Life happens, and with it our children need to be able to grow, adjust, and learn how to wade through difficult situations. Of course, this will vary based off their age and maturity, but it's an invaluable lesson for them to learn.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, John! #2 is so important and it's a tough one. It's not always easy to sit back and do nothing but kids need to learn how overcome and even thrive in difficult situations. It is an invaluable lesson and one we rob them of when we "fix" everything for them.
  4. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    These are some great points, Shannon. As you know (and as I start with all my comments, haha) I do not have kids. I can only imagine how hard it is to hold back money/gifts/etc. from them and to say no even if they cry and scream or say they hate you. I hope when I have kids I'm able to raise them in a way that they do not feel entitled to certain things but instead realize that you need to work hard to get the things you want (and need) in life.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, DC! It is very hard when your children are throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store or shouting "I hate you" to not cave. But caving in means no one really wins. Raising kids to understand the value of money and appreciate the things they have are very important lessons for kids to learn. I have no doubt you'll impart those lessons/values on your future kids!
  5. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Right on the mark as usual, Shannon. It's difficult to watch your kids learn from their money mistakes, but as we've learned first hand, there's something awfully reassuring about watching your kid lament over money spent carelessly, and knowing they'll think twice about what to do with their hard-earned cash next time.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Laurie! It is hard watching the girls make money mistakes but when I see them learn valuable lessons, it makes it so much easier to keep quiet. They catch on very quickly and rarely every make the same mistake twice, which gives me great hope!
  6. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    This is a great post Shannon! I think that most parents want "what's best" for their children, but they unfortunately equate that with "stuff" and "things" they didn't have. We frequently tell our son "no" or make him pay for things he wants. Two years ago we let him spend all of his birthday and Christmas money on Legos (allowing him to fail). And he was so upset when he couldn't buy something later that he has since built his savings back up and at 7 years old has $700 dollars in his savings. :-)
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Yes! Somehow parents have learned to equate "stuff" as giving their kids the best life possible. I love the lesson you taught your son and it's incredibly impressive that he already has $700 in his savings account at 7 years old. Smart Mom; smart son!
  7. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Excellent post Shannon!
    I always wonder what parents are thinking when they bail their kids out of financial situations at every opportunity. Sometimes the kids do not even have to ask.
    What the parents do not understand is that they are not doing their kids a favor by bailing them out or always handing over money. What will happen to those kids if something bad happens to their parents? They will not know how to fend for themselves. And isn't it important for parents to teach kids how to fend for themselves by, as you said, talking about school, good grades, good job, and managing their money well.

    And a home filled with love & support trumps a home filled with excess cash any day.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Sicorra! There are definitely times when parents may need to offer a helping hand, but they need to be careful it doesn't get to the point where their kids rely on them for everything. They don't learn how to make smart financial decisions themselves and pass those same lessons onto their kids.
  8. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    You got it right Shannon! This is how you teach children lessons. You give them experiences and knowledge in order to affect their own future. You give them other things than just money. Entitled children is a problem that I see constantly. It irritates me quite a bit!
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Grayson! We definitely do not do our kids any favors when we enable them and don't allow them to experience life. We rob them of their ability to stand on their two feet. I want my girls to thrive without me clearing the path for them as I know you want for your son as well.
  9. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Great post! Although are little tyke is only 1, I try and make sure to correct him when he acts out of line in the hope he will learn from his mistakes and it will make him more independent in the future. I think kids who beg and want want want are the kids who always got picked up and coddled when they were little. Just like finances building slowly each day so does the character of our children.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Your little guy may be quite young but it's great that you're setting expectations now. It will help him learn and be independent. You are right that often times children who are coddled as babies remain coddled as teenagers and adults. Parents may do it with the best intentions but they are doing more harm than good.
  10. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Great post! Growing up, my sister and I knew the value of a dollar...we were a frugal family and we knew money was not to be wasted. I've seen some peers growing up in a similar situation who want the best for their kids and not have them go without things others have. This in turn sometimes has unintended consequences of raising entitled kids. It can be a tough balancing act, but raising financial confident kids who don't have a sense of entitlement is very important.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Andrew! It sounds like your parents did a great job raising you and your sister. It's sad because so many parents worry that if they can't give their children everything that they are harming them. The reality is sometimes giving kids everything they want is more harmful when it becomes a normal expectation.
  11. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Every time you write an anecdote about your girls it makes me smile - I can only imagine the pride you must feel for raising such financial-savvy little ones! I read an article somewhere that before it was 'helicopter parents' and now it's the 'snow plow parents' (or lawn mower parents) where they clear the path for them. I hope this trend doesn't continue and isn't as nearly prevalent as it makes it seem!
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      I am incredibly proud of my daughters! I, of course, think they are brilliant. :) Of course, that doesn't mean they get everything want! LOL! I've heard of "helicopter parents" but "snow plow parents" is new to me. This needs to stop. It's one thing to protect our kids and it's another thing to take over their lives. I can't wait to see who my girls grow up to be and I know they can succeed on their own two feet.
  12. Kathy
    Monday, January 13th, 2014
    When my son was in high school but still too young to have a job we paid him to do some jobs around the house. Things I would have to do after work or on weekends. But there were also times when he had to do things to help out simply because he was a member of the family. I recall one time I offered to pay him $5 to wash my car and he tried to bargain for $10. I said "how about you wash it for zero" to which he replied that $5 would be fine :) If you start them out young, their mistakes as adults will be fewer and more insignificant. Now, as an adult, I believe that he is in a great position financially and has made very few missteps along the way.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Love it! Kids will always negotiate (which is fine!) but we need to know when to stand our ground. Having kids earn money for doing chores is a great way for them to learn and I do something similar with my daughters. I agree if kids can make their mistakes when they are young and learn from them, it can help prevent costly mistakes when they get older.
  13. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    In addition to these three excellent points you make, parents also create entitled children when they bail them out instead of letting them suffer the consequences of their behavior. I've seen this all to often in a school environment...kid obviously misbehaves...gets disciplined...parent comes in raising havoc and pointing fingers at others...teacher/leadership backs down to avoid confrontation and kid gets off scot-free.
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      I imagine you see this all the time at school. Kids have to take responsibility for their actions and any consequences. It may not always be the easiest thing to do but we do them an incredibly disservice when we intervene and make them believe that it's okay to misbehave.
  14. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    I lived in a family where I've seen this go horribly wrong. Once you've set your child up for bad habits it becomes very hard to change it later on in life. It's really great to hear you set your children up for great success!
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Tonya! I'm doing my best to instill good habits and beliefs in my girls. Yes, it is much harder to change habits and beliefs later in life. And often times, entitled kids who became entitled adults have very little motivation for change.
  15. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Such a good post Shannon!

    The other day a parent handed their 10 year old $10 at the end of their (dental) appt with me for ''being a good girl'' I am 100% of the mind that you should never be rewarded for EXPECTED behaviour. this breeds expectations in life that will lead to failure and disappointment. I will never reward for something like being a good 10 year old in a dental cleaning, or making a bed, seriously!?!
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      Thanks, Catherine! Wow! I understand that kids may not "love" going to the dentist, but I agree when we reward expected behavior we set a dangerous precedent. My girls can earn money for doing additional chores but they also have some basic chores that are simply expected to complete because they are members of this family.
  16. Monday, January 13th, 2014
    Thanks so much for the mention. The longer I'm a parent, the more I think about how it's so much easier to just do the right thing from an early age. I still make mistakes, and I'm sure I always will, but having discussions about expectations and responsibilities started from almost birth in our house. Even if my daughter doesn't understand everything, at least the basic concepts will be cemented before she hits the terrible teens. Maybe the teens won't be as terrible if we are used to having an honest dialogue or maybe I'm just overly optimistic!
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 13th, 2014
      You're welcome, Kim! No one is a perfect, but I wholeheartedly agree that starting discussions about expectations and responsibilities needs to begin when our kids are very young. We need to instill good habits and values in our kids and continue to have honest, open dialogue with them throughout their childhood. I don't think you're being overly optimistic. I definitely believe it will make a difference!
  17. Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
    I don't feel particularly entitled, but I know I've had a very good life, and if I needed help, I could always turn to my parents. I do notice some entitlement in my younger brother, however, which is interesting as we obviously had a similar upbringing. He's a senior at Princeton University, and I honestly think , a lot of that entitlement comes from the culture of the school. I wonder if the reality of the real world will make him more grounded in the coming years.
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
      There is definitely a balance between making sure your kids know that they have your support without creating a sense of entitlement. It's interesting that your brother's has a sense of entitlement now and I agree that the culture he lives in now may be influencing him. Hopefully once he is back on his own, he will be more grounded and be reminded of the lessons your parents taught you.
  18. Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
    I was a nanny in my early 20's and the kids I watched were so spoiled. It actually made me sad for them because I felt like they were being set up to be disappointed for life. I vowed not to do that to my daughters....I want them to appreciate everything they have!
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
      I agree, Holly. Parents sometimes mistakenly believe they are setting their kids up for success when the reality is they are not. I have no doubt that you and Greg are instilling great habits, beliefs and a super work ethic in your girls!
  19. Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
    LOVE THIS POST! It's all so true. I don't have kids of my own, but I babysit enough to see the difference between the entitled children and the grounded ones.

    One of my favorite acts of bribery happened when I was in college. I was back in Shanghai for the summer and working at summer school. I was in charge of the theater camp and had a little boy who just didn't want to be there. When he threw a huge tantrum his mom promised him a Nintendo DS if he just got up on the stage to for the warm-up exercise I was doing. I stood there horrified because I thought, "I can't bribe this kid all day to participate!"
    • Shannon
      Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
      Thanks, Erin! Babysitting definitely gives you perspective on how parents can influence a child - both good and bad! An Nintendo DS is a pretty nice bribe. :) In desperate moments, a bribe may seem like a good option but it can set a dangerous precedent and expectation. As hard as it is to be the parent of the kid throwing the major tantrum, sometimes you just have to let them throw their fit. :) Of course, always easier said than done!
  20. Thursday, January 16th, 2014
    Great post Shannon! When we go shopping, my little 2-year old will play with the toys in store and then say 'Daddy I'm going to go put this back'. Ha! I completely agree with you on #2 though. It was one of the hardest things, as a parent, to let go and just let her make her own mistakes/decisions. Now, anytime I try to intervene, she tells me 'Daddy, I can do it myself!!' :) Oh, I can just see the teenage years lol
    • Shannon
      Thursday, January 16th, 2014
      Thanks, Anthony! That is so cute and it's fantastic that your daughter just have fun playing in the store and doesn't fuss about putting things back! :) Your daughter sounds like an independent little woman at 2, so it will be interesting to see her as a teen. Lauren turned 10 in November so we're closing in on those teens years!
  21. Friday, January 17th, 2014
    Hi Shannon,

    I loved what Lauren, your daughter said in the end, and she is SO right - and smart as well :)

    I liked the lessons you shared with us here today. You are right about not giving money as and when asked because kids will never learn to value money if we give it when asked for it. I think they need to taught to save and earn their little pocket money right from the time they are young, so that it becomes a habit with them once they grow up.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend :)
    • Shannon
      Friday, January 17th, 2014
      Hi Harleena,

      Thank you - I think Laurent is pretty brilliant too, although I am very biased! :) I hear parents complain about being ATMs to their children; but in many instances, they created that expectation by always giving their kids money. Kids are learning from us whether we actively teach them or not so we might as well do our best to instill good money habits in them when they are young. Have a great weekend!
  22. Friday, January 17th, 2014
    I love Lauren's answer! Yes, you are doing a good job with her! We always told our kids that the better they did in school the more choices they would have in life. And they knew that they had to support themselves after they graduated from college. Totally support themselves.

    Although it didn't seem that good of an idea at the time, allowing them to have an apartment for the last 2 years of college seemed to help them adjust to what it costs to live in "the real world." They had an idea of what it was like to pay bills and cook for themselves.

    We never had to supplement their income after they graduated from college. They learned to live on whatever income they could make.

    We would help them if they were in real trouble, but they know we expect them to be responsible for themselves and their families. All four of our kids have seemed to absorb this and are doing well. We are very happy about that!
    • Shannon
      Friday, January 17th, 2014
      Thank you, Maggie! Appreciate your kind words. We're doing the same thing with our girls and setting clear expectations. Some parents assume their kids know this but unless you explicitly set the expectation that they go to college or go to work, they don't always grasp that Mom and Dad will not take care them forever. That "real world" experience is invaluable, although I can see how it might have made you nervous in the moment. It sounds like your kids made some great choices and managed their money well. You've done a great job with your kids, Maggie! Have a great weekend!
  23. Friday, January 17th, 2014
    Great post Shannon! We try hard to avoid this - though it's hard with my kids being the first grandchildren and first great-grandchildren on both sides. They are definitely spoiled by their grandparents! I do think there's a difference between spoiled and bratty. We try to nip any brattiness and entitlement in the bud. It's hard though, but with my 6-yr-old asking for just about everything she sees on the TV, it is necessary.
    • Shannon
      Friday, January 17th, 2014
      There is a huge difference between spoiled and bratty. And I also think between Mom and Dad giving them everything they want and Grandpa and Grandma indulging them. :) It isn't always easy, especially with kids being bombarded with messages that they need this and that. We have to remain strong and do what's right for our kids, which it sounds like you're definitely doing, Corinne.
  24. Friday, January 17th, 2014
    I agree with everyone Shannon, this is a great post. We want to give our kids everything we didn't have growing up, we just don't realize we're causing more damage than good.

    Now that my kids are young adults I want them to be prepared for the real world, where no one hands you anything. And now that they're working we have given them the expenses of paying their portion of the cell phone bill...funny thing, Ian is asking how we can lower it...he's never cared before and that's part of the lesson too :)

    Thanks for sharing these! Have a great weekend and thanks so much for sharing this in our issue this week!
    • Shannon
      Friday, January 17th, 2014
      So true, Corina. Our intent is so good but we don't realize that we could be doing more damage than good when we give our kids everything they want. It's great that you're prepping your kids for the real world and I love that you have them covering their portion of the cell phone bill. And even better now that they how much it costs, your kids are wondering what they can do to lower it. LOVE it! :) You have a great weekend too, my friend!
  25. Sunday, January 19th, 2014
    This post is awesome. So so true. I have seen grown adults who grew up with the sense of entitlement as you say, and they suffer!! It's way better to set boundaries and expectations when your kids are younger - otherwise they may suffer in the long run!
    • Shannon
      Sunday, January 19th, 2014
      Thanks, Leah! I know so many parents want to give the best life possible and help them succeed, but there is a fine line between a good life and an entitled life. As much as they sometimes say otherwise, kids really do want to boundaries and expectations set for them.
  26. Monday, January 20th, 2014
    I was raised around a lot of entitled children. While I once envied them, now I'm thankful that my parents raised me otherwise!
    • Shannon
      Monday, January 20th, 2014
      So true, Lisa! When we were kids, we did envy kids who seemed to get everything wanted! It's a little ironic, because that lifestyle and mindset eventually catches up to most. My parents gave me a great life but also the tools to be capable and successful on my own, which I am incredibly grateful for.
  27. Saturday, August 17th, 2019
    Fantastic post.

    Really enjoyed reading it and it held my attention all the way through! Keep it up.
  • Meet Shannon

    "As a Certified Financial Planner, it is my passion to help individuals and families build a healthy relationship with money. I look forward to helping you raise financially confident kids.” - Shannon Ryan