The entitled child – how you can avoid it

In my day job, I teach financial consciousness and financial strategy. I work with my clients to get them ahead faster. Some of my clients simply need to get in control of their money, some need to kill their mortgage or sort their retirement. Some need to do all three and more, but all need to be better. I pride myself on achieving these outcomes every day. For the most part, I practice what I preach. Despite this, if you were to pull back the curtains to my home-life, in my role as a parent I feel I have managed to create two entitled children. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are usually polite, sometimes respectful (this is less constant than I would like), usually sleep through the night, dress nicely, eat well, and can be quite cute. I consciously try to not buy them everything they ask for, although I am not as strong as I would like. I am purposeful in teaching them financially principals. Yet, I have still managed to create two entitled kids. It bugs me.
Let me give you an example of my foolishness. We go on a holiday at least once a year. We need the time out as parents and as a family. As a parent I feel we deserve it because if, for no other reason, we survived another year of parenting (which calls for rejoicing in itself). These annual holidays have become the norm for our kids, who in comparison to the working parent (or any parent for that matter), waft through the year, yet still get to enjoy the holidays as if they earned them. In addition to receiving a holiday they possibly haven't earned, the spending psychology we default to on holiday can be dangerous, although is consistent for everyone. “Lets enjoy ourselves, because we are on holiday”. “What we spend on holiday doesn’t really count”, well at least while we are on holiday and the credit card bill hasn’t been processed. We feel we can be generous with ourselves and in being generous with ourselves we are also with our kids. The difference, is that as the working parent who is in a state of survival most days, probably deserves the odd treats, whereas if I think about my kids, their year seems to be filled with treats of some description, if not from me then definitely from their grandparents.
Instead of bemoaning my children, I decided to change it up and put my eight year old son in charge of our next holiday budget. I gave him the overall budget, explained what it had to cover and how much was left over for family activities, ice-creams, brunch, petrol and groceries. The budget was calculated so that we had to try to make it work, it wasn’t just a given.

Family Activity
For your next holiday, have your child take responsibility for the holiday budget. You set the overall budget. From there pre-allocate how much money is to be used petrol, family activities, ice creams, coffees, brunch of dinner and then what is left for the groceries. Write the budget on an A3 piece of paper or whiteboard/chalkboard.

1. Withdraw the total money in cash.
2. Write up on a whiteboard the allocation of funds (family activity = $100, petrol = $50, etc.)
3. Have them count the money and set the money into piles for each cost line, paperclip together (or put into a small money bag), and label it.
4. Work out how much money is set aside for groceries and what the daily food cost will be. For example we had groceries of $160 for 4 days, so that is $40 per day to be spent on food.
5. Together sit down and write out a menu and shopping list.
6. Take the wad of cash allocated to “groceries” and go to the supermarket together. Take a calculator and the cash. Get them to spot the cheapest option, comparing weight with price where appropriate.
7. If you go over the budget, get them to put things back on the shelf. Do not bail them out.
8. Let them research activities and the cost of petrol.
9. Remember, they oversee the money. They choose where it goes and if there is money left over it goes towards a family dinner, or you split it with them.
10. Do not take your eftpos or credit card with you.

Our experience was enlightening. Cameron (my son), loved the responsibility this activity gave him. He was nervous when I said that I wasn’t taking my eftpos card and decided that he would bring the $5 he had in his wallet in case we ran out of petrol.
We stuck to the shopping list and he wouldn’t let his sister buy biscuits or chips, the very things that he normally pesters me to buy. We weren’t allowed to stop for a coffee on the 4 hour drive to our destination because in Cameron’s view “it was a waste of money”. We didn’t pop into the diary, or fish 'n' chip shop. We under spent by $30 at the supermarket, mainly because my husband’s use of the calculator suggested that we were over budget. We spent $200 less than we normally would for the same length holiday because we had a reason not to spend.
This activity teaches your kids the value of money and the power of choice. You can prioritise what you want, to make sure you get what you need.