How Nannies Can Work With Entitled Kids

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During your tenure as a nanny, it’s likely you will have to work with children possessing an “I want it now” attitude. Many children have a sense of entitlement and have not yet been taught how to consider the needs of others before their own. Although it may be challenging at first to calm their demands, you have an opportunity to teach them how to move away from thinking solely about their own needs and wants.

The Teaching Moment

It is true that kids have more stuff now then they did years ago when iPods and technology were not as advanced. Ironically, though, it’s important for the children in your care to know that not everyone is as privileged. In fact, Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder of, notes that 21% of kids in the United States live in poverty and another 23% are considered to live in low-income families. Even in low-income families, children can develop a sense of entitlement if they watch TV and assume other kids have something they don’t, says Markham.

The first step in eliminating a sense of entitlement is to educate your children about how others live without the latest gadgets and gourmet food. A field trip to a local pantry or shelter to volunteer can be an eye-opening experience for all of you when working to eliminate entitlement.

Teaching values is another approach to show children that material possessions are of little value. Markham suggests prompting questions such as “What matters to you most? The people you love? Doing good in the world? Following your passions?” Point out that “stuff” doesn’t matter in the end if the people you love are not in your life.

Be the Role Model

As the nanny, the children in your care look to you as an example of how to act, react and treat others. If you find yourself glued to the latest electronic or tech product, the children will follow suit. Your actions must show them that material possessions do not matter as much as quality time and giving back to others.

Since media is a dominant influence in the lives of children, it’s also important to limit their exposure to commercials and media messages that promote items you “must” have. “We need to remember that we aren’t the only ones teaching our children about life,” says Markham. “TV is a very effective teacher, and if it has your child’s ear, it has a direct line to her brain.”

If your child gets the constant message that money and “stuff” buy happiness, she may develop a sense of entitlement and employ manipulative strategies to get what she thinks she “must” have. “Ultimately, what we model and what we tell our children will matter more, but we need to confront those destructive messages directly and, when possible, keep them from reaching our kids,” says Markham.

Money Shouldn’t Buy Love

Even though it is heartbreaking to see your child emotional, upset or disappointed, refrain from trying to cheer him up with a new toy or material good. Many times, parents will feel guilty when they are not able to be present at a child’s activity or to spend quality time with them when work demands get in the way. As the nanny, do your best to discourage parents to make it up to their children by buying them off. Instead, offer to help out around the home or arrange a parent-child play date.

You can also set a prime example by limiting your own spending habits. If you must have the latest fashion, technology and jewelry, you may be teaching the children in your care that everyone is entitled to the best that money can buy. In addition, if you or the parents are indulging the children with gifts and privileges without a clear reason for celebration, they will learn to expect to receive everything their little heart desires. Instead, Markham suggests admiring what the child is asking for and showing him that you are adding it to a list for a birthday or a special occasion.

Teach the Value of Hard Work

Children who are entitled may not understand that money and privileges must be earned. Teach the value of hard work by asking each child to set a goal or choose an item they would like to purchase. Make a chart and determine how many hours they would need to work to reach the goal, then help them achieve these goals by encouraging chores around the home and arranging for them to rake leaves for neighbors or walk dogs for elderly residents in your community.

“All children need to learn that if they work hard at things, they can make their dreams come true,” says Markham. “They learn more from earning than from just being handed things.”

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