Entitlement Attitudes in Foster Kids
If you're not a foster parent this concept is going to seriously baffle you.
How can a child with no possessions (to speak of), no home that comes from a sketchy situation feel entitled? As shocking as it may sound it's not only common but it's a problem! With the exception of a very few of the kids I have fostered or met almost all have entitlement issues, now some are just normal kids being kids type stuff and others are pushed past the line into almost a personality disorder (narcissism). This is going to be an informative page with a bit of a personal twist so you can fully grasp the issues foster parent face.
This is also based on my actual interactions with biological parents, it should be noted not all bio parents act like this and not all foster kids act like this.
How does this happen?
I'm sure you are now wonder just how this can be...I'll be happy to explain. I'm using my first foster kid as an example so you can get an idea of how this really happens.
My first foster child was 15 he had a host of issues that actually made his entitlement worse like OCD. His family demographic involved everyone in his family being on welfare, food stamps, SSI **(see below for the problem with this)**, & 9-5 jobs were some mythical thing that you only saw on TV. He was confused we worked for money, he flat out couldn't understand we paid for our own food & literally said it was "Stupid to pay for food because it's free" & the idea we didn't have a landlord or that we owned our home was so baffling he never quite understood the concept. The notion we paid taxes was insane to him, he wanted to know what we got for that money (Ha! good one kid).
He spent his entire life watching adults take handouts, donations, & actively being proud they got something for free. Now there is nothing wrong with taking charity when you truly need it, that's what it's there for! But if the kid says "Food Stamps are the Bomb" then there is a serious entitlement issue going on. Instead of teaching this kid to be grateful for the help he was taught to try to cheat the system to get more.
This kid would literally lay in bed & think of things we needed to buy him. The conversation usually started with "You Need to get me..." followed by me laughing & saying "Nope sorry kid, I don't need to do that." after a few months he at least started saying "Please" but the requests were still rampant & constant.
How could he be anything other than entitled? He's never seen anyone work, he has zero personal responsibility & neither did his parents. This kid was set up to fail.
**FYI the issue with this family receiving SSI & other benefits are that none of the children were disabled, the bio dad gave the kids pitchers of Kool-Aid before doctors appointments so they looked like they had ADHD & blood sugar issues. Bio dad also worked full time under the table plus collected disability for himself. They fraudulently collected over $4000 in payments a month when people with real needs were turned down. Not cool.
The Flip Side...
Some of my other kids came from a family with 8 children, they struggled, had very little food, frankly the TANF & food stamps didn't cover half of what they needed just to survive. In total they received a bit less than $1200 a month for 9 people to survive....far different than the family above. They frequently lived in shelters & moving was a monthly thing. Anything of any value was either given to them or stolen.
As adults many kids in the this family have a hard time working & don't see the point in it. They function as a collective with one person working to pay for 5-6 adults until they burn out & someone else takes over. They truly don't know how to live without charity & others helping them. I doesn't even occur to them (any of them) that they could do something on their own...it's quite sad really. They are just doing what their parents did to get by, it's become a lifestyle instead of a temporary need for aid. When no one ever gets a break, is in constant debt & never sees anyone "move up" in life then where is the motivation. It becomes an impossible task.
Without someone stepping in to help these kids at a young age they will simply continue to do what they know. Two of these 8 kids have broken the cycle, graduated, have jobs & are well on their way to becoming self reliant. I have to tell you, I am one proud mama!
Once in Foster care...
It just got worse, the concept that we got paid to take care of him was mouth watering...he could just picture that fancy car and mansion with a pool he could by with all the money we were raking in (FYI $372 a month) & by all means feel free to see what I went thru for that windfall of cash here...Foster Care The First Placement. He literally brought it up several times a day, he couldn't stand the thought of all that cash & what he could buy. He also thought we should just hand it all to him so he could buy what he wanted. He felt that food, shelter, gas to run him to 4 appointments a week & the mountain of other things we had to cover where not only not his problem...but free.
Weekly, I would sit him down and show him how much food costs, gas, utilities, his clothing, baseball gear, toys, games, books, school pictures, trips to the movies, theme parks....none of it mattered. That money was his & he should get it. Not only that, but we should buy Every. Single. Thing. He. Saw. often he didn't even know what he was asking for was! Which was sort of hilarious when he asked for a lip waxing kit...Hmmm... maybe we should think about this purchase.
The other problem he had was that the kid was taught to spend all your money as soon as you got it, play with your stuff for 3 weeks then pawn everything for half the value to pay the bills. For example his father would buy several guns a month, motorcycles, video games and go karts...then pawn it all. This happened every single month & they were always perpetually poor. The kid had zero concept of saving money or paying bills. If he had $5 he had to spend it that day, right now on anything he could find that was $5...what's that a 9V battery? I want it! Who cares if he doesn't have anything that takes those.
Their Family Doesn't Help...
Forget that they already trained this kid that the world owes them whatever they want for free. Now you have the bio parents telling the kids "That family doesn't really like you" followed by the classic "they only let you live there to get a check". Awesome, why don't you just pee in his cheerios too? Really, as if this wasn't hard enough now this kid thinks he's Our meal ticket (laughs hysterically) and we don't really care for him.
No child in my care has ever gotten a Christmas card, Birthday card or gift that wasn't second hand trash from their family. Not once ever....5 years of doing this 20+ kids. The most I saw was a hand drawn picture on a fast food napkin with $5 in it for a Birthday. The bio parents expect us to pay for everything...even for their visits. I have had to say no many times for requests to cover lunch or dinner for their child, gas money to go to the visit or even bus fare. Um, really? Also nothing will make your blood boil more than a bio parent that strips everything from a diaper bag and keeps it.
The Other Kids...
When you have adopted kids in your home that you've had for years & new kids come in you will pretty quickly see some major entitlement. "Why does that kid have an Xbox or an iPhone or a nice bike? I want one too!" They don't realize my adopted kids came with a just trash bag of clothes too and after years of Birthdays, special occasions & Christmas they now have nice things that they take care of. I mean really no one is going to drop 5k on a kid the first week they move in, that's just insane! But in their mind that would be totally "fair", in fact you "owe" them that stuff.
I have had kids be mad I went on vacations before I met them, ticked I wouldn't give them my TV for their room & some serious bitterness about what other kids have bought for themselves. You can see where this becomes a seriously battle over what they perceive as fair and deserved VS reality.
Working for Money...
This will often be a new concept....not always but I've only met one bio parent with a real job.
Doing work for money and only getting paid when the job is done right is a painfully hard lesson for these kids and often you. I mean you want to give these kids nice things and take them places, who wouldn't? But making them do a bit of work for things they want (not need) is healthy, teaching them charity is not an entitlement, that you should be grateful for things given & only take when it's needed is something they desperately have to learn!
My adopted son still has trouble with this, at 19 he came home with a new coat. Someone at work thought he needed it & bought it for him. He was very proud of his new free coat & beamed, we were not so happy about him taking unneeded charity. He still can't understand why he can't take free things from strangers or friends. The idea that he doesn't need to take from others when he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself it totally beyond him. He was a victim, a poor kid, and a hungry kid so long he doesn't get that he shouldn't still be treated like one. It's almost his identity...the kid that needs help.
If he has any problem at all he simply walks to the first person he sees & asks for help, 9pm & need help? Walk to the neighbors. He has no self reliance and unless forced he will do almost nothing on his own to fix his problems. Ever been woken up at 3am for toothpaste? When there are 4 tubes under his sink? Yep been there, done that.
How to Fix This?
This typically is something they can learn how to overcome. By incorporating charity work, helping others, never taking handouts, working for money and self reliance you can start to reverse this terrible behavior.
My hubby & I both work...we talk about finances with the kids & often talk about saving money to buy certain things. Many of the kids really do catch on fast & frankly I think they enjoy their stuff more when they earned it.
One of my kids volunteers at the local food bank. We still have to remind him not to take the food from there...he just doesn't get that he is there to help others not help himself. We're hoping that limiting what he's allowed to ask from strangers will force him to get the concept but it's still an uphill battle. This problem didn't happen overnight & it's going to take years to change the mindset of some of these kiddos.
If you really want to fix the problem I suggest one of the handy links below, they have some fabulous ideas!
These handy links will give you more info!
Not just foster kids deal with this, All kids can be overcome by a case of the gimmes. .
- Older Child Adoption Support - A False Sense of Entitlement
A false sense of entitlement in our children can lead to life-long difficulties.
- I Want It Now! How to Challenge a False Sense of Entitlement in Kids
Learn how to start challenging the false sense of entitlement pattern in your child or teen.
- 5 Signs Kids are Struggling with Entitlement — We are THAT Family
- You Owe Me! Children of Entitlement - article by Dr. Lynne Namka
Got mads? Get 'em out! Constructive anger management techniques for children, parents, couples, adults and teachers. Award winning site with write-in features about using anger in acceptable ways from Dr. Lynne Namka, psychologist
- Why I Took My Kids Toys Away
If you follow Project Simplify 365, you already know that I’ve been on a mission this year to simplify my family’s life and rid ourselves of excess.Â
These books are fabulous!
Nothing like waging a full on war on the kids bad behaviors. Think of it as a challenge, a game...a way to turn them into civil humans! My personal favorite is the love & logic series, it's super effective & sort of fun to watch the kids react to your new found parental tools.