The Cordreys

From left, Ella, Tish, Grayson, Kinsley and Ronnie Cordrey.  

Ronnie Cordrey and his wife, Tish, want to raise children who will become responsible adults one day. 

“We, as parents, are trying to remember that we are raising three kids to release them into the world to be independent adults,” Tish said. “This means we need to train them how to serve, love, contribute and give their best.”

The Cordreys have two daughters, ages 10 and 13, and a son who is 6.

As the Cordreys raise their children, they are careful not to instill a sense of entitlement or a belief that they are owed special treatment.

“‘Entitlement’ and ‘deserving’ are synonyms to me,” Ronnie added. “It is a ‘that’s beneath me’ attitude. Entitlement is the opposite of what Jesus modeled.”

Ronnie, who leads Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus Men’s Ministry, made reference to pro sports as an example of how the current culture feeds into a sense of entitlement.

“Entitlement is at laughable levels in our culture,” Cordrey said. “In 2005, Oprah was interviewing NBA stars Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, and they talked about entitlement of rising athletes. Michael Jordan basically said, ‘I had to bust my tail to make it. When I first got to the NBA, I didn’t have $1 million Nike deals. I had to prove myself and then the money came. These athletes today are getting huge deals and haven’t even proven themselves yet. It’s taken some edge off of work ethic.’”

Fighting entitlement

In her book, “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World,” author Amy McCready gives nine child entitlement examples:

1. Expects bribes or rewards for good behavior.

2. Rarely lifts a finger to help.

3. Is more concerned about self than others.

4. Passes blame when things go wrong.

5. Can’t handle disappointment.

6. Needs a treat to get through the store.

7. Expects to be rescued from mistakes.

8. Feels like the rules don’t apply.

9. Constantly wants more and more.

As a mother of three, Tish wants to swim upstream against the fast-paced flow of entitlement.

“The biggest challenge of parenting is living a life of contentment in the backdrop of a world that does not,” Tish said. “We talk often about how we are thankful God provides what we need and not what we want. It is also important to practice gratitude ourselves, as parents. If our kids see us striving for bigger, better and more, we can easily send a false message.”

In his book, “The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way,” Dr. John Townsend writes, “You have to learn the difference between a need, which should be met, and an entitled desire, which should be starved.”

Regardless of socioeconomic status, Ronnie said a shift in attitude must be made.

“It’s not about personality type or affluence,” he said. “You can have someone who is wealthy but generous, and you can have someone who is poor but entitled. It’s not about an income or about money, it’s about an attitude.”

Setting expectations

Laurence Steinberg talked about the overarching expectation trend in a New York Times article, “The Case for Delayed Adulthood.”

“One of the most notable demographic trends of the last two decades has been the delayed entry of young people into adulthood. It has taken longer for each successive generation to finish school, establish financial independence, marry and have children. Today’s 25-year-olds, compared with their parents’ generation at the same age, are twice as likely to still be students, only half as likely to be married and 50% more likely to be receiving financial assistance from their parents.”

For children, the standards seem to be spiraling downward.

“We don’t have to teach our kids how to be selfish, but we do have to be intentional about being selfless,” Ronnie said. “It’s a constant fight. Society tries to tell us, ‘The key to happiness is selfishness.’ They don’t say it in those exact terms, but that’s what they mean.”

The Cordreys give their children household responsibilities to stir them to have a servant’s heart.

“Proverbs 11:25 is one of my theme verses, which says, ‘He who refreshes others is himself refreshed,’” Ronnie said. “I believe that is a remedy to fight against deserving something because entitlement is basically making life about me.”

The Cordreys started the “Chart of Expectations” when Tish went back to work fulltime and they needed help around the house with chores. The chart includes about 20 different chores, such as sweeping the floors, cleaning bathrooms or doing the dishes, and the payment for that chore.

“Why not involve the kids in helping to serve, as well as provide an opportunity for them to feel motivated in the process?” Tish said. “It helps us teach our kids about responsibility and consistent tithing. As with anything, our focus is striving for consistency, which is one of the biggest values of parenting. The financial payoff is an extrinsic reward, but hopefully it is creating healthy habits and an intrinsic motivation to be willing to serve and help others.”

Here are some examples of how the Chart of Expectations works:

>Each job must be done thoroughly and completely.

>Each completed job must be initialed by mom or dad.

>An incomplete job may result in reduced or no payment.

>Payments are disbursed weekly in cash on Saturdays (unless communicated otherwise).

>Set aside tithe (10%) and optional offering (anything over 10%).

>If mom or dad asks you to do a job, it results in half pay.

Recently, one of the Cordrey children didn’t clean the dishes properly, so they didn’t get paid.

“I’m not criticizing parents, but I just see kids get an allowance for breathing,” Ronnie said. “There’s almost this fear of parents being parents.”

The Cordreys integrate a few other things to create a culture of being outwardly focused.

>Every time they have guests at their house, one guest will get the “special plate” during dinner. Each child will pray out loud for that guest before eating.

>At Christmas, the kids get three gifts: something they need, something to read and something they want.

>Each Cordrey child gets to do one extracurricular activity per season.

“We talk to our kids about how we can prioritize our family members and support one another,” Tish added. “The kids go to each other’s events, we talk about making sure one child’s activity doesn’t dominate the schedule all the time.”

At the same time, the standards the Cordreys set are a two-way street.

“It’s not just finger-pointing and telling your kids what to do; it’s showing them,” Ronnie added. “Even when we blow it and miss the mark as parents, it’s taking the time to make sure we’re being consistent and modeling what we expect from them.”