There’s a big problem in our world these days with people acting as though they’re entitled to the best things in life. It’s gone so far that Generation Y has been renamed by some as the Entitled Generation. It’s said that people of this generation buy things they can’t afford, put personal matters above professional ones, disrespect their elders, and have no desire to set down roots.
Of course, this is a sweeping generalization, but what exactly does entitlement mean and what can we do to ensure our children don’t become entitled? At the root of entitled behavior is selfishness. Put simply, those who feel entitled think only of themselves. It’s all about me, me, me and instant gratification.
The first step in ridding our children of this ugly characteristic is to first recognize it. You may not want to admit it, but if you see entitlement in your children, recognize it first and then come up with a plan to address it.
From a big-picture parenting perspective, entitled kids grow up with parents who do everything for them. I can see how this is tempting. When we become parents, our children are often the focus of our world. The Ezzos warn us of child-centered parenting, which is easy to understand intellectually. But at the same time, when you are running your kids from piano lessons and soccer games to Kumon and gymnastics, it becomes very easy to build your life around your child. It’s easy to justify this because you are doing what you believe to be the best thing for your child.
And I’m not saying that children shouldn’t have activities outside the home. It’s just that they should see that mom and dad have a life, too. We don’t live our lives simply to please our children.
What’s ironic is that in an attempt to create enriched, smart, sporty kids — what we believe is the best they can be — we may actually be doing more harm than good. It’s all fine when a child is a soccer super-star and still respects his elders. But if a child is a soccer super-star at the expense of important moral values, then something somewhere has gone horribly wrong.
And it runs deeper than the activities our children are in. Entitlement ultimately comes down to parents giving their children everything they want and doing everything for them. School is their job, we say to ourselves, so they don’t need to take out the trash. They’re so busy practicing piano, we say, that we shouldn’t require them to unload the dishwasher. Homework is more important, we say, so we pick their clothes up off the floor for them. We may even put such a high price on grades that we do their homework for them — in the guise of “help.”
This extends outside the house, too. If a child is shy, we’ll order their meal for them at a restaurant. If a boy is bouncing in his seat in a restaurant, we excuse his behavior, saying he’s all boy. If a child goes so far as to hit another child, we let the child run off and say that he’s going through a phase. We do whatever we can to excuse or perpetuate poor behaviors.
When a child is raised with parents like this, it’s no wonder he’ll grow up to feel entitled. When he’s been given everything he’s ever needed or wanted without having to work for it, and when his poor behaviors and attitudes are excused, he will of course feel like the world should revolve around him.
One of the best things we can do as parents to ensure our kids don’t grow up to be entitled is to encourage self-sufficiency. If we encourage them to do for themselves and gain some independence, then they will grow up to believe that they have to work for whatever it is they want. They will grow up to believe that their parents don’t exist to fulfill their every desire.