I’m in a serendipitous situation, I suppose. I write this while sitting in a sparsely populated coffee shop. And in knowing that I’m writing on the idea of entitlement, I’m witnessing two events with, perhaps, a critical eye. To my left is a little girl who’s throwing a tantrum. I think you’d need the Richter scale to measure its magnitude. She wants a chocolate covered strawberry that she sees in the display, but her parents are telling her that she can’t have it. “WHY NOT?!” the little girl screams. “Because you’ve already had your breakfast, and it’s too early for a snack.”
I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but judging from the expression on her father’s embarrassed face, I think this little girl will win (she does). Over to my right, there is a girl who appears to be in her early twenties. She’s telling her mom why she needs a new cell phone. As an objective witness to this (apparently one-sided) conversation, I’d say that she doesn’t need a new phone. It sounds like she wants one, and not even badly. This conversation seems routine, and this girl is not trying hard to be persuasive. I get the feeling this happens a lot. And, ah yes, her mother looks out the window, exhales a cloud of apathy and says, “I’ll let your father know.”
I can’t help but see a correlation between these two events, especially as it pertains to the issue of entitlement. I’m looking at a simultaneous past and present, and the path from A to B is so evident. The older girl wears an armor of entitlement. She assumes her parents will get her the new cell phone just because she wants it. It’s probably always been that way for her. I’m sure if I’d run into her 15 years earlier, she would have been throwing a similar chocolate covered tantrum as the little girl today.
As parents, we want to take care of our children and lead them into a life as a self-sufficient adult. But today, we see so many tragic examples of a generation that seems to have discarded the word “earn” from its lexicon. We see waves of twenty-somethings moving back home and relying on (read: exploiting) their parents’ generosity. Young adults are quitting jobs because they’re “not the right fit.” They drive cars their parents paid for. They are children masked as adults. But, as a parent, how do you stop this from happening? What steps can you take with your child to ensure she won’t grow up with a sense of entitlement? In my experience, the following ideas help to instill values in your child’s life that will help her achieve the kind of work ethic and humility that ensure success as an adult.
Chores – Give your child regular responsibilities around the house, and don’t pay him for it. This helps to instill responsibility. Some things just need to get done, and often they come with little or no reward.
Reward Appropriately – Decide what kind of behavior you deem exceptional and worthy of reward. For instance, if your child is willing to go beyond his normal household duties and take on a bigger project such as cleaning the gutters or trimming bushes, reward him appropriately with money or something he wants. This helps to teach him that if he wants something, he has to earn it.
Volunteering – No matter what your family’s economic position is, you can always look around and see someone less fortunate. Teach your child the importance of helping others, and she will learn to be caring and humble.
Get a Job – Even if you can afford for her not to, make your child get a job when she reaches the appropriate age. Then, as she makes her own money, start making her pay for the things she wants. This will help her realize the value of a dollar and understand the importance of working toward a goal.
Certainly, these are only a few ideas to consider when you think about instilling values in your child that will prevent him from feeling entitled. It’s important to teach your child that he is not the only person that matters – that he can’t always get what he wants. When he gains the ability to work toward a goal and learns to appreciate the rewards that come with doing exceptional work, he will have a strong foundation on which he can build a successful adult life, free from the grips of entitlement.
AUTHOR BIO: Timothy Taylor is a proud father of two, both of whom he is confident will not grow up with an entitlement problem. Professionally, he’s a copywriter for Mattress USA and all-around know-it-all when it comes to mattresses.