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Monday, December 26, 2011

I'm Entitled..Or Maybe Not

Today's teens have a sense of entitlement that did not exist in prior generations. Maybe the cause can be found in the fact that both parents work; they are too tired in the evening to put up a fight or follow proper parenting procedures and to quiet the brats they simply cave in to their demands. Another possible reason is the ubiquitous TV set and fare; it gives them instant gratification scenes four hours a day, the average time a child spends in front of the "idiot" box. Or maybe our modern society as a whole has become "entitlement crazy."

Element 26" Class LCD 720p 60Hz HDTV TV/DVD Combo, ELAFW261The "idiot" box keeps getting larger

Consider the often heard phrase "The government should do something about it." Or think of the child having a temper tantrum at the supermarket because his mother refused to buy him his favorite treat; or the pregnant teen telling me "It's O.K., I have Medicaid, they'll give me everything I need for my kid." Another common phrase from tots "I want it now", or something similar, is the precursor of tough times ahead for the parents. Think about the times when the baby started crying: Your first and understandable reaction is to run and find out what happened; if the kid is fine, no wet bottom and not time to feed, you put him back in the crib and wait for the next outburst. You have just started your own conditioning; the baby now "knows" that crying will bring mommy and her soft welcoming arms. In other words, immediate gratification and entitlement.


 As they get older, the little guys begin observing other kids, what they wear, what they play with, and what they eat. Since they can now talk, they waste no time in demanding the same items they saw on the playground, at school, or in a friend's house. Comparisons are inevitable: if one daughter marries rich and the other doesn't, Christmas reunions can become awkward when one kid gets an iPad ($800) and the "poor" one gets a $40 toy. It can be difficult to explain economics to an 8 year-old, including the enormous disparity in incomes between social classes.

If nothing is done to instill the proper values of giving and receiving, the child will become an "entitled" teen. Even when the parents can afford the expense, giving in to their son or daughter's demands will create a "monster", a selfish and insensitive "monster." There are ways to handle the situation; take the teen to a shelter, or food bank, and show him/her how the less fortunate live. Find a way to participate with your school or church in charity events; your teens will have a chance to compare with their own standing in life. If there is no change in "entitlement" attitude, start a new program that I call "Get it if you earn it".

Make Them Earn It

Even before they reach the legal age to work, there are many opportunities for your teens to make a few "bucks". In my home country I was delivering orders on my bicycle, rain, snow or shine at the age of 15. Here in the States it is acceptable to deliver newspapers (less and less common), or cut the neighbors' grass, or simply helping around the house. I wouldn't however pay my kid to fix his room, or eat vegetables, or bring home good grades; these are expected behaviors. Pay him or her a couple of dollars to help painting the house, to wash the driveway and the car, to clean the garage, and so on. A the same time, show him/her how to save 50% of their income which will be used for that special video game they must have. 
Talking Helps

Organize family talks around the kitchen table at least twice a month; ask them to voice concerns or simply questions related to their relationships. It's an excellent time to broach the subject of entitlement with clear examples of when to and when not to. I am entitled to my social security check because I paid for it my whole life. I am not entitled to demand anything from my parents; I can ask for a favor, but I, the teenager, cannot expect anything besides food, shelter, protection, and love. I have to earn the rest.

1 comment:

Marcia said...

Ok Grandpa, I agree with you 100%. I think that's because I, like you, did not grow up in America. My parents were not afraid of me and I would not dare--under any circumstance--talk back at them.
I just had this conversation with our oldest daughter(mother of two girls); training begins at birth, children today are so smart they know which buttons to push right from the start and parents need to ensure they learn to manage expectations at that time. Otherwise, it all goes downhill from there.