I’m visiting my daughter and son-in-law this week in Wisconsin. During the course of our telephone conversation weeks ago, I asked my daughter what her children needed…new nightgowns or skirts? They love Nana’s home-sewn flannel nightgowns and “twirly” skirts. I was surprised when she responded, “Mom don’t bring them anything.” She recognized the surprise in my voice, and went on to explain. She was reading the book “The Entitlement Trap” by Richard and Linda Eyre, and she said that she is determined not to raise her children with an entitlement mentality. Apparently, the giving of non-birthday/Christmas gifts can lend itself to that entitlement thinking that she is so opposed to?
I arrived at the airport empty handed and my sweet grandchildren were still eager to see me. We have had a great time together these past six days. Watching my daughter mold and teach her four children has been extremely rewarding. They have family responsibilities and daily household chores. They go to the chore chart every day and take their respective duties in stride. If they choose not to do their work, another chore is added. They seemingly take this extra chore in stride also…after all it was their decision to procrastinate. I have been amazed at their acceptance of both personal responsibility and the consequences of careless attention to that responsibility.
Needless to say, I was intrigued as to how our daughter has instilled this attitude into children so young. Her three oldest are 7 ½, 6, and 4 ½.
I did a little research on the Eyre’s, and I would like to share an interview I found that explained how they came to understand the need for change in this modern world of child entitlement. The Eyres have lectured and held conferences on parenting worldwide. They have encountered parents from every ethnicity, creed, and culture, and they have learned that all parents everywhere basically have the same parental aspirations and face the same parenting challenges. These are questions the Eyre’s are often asked?
“Why won’t my kids put in the effort at school to reach their full potential?”
“Why won’t they pick up their clothes or put away their toys?”
“Why do they sometimes make such obviously bad and foolish choices?”
“Why do they think they need to have everything their friends have?”
“Why is it so hard for me to influence my kids . . . and so easy for their peers to influence them?”
“Why can’t I get them to set some goals and to start feeling responsible for their lives?…Or to work and to follow through on their tasks?”
“Why can’t I get them away from games and gadgets, from cell phones and headphones?”
“Why is it so hard to communicate with my kids?”
“And why is it so hard to teach them responsibility?”
Their interview continues:
“…the interesting thing is that these questions, shared by today’s parents, were not the prime questions of parents one or two generations ago. Yesterday’s kids had a much greater sense of personal responsibility than today’s kids. Think how things have changed: When your grandparents were young, children often worked for their parents; now parents work for their kids. When your parents were children, it took more work to keep a household going than it does now, and kids did a lot of that work. And even when you were a child, there was some sense that kids owed a lot to their parents; now parents seem to think they owe everything to their kids.
Two Parenting Epiphanies: The Problem Of Entitlement And The Solution Of Ownership
Frankly, we were a little slow to see the picture clearly — the picture of what is happening to this generation of kids. We had been writing and speaking to parents about responsibility and values for more than a decade, and then one evening, as we heard those same questions about laziness and messiness and bad choices and lack of motivation for the umpteenth time from another large audience of parents in another large auditorium, we had a parenting epiphany:
We realized that all the questions hinge on the same problem —
and the problem is entitlement.
“Entitlement” is the best name we know for the attitude of children who think they can have, should have, and deserve whatever they want, whatever their friends have — and that they should have it now and not have to earn it or give up anything for it.
And it goes beyond having to behaving. They think they should be able to do whatever they want, whatever their friends do, now, and without a price.
This sense of entitlement contributes mightily to sloppiness, to low incentive, to boredom, to bad choices, to instant gratification, to constant demands for more, and to all kinds of addictions (including the addiction to technology).
Perhaps the biggest problem with entitlement is that under its illusions, there seem to be no real consequences in life and no motivation to work for anything. Someone will always bail you out, get you off the hook, buy you a new one, make excuses for you, give you another chance, pay your debt, and hand you what you ask for.
Entitlement is a double-edged sword (or a double-jawed trap) for kids. On one edge it gives kids all that they don’t need — indulgence, dullness, conceit, and laziness; and on the backswing, it takes from them everything they do need — motivation, independence, inventiveness, pride, responsibility, and a chance to really work for things and to build their own sense of fulfillment and self-esteem.
As we worked with our own children on the problem of entitlement, and as we focused more attention on it in our lectures and seminars on teaching values and responsibility, we had a second parenting epiphany… It was simply that
feelings of entitlement are always connected to a
lack of work and sacrifice and ownership.
When people (adults or kids) don’t work for something, or give up anything for it, they never feel the pride of owning it or the will to care for and develop it. We began to understand that a sense of ownership is the antidote to entitlement, and from that point on, we have been developing methods to help children feel the responsibility of ownership.
There is a gap between being a child and being an adult, a space, a breach, a journey … and how and when it is crossed will make all the difference in your own happiness and in that of your child.
In many parts of the world, particularly the third world, kids are forced to jump the gap too fast or too soon. Because of poverty or the absence of parents, they have to play the role of adults while they are still children, missing out on much of the joy and learning of childhood.
But in most of contemporary society, it is the opposite — children seem never to grow up because parents do everything for them, give everything to them, over-serve and overindulge, allowing them to avoid responsibility, to “move back in,” and to essentially continue to be children.
Modern parents in America and Europe and most other developed countries unwittingly promote the worst of both worlds by giving their children license too early and responsibility too late. They allow their kids to do many things before they are emotionally and socially ready. And yet at the same time, parents (and the society around them) give kids a sense of entitlement that allows them to avoid most of the accountability and ownership that would help them become responsible adults.
It is because of this environment of entitlement that parenting is a bigger challenge now than it has ever been.
We are going to be blunt with you. We are going to answer the question of where this sense of entitlement comes from — and most of the answer is you! We are going to tell you what to stop doing. But we are also going to tell you what to start doing and how to replace your child’s sense of entitlement with a sense of ownership and responsibility. It is not an easy transition, but it can be an enormously enjoyable and worthwhile one that will affect your child’s whole life (not to mention yours!). (Deseret News, September 9, 2011)
My hope is that the Eyre interview has helped you realize that attitudes of entitlement can be corrected. For those of you desperately searching for help with your children, may I suggest you purchase “The Entitlement Trap,” by Richard and Linda Eyre. If its suggestions and guidelines will do for your children what it has done for my grandchildren, you and your children will be tremendously rewarded.