Friday, July 15, 2011

A sense of entitlement

A sense of entitlement (which is the polar opposite of a sense of responsibility) is endemic among children today.

It is fostered by our demanding, narcissistic society where wants are confused with needs and where everyone seems focused on the notion that he deserves what everyone else has. Gone are the days when kids expected to have to work for something, even for acclaim. Everyone gets a trophy now, everyone is recognized, and everyone is special.

Kids grow up in a reality-show world, thinking of themselves as the central character on the stage. They have a facebook page, they are famous in their own minds, they are like rock stars, and to them there is no room (and no need) for true emotional empathy, or self examination, or personal responsibility. Nor is there much incentive or motivation to learn to work.
And they think they are entitled not to have limits or boundaries or discipline.

And it is us parents, by not saying “no” and by giving them what they demand, that become the ultimate enablers.

In their book Living in the age of Entitlement, The Narcissism Epidemic, Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell explain it this way:

“It is increasingly common to see parents relinquishing authority to young children, showering them with unearned praise, protecting them from their teachers’ criticisms, giving them expensive automobiles, and allowing them to have freedom but not the responsibility that goes with it. Not that long ago, kids knew who the boss was—and it wasn’t them. It was Mom and Dad. And Mom and Dad weren’t your “friends.” They were your parents.”

Then Twenge and Campbell get at one of the true causes of entitlement:

“The sea change in parenting is driven by the core cultural value of self admiration and positive feelings. Parents want their kids’ approval, a reversal of the past ideal of children striving for their parents’ approval.”

And as our lives get busier and busier, as both parents work, and as the disconnect grows greater between what we say our priorities are and where we actually spend our thought and energy, we parents give our kids things instead of time, spoiling them as we add fuel to the entitlement flame.

Dan Kindlon, in his book Too Much of a Good Thing puts it simply:

“We give our kids too much and demand too little of them.”

Kindlon goes on to argue that when kids are overindulged, it leads to outcomes resembling the seven deadly sins: pride, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, and greed.


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