Mom topics

Entitlement: the new childhood epidemic

Oct. 11, 2012 at 10:11 AM ET

Entitlement is not part of our kids’ DNA, but it’s becoming part of their culture.  Egocentric reality TV is on the rise worldwide while social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have given our kids endless opportunities to promote themselves. 

But we parents shoulder lots of the responsibility, too: we over-praise them for everything they do by constantly telling them how awesome and special they are, plus we over-protect them from any possible disappointment or discomfort in their lives.

Helicopter parents, step aside. No longer do we simply hover over our kids; we’ve now become lawnmower moms and dads, quickly making mulch of any potential obstacle in our children’s lives. We call in favors to get the best teachers and little league coaches.  Parents today even call college professors to dispute grades. 

But there’s hope, even for the most demanding of little divas. By following a few simple strategies, we can still turn the tide away from entitlement:

Pause the praise.  Instead of gushing “you’re so awesome” for every little thing your child does, encourage specific behaviors that will earn them success in life like hard work, perseverance and the courage to try something new.  For example, when Alex earns an A on his history test after a week of studying, don’t just tell him how smart he is. Instead, draw the link to how he earned that A:  “Wow, Alex, your extra study time really paid off!” When in doubt, think of praise as candy — a little is fine, but too much can be toxic!

Be the bad guy sometimes. It’s OK for kids to be disappointed or feel uncomfortable as they tread through life.  In fact, it’s downright necessary.  While disappointments might hurt now, even with supportive parents to guide them through, imagine the devastation your kids will feel as adults on their own. Resist the urge to “make it all better” and let your child face the adversity of the toughest teacher in the 7th grade. If she has an issue with the test grade, let her be the one to approach the teacher, not you. She’ll learn lessons that will help her far into the future.

Shut down the ATM.  As the entitlement culture grows, so does the need for instant gratification and the “if I want it, I get it, and I get it now” mentality. The best way to fight this phenomenon is to teach kids that money is a limited resource. Stop offering $20 whenever your kids ask for it, and instead set a specific allowance amount per week and a list of expenses your child is now responsible to cover. Teach delayed gratification by helping advise kids on saving for that new video game system they really want; let them learn the hard lesson of disappointment if they spend their money foolishly. 

A lot of parents of the 20-something generation find themselves wondering “why won’t these people move out of my house?!” When they’ve spent their entire lives being handed money and sheltered from the responsibilities of life, why would they ever want to? These simple lessons can be tough ones to let kids learn, but that makes them all the more necessary. Help your child – and help yourself – before it’s too late!

Parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling.  For easy to implement strategies for happy families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.

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