How Do We Combat Entitlement?

cartoon of two men fighting over bags of money

I’ve been thinking a lot about entitlement lately. There are a couple of news items out floating around detailing studies done of young people born between about 1980 and 2000 (give or take). These are the kids who are victims beneficiaries of the self-esteem movement. Speaking only in generic terms, many of them have an over-inflated self-concept, believing that they should get the corner office and personal secretary right out of college.

My first thought was “Ugh.” If there’s one trait that I dislike in a person, it’s that arrogance that comes with a sense of entitlement.

We’ve all seen it: kids who demand the biggest cookie or first turn at a game…who won’t take no for an answer. The ones who never stop saying “gimme, gimme”.

Where does this come from, exactly? And how do we stop it?

I think that thankfulness is one of the keys to this problem. What else causes it?

And how do we teach our children to be thankful?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to combat entitlement.

Image courtesy of HikingArtist.com via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

View all contributions by

{ 17 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment


1 × = five

CommentLuv badge

  • mary November 29, 2008, 2:18 pm

    wow, I can’t wait to see the answers for this one! I’ve seen it in my older kids and I know I didn’t teach them that!!! I want to keep it from happening with the younger ones if at all possible. Is it possible that just from our actions or attitudes we have taught our children that?

    Reply
  • espresso machines November 30, 2008, 3:36 am

    hey mary nice sentence……….

    Reply
  • Perry November 30, 2008, 11:46 am

    I’ve battle this in my my own life and now my oldest of three – who is off to college – is battling his roommates who don’t seem to be as ‘sharing’ as my son’s siblings were coerced into being when he was home. I’d love to learn more – especially on the nature / nurture debate. I think we have the basics:
    1 – prayer-must my sin carry into my son’s life? Oh me…
    2 – prayer-ok, maybe it’s not all about me, help my son.
    3 – prayer-help him see it’s not all about himself, but he must own the change effort
    4 – searching for answers and practical helps..

    Reply
  • andy November 30, 2008, 11:39 pm

    i’m very glad here and read articles.i’ll visit again.
    thank you

    Reply
  • Air Jordan December 1, 2008, 1:43 pm

    Hi Mary,

    My middle son is always the one who tells all the kids (sibs and friends alike) “Play my way, my rules or I’ll take my ball and go home.”

    In games without a ball, he takes himself home and they all come to beg him to come back and play. If that isn’t giving him a superior air – what will? It’s nothing different on my part as a parent. It’s inborn.

    Reply
  • Charlie December 3, 2008, 4:52 am

    My oldest is like this, but my younger one is just the opposite. He is just happy to get anything, it doesn’t have to be the biggest… and he freely shares while the older ones tends to be a bit stingy! 🙂

    Reply
  • Amy December 5, 2008, 3:06 am

    Wow, everybody! I love seeing conversation going on even when I’m not in it. 🙂 This last week has been very full, so I’m just now getting to respond. Here goes:

    Mary, I personally think it’s part of human nature and that we pick it up everywhere. From the people around us to what we see on screens or in print, entitlement is everywhere. Yes, I do teach it to my own kids. Not on purpose, but I am sure it happens.

    Espresso Machines and Andy, glad to have you both here.

    Perry, very thoughtful answer. I agree that prayer (and in the steps you listed) is foundational to solving the problem. That and the natural maturing of our children.

    Air Jordan, The Mercenary is quite a bit like your middle son. I feel bad for him, because I know he feels like I’m always riding him to play nice, etc. So far he’s putting up with me. 🙂

    Charlie, what a blessing to have a thankful boy!

    Everyone, maybe instead of combating entitlement, do we need to encourage gratitude?

    Reply
  • sandy December 5, 2008, 5:11 am

    nice..

    Reply
  • Doug December 8, 2008, 3:09 pm

    Gratitude is good.

    I also think that as long as we sanction endless bailouts, you will find human beings (my kids and yours) with their hands out expectantly waiting for a little “sump-enh sump-enh” from their sugar daddy.

    Sometimes, we parents could benefit from taking another look in the mirror to ask ourselves again if they really aren’t learning it from us. It’s harder for me to watch them suffer and learn from natural consequences than it is to throw out the rescue package.

    But then are we talking Love and Logic here or Big Three automakers?

    Reply
  • Amy December 10, 2008, 1:04 am

    Hi Sandy, thanks for stopping by.

    Doug, excellent points all. It is far too easy for me to give the kids what they want, and much more difficult to do the natural consequences. But I’m working on it.

    If only our politicians would be able to do the same. 😉

    Reply
  • Air Jordans December 12, 2008, 6:11 pm

    You can urge him to be as thoughtful as possible but he’ll never be as thoughtful as the one who was born to be that way naturally. One of my boys is so considerate that his kindergarten teacher said he always helps other kids up when they fall during play and things like that. He would have been a nice kid even if raised by wolves I think. Its inborn in him.

    Reply
  • Val Garner December 26, 2008, 2:39 pm

    OK this is vulnerable….my kids are grown (we’re now very involved grandparents) so I now see the fruit of their lives. When they’re little it’s like parenting blind (I thought anyways), because I couldn’t see which traits were a stage/no big deal, from which were a big deal that I should work diligently on. Hindsight, especially in parenting is 20/20.

    Both my sons have this tenancy, although that was never my intention. I see in my own life, I grew up with alot of horrific abuse and I think I parented in an opposite pendulum swing….I was not allowed a voice, so I did the opposite to the extreme, for an example. I wanted them to have the childhood I did not. I wanted them to be blessed. I error ed too far over on that side, but again I didn’t see it when I was in the midst of parenting (otherwise I wouldn’t have done it).

    They are young adults now, and my oldest has really come out of it. Reality of life basically straightened it out. When those fresh graduates come out of college and not only do not get the corner office and help, and are basically at the bottom of the ladder despite their education, reality starts to hit, usually. My youngest son is still in that process, but is better than he used to be. We’ve had a lot of discussions on this subject, especially in a workplace setting. We’ve also had to put some very strong limits financially upon his life, as we were not helping in the long run. It’s hard to see that sometimes the best thing in the world they need is lack and/or “no”. Yet to still be involved and loving. At least it was and is for me, but I saw where my generosity was actually hurting them.

    Were it gets especially dicey is if they are surrounded by people who keep reinforcing or bailing them/enabling them out of every situation. But I also see the Lord pursuing them and dealing with this issue in their lives. He’s a much better parent than I ever was and it’s not over yet.

    Reply
  • Amy December 26, 2008, 8:00 pm

    Air Jordans, what a blessing to have a thoughtful child! I agree that a good deal of it is inborn. I know that I can train myself to react certain ways in situations, and a great deal of the entitlement behavior is learned. Or taught, depending on who you are in the situation. Hopefully we can build habits in our children that help them avoid the mistakes of the entitlement mindset.

    Val, you hit several nails on the head there. I keep wishing I could fast forward to when the older boys are grown and download all that wisdom then go back and start over with them at birth. We’d all be so much better off!

    You’re describing a whole generation of kids whose parents didn’t say no. Reports of college grads expecting the corner office and the 6-figure paycheck are starting to abound. You’re correct to say it was a mistake, I’m just saying you’re far from alone. 🙂

    Ultimately I think we all do it. How hard it is to say no to those beautiful eyes! My boys are experts in just asking over and over and it only takes me giving in once every hundred times to reinforce the behavior. Oy. I think spoiling grandkids is going to be fun. I’m so glad you see growth and improvement for both your sons. Lord willing they’ll come out with even more wisdom when He’s done refining them.

    Reply
  • Amy December 26, 2008, 8:03 pm

    That’s what I get for letting children talk to me while I’m trying to type, lol. I wanted to say that I’ve noticed lately that I have the boys trained to wait until the third time I ask them to do something before they comply. It’s annoying! Yet I’m the reason they do that, because I don’t institute a consequence after the first time they don’t respond. And even though I realize what’s happening, I still haven’t figured out a solution for the problem.

    Basically, if we’re not making one parenting mistake, we’re likely making another. I guess we’re all human, eh?

    Reply
  • mary December 28, 2008, 4:49 pm

    Wow! So many great comments! Personally, I’m blaming it on all the computer stuff/wii etc….just kidding but that is one thing I would not purchase if I had to do it over again!!!! I agree on the having my kids trained to wait until the third time….I was so much better at expecting them to obey immediately when they were younger….when did I start to let that go? Probably about the time I “thought” they could do things without me double checking. My “new years resolution” (not that I usually make a point of making these) is to be more consistant on MY part. Follow up and discipline as I “threaten” so it’s not just empty threats. This may mean more writing myself and my spouse notes and dates of grounding from electrical appliances on the calendar for reminders. Any other ideas on how to be consistant when you yourself are probably a bit unorganized naturally? I’m thinking I need to actually pack away the gaming systems when they’re grounded and lock them up. I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with the computers. I can lock off the internet but they need it for schoolwork….do I just take the mouse when I’m not going to be around to make sure they’re only doing schoolwork? Any suggestions.
    I’m loving all these comments!

    Reply
  • Val Garner December 29, 2008, 5:42 pm

    Well the good thing about computer and gaming stuff is it gives you leverage for grounding! Your idea of writing groundings down on a calender is good, or even locking up the equipment, both great suggestions. I would think locking it up would be less confusing and less issues of being able to sneak to the equipment when no one’s looking.

    Reply
  • Amy January 7, 2009, 1:19 am

    Mary if there’s one area I’m failing in right now it’s following through with immediate consequences instead of giving warning after warning. Every once in a while I manage to remember but usually I’m halfway through the warning when I realize I’m running my mouth too much. Again. And don’t get me started on the whole remembering consequences thing. I make them things like “no tv for the day” and usually forget even that, lol.

    I figure if I’m noticing my mistakes more often that’s half the battle, right? Now I just have to learn to avoid them in the first place.

    Val, leverage is absolutely the thing. And perhaps I should write things down too. Sigh. I’m to young to have a memory this flawed.

    Reply