Entitled Children?

Entitlement is another one of those words thrown around these days without much sense of what it really means, kind of like the words “adulting” or “toxic” (you can see my back posts on these words).

Entitlement,to me, is not only necessarily is a lack of work ethic, because that usually is what people mean when they say someone is entitled – they didn’t/don’t have to work and everything is handed to that person.  I don’t think that is the whole picture.

The definition of entitlement, at least according to Webster’s Dictionary is:   the belief that one is deserving of  or entitled to certain privileges. The world “entitle” itself is having proper grounds to seek or claim something.

To me,  entitlement often begins in childhood and  is that feeling that the world owes us because we had a terrible childhood OR we had the most special childhood ever that should continue indefinitely.  It seems to come from a place of lack of self-awareness, and often a true ignorance of how people around are affected by this attitude.  Entitlement is often a sheer ignorant selfishness that later in life goes on to destroy families and the next generation of children if the adults of the family continue to hold on to this.

One antonym of “entitlement” is actually “disqualify.”  So, if we don’t want to entitle someone, we want to disqualify him or her? I am not sure that is what we mean either.  Perhaps instead of thinking of “disqualifying”our children, we can look at other options:

Raise children who are empowered in the struggle of life, and who are not victims.  There are true and legitimate unjust social structures in this world; there are true victims in this world.  Many people I know, however,  who think they are victims  of everything and everyone in life are this way because they believe they are so special that only good things should happen to them, and that there should be no struggle.  We can choose our response and own it. As our children grow older, it is important that they experience the natural consequences of their actions.  This is much harder to watch in teens than in three year olds, but it is part of maturation and growing up.  Guiding an older teen (15/16 change and up) is much different than controlling so nothing bad happens to that teen.

Raise children who know life is up and down and that’s okay. Very few things in life are linear and without struggle and effort.   I have this little picture on my desk; I am sure many of you have seen it somewhere along the way. The top shows a bicyclist traveling a straight line to an end flag (a goal). which is our vision, and the  bottom half of the page shows reality of trying to reach a goal with  the same cyclist and the road is marked with mountains and valleys to get to the end flag.  Struggle is real and honest.

Help your children be resilient. It is okay for them to wrestle, struggle, work hard, and fail.  In fact, it is imperative.  It is important to know that sometimes we do work hard and we fail anyway.  Hard work doesn’t mean we won’t fail. So, in that note…

Teach your children failure is okay.  Teach a growth mindset where children know that failure can be one step closer to success;  a mistake can turn into a success.  Look at all the wonderful inventions that started as “mistakes.” I think starting with the twelve year change, we should be talking about growth mindset directly, we should be talking about stress management directly. I usually start in seventh grade.  If you are Waldorf homeschooling, the physiology block is a nice place to start to work some of this in and then to use growth mindset and mindfulness techniques daily as part of your warm-up for school.

Raise children who know the special of ordinary.  Movies and mass media tend to depict life as a series of highs; one event must top the next in an ever-ascending spiral.  This is not life.  Life is full of ordinary, quiet, mundane, and there is joy in that.  It is not your job to give your children sheer magic every minute of every day.  Being bored is okay too. Having regular is okay.  Finding joy in quiet is okay.

Train responsibility.  In this day and age, that can be harder than it seems.  There are very few things that “have” to be done for survival anymore  as far as chores (ie, few of us have to haul water or get food ready for winter).  Many teens in the United States are no longer even  getting summer jobs, (see back posts about this), which used to be a great place to learn responsibility outside the family.  Structure the environment so some things HAVE to be done before pleasure.  We expect small children to weave in and out of work in the Early Years, but we should expect a teenager to have much more  responsibility than a small child.

Train accountability.  Accountability is being responsible for one’s own actions.  This can be particularly important for teens and the area of social media.  Watch how your teens treat friends,  watch how your teens treat their younger siblings or those younger in general. Watch how they treat themselves.  Remember what integrity really means, and intervene as needed.  Many teens need guidance.

Volunteer together; explore together the fact that life is not equal nor fair and what this means in terms of our response to humanity.  Empathy for others and a feeling of responsibility for the least among us  may be the biggest turning point against what we term “entitlement.”   

Don’t enable or rescue.  There comes a point when kids really do have to take the boundaries and structures that have been in place and start to internalize these things and carry it as their own, and they only learn this through practice. If you child can do something, don’t do it for them.

Help them learn to deal with conflict.  Not many people love conflict, but life is not conflict-free and learning how to not only set boundaries, to  be assertive but kind, fair, able to take responsibility for one’s own actions, and to ask for and give forgiveness is part of this conflict resolution.

Do give your children love, attention, encouragement, and laughter.  That is the foundation of health, and the foundation that your grandchildren will build upon.

Blessings and love,
Carrie