A Problem of Entitlement

Are We Raising Kids Who Can't Help Themselves?

Problem With Entitlement (1)

Researchers have told us that American parents are too child-centered. Is making our kids happy eclipsing our determination to teach them responsibility?  According to the cited study, “Parents intend to develop their children’s independence, yet raise them to be relatively dependent, even when the kids have the skills to act on their own.” (Wall Street Journal, 3/13/2012).  As a result, kids generally are growing up less prepared to take care of themselves and others than ever before. We call this problem “entitlement,” meaning kids who do not feel inclined to be responsible and helpful as part of daily life.  Lynne and I have encountered this issue time and again in our own work coaching families.

Not so long ago it was different. For all of human history, until the last 60 years or so, kids were expected at young ages to do what they could do to help their family survive. In other words, their contributions were necessary to keep others afloat. Faith and values were passed naturally through this process as children and parents shared in the responsibilities of day to day life. Every child was an asset because every child was another worker in the labor force of the family/clan. Kids felt significant not just because parents said ‘I love you’ at bedtime or sent notes in their lunchbox, but because they knew that if they didn’t do their part others would suffer.

This concept of being needed is absent in most American homes. Instead of growing up to believe they are here for others, kids grow up to believe that others are here for them. Add to the mix a child’s selfish, sinful nature, and we’ve got a real problem on our hands.

Can Kids Learn Patience?

(Image © Andi Berger | Dreamstime.com)

patience - child waiting - hands together

“The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8


What would your child do if you left him or her alone in a room with a fluffy, tempting white marshmallow (or other tempting treat)?

The answer may have a lot to say about your child’s success in life. In a Stanford University study, a group of four-year-olds were each given a marshmallow. They were promised a second one IF they could wait for several minutes without eating the first one.

Brace Yourself – It’s Coming!!

Kids are already (or soon will be) plotting their Christmas lists, whether the benefactor is Santa, parents, or a generous Grandma. Children are not alone in this quest – the media has been implementing well-researched goals and strategies to support kids in this noble endeavor of getting lots of cool stuff for Christmas.

girl with stack of presentsBetween now and December 24th, the average American child will view approximately 4,800 commercials!
Does this affect their perception of what they just gotta have for Christmas? Absolutely. Research shows that when parents denied children’s requests for products, children who were heavy TV viewers argued about the purchase more than twice as much as light viewers! Whew, another good reason to “tame the tube” in our homes this holiday season!

But that’s just a small aspect of what it takes to move our children toward solid, non-materialistic values in life. What’s needed is a proactive vision on the part of the parents about how possessions serve their big picture vision about family. If there is no vision, instead of owning our possessions, they may “own” our family.