Entitlement is a growing problem. Often high-schoolers drive cars more luxurious than many adults can ever hope to own. But what are we telling our kids if they think they deserve the best of the best before they have even launched in their own careers?
I wonder if the severe drop in the standard of living most young adults must endure when they leave home is partly to blame for the growing phenomenon of ”failure to launch”. Why would I want to leave a cushy, comfortable, and free place to crash?
Earning Our Stripes
We are teaching our children they are entitled to things it took us decades to earn. What happened to the pride that used to come from making it on our own and enduring temporary deprivation for a greater good?
Years ago, my best friend was so proud of her first apartment, a run down, dumpy place in a sketchy area of town. She invited me over to show off a few pictures taped and thumb-tacked to the wall along with hand-me-down furniture from relatives. I remember watching a line of ants following a curving crack that ran up the living room wall. Oh well! It was all part of the adventure! Besides, my apartment wasn’t much better.
We accepted this right-of-passage, this earning-our-stripes. We expected the poverty to be temporary and character-building. It didn’t matter that our first apartments were total dives, we were making it on our own and we were proud!
Times have changed! I find some young adults are now indignant and humiliated to do without. Many parents in my generation have given generously to their children. But maybe we’ve gone too far.
Why do we do it?
Misguided Attempt to Build Self-esteem
Most parents think their kids are above average and special. In an effort to instill healthy self-esteem, we tell our kids they are wonderful and exceptional. But our tendency to constant praise and flattery–especially if it isn’t based in reality – can backfire, creating a child who is either a budding narcissist or in need of constant praise. Our constant indulgence communicates “you can have anything you want in life” which is a disservice to the child because life doesn’t work like that.
We don’t like to say no. Tired and overworked, we crave peace. It’s so much easier to give in than to stand our ground. Conflict is really painful for many of us, especially after being at work all day. Parenting and conflict go hand in hand! There is no way for us to avoid this if we want to be good parents. Conflict isn’t always a sign that something is terribly wrong. Kids will push limits. That’s normal. It’s our job to know when to hold firm.
Can’t Stand the Pain
We can’t bear to see our children suffer. If they are bored, we entertain them. If they are anxious, we swoop in to comfort and soothe. We take too much responsibility for their every emotion…or grade…or success….or failure.
What happens if my kid fails? Doesn’t get invited to prom? Embarrasses me in front of my colleagues? Gets caught with drugs? Gets expelled? Or walks away from the faith?
If these things happen, we start the long, painful walk of SHAME. We slip out to the parking lot after church. We lower the visor in the carpool line. We hope no one will ask. A lot of parents feel shame rather than support and empathy when their children don’t compare favorably to their friends’ kids.
Get a Life
People ask how we are and we often answer with story after story about our kids, especially if we have good news! That says a lot. For years, the comings and goings of my kids were all I thought about. My life consisted of coordinating the schedules of my kids-the piano lessons, the clubs, the homework, not to mention the laundry, groceries, and meals. After years of NOT thinking about who I was, it became a habit—an obnoxious one, no doubt—to talk endlessly about my kids.
Our children are our life, which isn’t a completely bad thing. But what if I really don’t have ANYTHING else going on in my life? That puts too much pressure on the kids and the temptation can be to live vicariously through them.
Parenting Report Card
Our kids have become a virtual report card for us as parents. We can only feel good about ourselves if they are doing well!
- Do they like me?
- Are they happy?
- Are they successful?
- Are they popular?
I don’t know about you, but I want all A’s on my parenting report card! But maybe the report card should read more like this:
- Am I preparing my child for adulthood?
- Do I set reasonable expectations and follow through with reasonable consequences?
- Am I building a real relationship with this child?
- Do I refuse to give in to manipulative behavior, even if he’s mad at me?
- Do I let my child experience the consequences of her decisions, rather than rescuing her?
If we want our children to live life well, we need to prepare them for the real world rather than indulging them to death.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor, a nationally certified counselor, and a registered nurse with several years experience helping people with healthy, successful living.