Attitudes of Entitlement: What are they and why should I care?

Entitlement Attitude

There is a growing problem in our culture today and it has a name:  Entitlement.  This self-indulgent, self-centered attitude is creeping into our homes, our schools, our businesses and our government.  According to parents and authors of the book, The Entitlement Trap, Richard and Linda Eyre, entitlement refers to the the growing trend in children {and adults} to think that they can have, should have, and deserve to have whatever they want, whatever their friends have – and that they should have it now and not have to earn it or give up anything for it.

I had heard about this attitude here and there in the news but felt that our children were fairly well insulated from it being home schooled, not watching television and being around like-minded families {that promote the same values that we have} for the most part.

When my 14 year old son recently said that he was a kid and that he should enjoy his childhood {in other words – not work} because he would be working for the rest of his life, I brushed it off saying something along the lines of, “Not in this family bud!”.  I mean really, with 8 kids home all day, I learned pretty quickly that if we were going to survive, we would need to all work together and that I would need to enlist the help of my kids to keep the family machine well-oiled and running smoothly.

I did a little research on entitlement attitudes and found some startling things.  These attitudes are becoming more and more rampant in our adult population {also known as narcissism} and are negatively affecting:

  • our relationships  “You’re not meeting my needs so I’ll have an affair.”
  • our work ethic  “I’m a college graduate, so I deserve a high-paying job without starting at the bottom.”
  • our financial responsibilities “I deserve a flat screen TV even though I can’t afford one.”  Our national debt has quadrupled in the past 10 years.

An attitude of entitlement is characterized by a lack of gratitude and personal responsibility which leads to a lack of satisfaction and an overarching propensity to blame others for our troubles.  It is also characterized by an inability to delay gratification which fosters laziness and encourages the accumulation of debt.

The relatively short history of this sense of entitlement can be traced to the psychology movement.  Being a psych major in college, I find the emergence of this trend in thought fascinating.

History of the attitude of entitlement

Several generations ago, children were to be “seen and not heard”.  Those kids grew up and rebelled against that idea, finding the practice to be less than ideal in their own lives.  I tend to agree.  Psychologists began to promote the idea that children needed a strong concept of self {uh oh} to be happy and successful in life.  All parents want their kids to succeed and so the trend caught on.  Then the pendulum began to swing in the opposite direction.  This approach eventually birthed the notion of a child-centered home;  a home in which the child is the most important member of the family.  Parents in child-centered families pride themselves on offering lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement, no matter what the child is doing.

What entitlement looks like

Ever met that mom at the park that wouldn’t say the word ‘no’ to her child for fear of hurting his or her self-esteem?  Not all families are this extreme but this general attitude of indulgence has resulted in parents in general giving kids too much and demanding too little of kids today.  Parents are defending their kids against their teachers and coaches rather than backing the teachers and coaches up.  There is a blurring line between what is a want and a need.  Everyone gets a trophy whether their team wins or loses.  Add to this that we are now busier than ever – there is a tendency to give things instead of time.

Who is to blame?

Culture or Parents

It is true that we live in a culture that promotes instant gratification.  But it is well-meaning parents that are the foremost nurturers of entitlement attitudes.  When we {out of a desire to bless our kids} go beyond satisfying all of our kids needs and start satisfying all of their wants as well – we are spoiling them in more ways than we know.  Kids learn to expect their wants and needs to be met.  They also learn to expect others to make sacrifices for them rather than being self-reliant.

In the schools and on the soccer fields

Well-meaning educators have also played a part in fostering entitlement attitudes in children in the interest of preserving and maintaining their self-esteem.  By promoting unconditional self-regard, kids end up feeling good about themselves no matter what they are doing which results in young people confusing esteem, which should be earned, with respect, which recognizes the basic human worth of an individual.  When this distinction is not made, kids learn that there is no relationship between how they behave and how they should feel about themselves.    This results in the shocking lack of humility associated with an attitude of entitlement.

Why should we care?

Ask any employer about the current batch of workers and, yes, even {maybe even more so} college graduates.  Ask them about the work ethic that they see.  An attitude of entitlement doesn’t just result in a person thinking that they should have everything that they want.  They also believe that they are entitled not to do some things – like work.  I have seen this in my own home where I am cooking and cleaning and helping my kids with their activities but when I ask for someone to unload the dishwasher they grumble and complain.

Entitlement attitudes are robbing from our children

Attitudes of laziness and conceit take away from our children the very skills that they need to excel in life.  Motivation, independance, and responsibility are necessary for successful careers and marriages as well as a healthy self-esteem.  Being able to delay gratification, to work hard and work our way up, to serve and consider others are some of the leading character traits in successful people, even above earning a college degree.

What can we do?

For now, I will say that the antidote for entitlement is responsibility.  In my next post, I will elaborate on Attitudes of Entitlement:  How to Combat Them in You and Your Kids.

 

 

Marianne Sunderland

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Comments

  1. So agree with the concerns in the post…
    I see this attitude from time to time with our own kiddos (as we work hard to fight against it).
    But when I taught high school, I saw it all the time…
    Thank you for sharing with NOBH.
    ~Kara @ The Chuppies

  2. This is a fantastic post….a topic we have been discussing quite a bit in our home, lately! Thank you!

  3. I am aware that we have unknowingly allowed this to happen in our home to some extent. Yesterday my daughter 8 was asked to pick up her towel, some shoes, and a few randomly tossed items in her room and she stormed thru the room picking it up all the while announcing that she felt like she was the maid! 1) I told her that if that phrase or attitude ever showed up again it would result in toys being removed…the maid doesn’t get to play with the toys. 2) I asked did she want me to stop doing all my chores…she looked at me funny then I explained that my chores included grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, dishes, laundry, paying bills etc. I thing she got it…at least for the moment and I was met with an apppology. We are trying to focus on decission making…She didn’t like that I made her fish into a Sandwich (like everyone elses) so I said you can choose to eat it in whole or part or to not eat it but that is dinner…knowing that she liked everything on her plate. We are about to add to our family a newborn….Must weed this garden!

    • Hi Brandy! It sounds like your daughter has a sweet heart. Congratulations on the baby. Yes, lots of gardening going on around here as well! God bless your family!

  4. You have hit the nail on the head here. I see it more and more, and hear parents say “What can I do? She wouldn’t get in the car/wouldn’t get dressed/wouldn’t stop having her tantrum in public/wouldn’t stop screaming, so I just had to give in.

    Yikes!

    It’s not just younger children, either. There is a culture-wide message of entitlement that parents owe their kids a college education at the institution of their choice, regardless of the parents ability to pay.

    As Brandy said above, must weed the garden every day, week in and week out!

  5. R Dezmend says:

    This is very helpful… I am a father and husband raising two children, working on keeping myself and my kids from this attitude of entitilement…. I can identifiy with this very much comming from a very good up bringing and fortunate circurmstances in my life….
    It is easy to think that things come easy in life, and when thing dont go as well draw up and expect others to go all out to get answers and solutions to life’s ups and downs…

    It is easy to smile when things are great in life, until its time for a personal sacrafice of time and life style to help us see that the world doesnt revolve around anyone in piticular…. Thanks for the Message!!

  6. We have been having this conversation in our house right now! Great post! Thank you!

  7. You’re forgetting the biggest purveyor of the entitlement attitude: government. This started in the 1960’s and has grown out of control since then, invading all aspects of our culture.

  8. You hit the nail on the head when you stated that the antidote for entitlement is responsibility. We say this to our children a lot with regards to wanting to do what other children in the neighbourhood are doing. They always ask what age can they do so and so, we reply that it isn’t based on an age but on their level of responsibility- show us that you are responsible in the small things and you will have more freedom to experience the bigger things (ie more independence) Freedoms are not an entitlement but a responsibility that needs to be earnt. Great article!

  9. This is a very good article. My children are all grown, but I can see where we put them first. I also wanted them to always feel good about themselves (a cheer leader rather than the coach).

  10. While I agree that there is a growing issue in American culture with such attitudes, I think the college graduate example is quite ignorant. People typically go to college and accumulate knowledge and learn some skills for a specific career, how is sacrificing 5 or more years of your life studying in college any less meaningful than sacrificing 5 of your years working some low wage job, which, by the way, many if not most college kids do at the same time anyway, we don’t all have rich parents to pay for our college, and financial aid often doesn’t cut it. I mean do you think people’s lives magically stop in college and that they don’t have experiences and have to overcome problems?

    5 years sacrificed is 5 years either way. Further more, in college you are gaining knowledge and skills that will help you for the rest of your life, which, most people won’t gain just working a low wage job, instead they’ll just complain about how they work their ass and have nothing to show for it, because low wage jobs do not reward intelligence or creativity.

    Besides the college example, I more or less agree with this article/post, but there is another issue with this article concerning another problem which the author himself makes, and that is the JEALOUS mentality where someone feels cheated if someone else doesn’t have to work as hard as them. That is wrong as well, and no matter how you try to reason about it, at the end of the day, it comes from a place of jealousy, and is as wrong as the entitlement attitude.

    • Marianne Sunderland says:

      You make some good points Nicholas. I don’t think that not going to college after high school necessarily means you are working a low end job. Apprenticeships and other trade programs can train a young person in half the time, with less than half the expense and provide specific training for immediate employment. While I don’t regret getting my degree, I made more waiting tables during college than I did in my job that required a degree. I would have had to go back to school for a masters to get a better job in my field (psychology). All thought-provoking stuff for sure. Thanks for dropping by.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] the seriousness of my last post, I thought I’d share something a bit more light hearted [...]

  2. [...] father was a blessing to his children; not by giving us everything that we wanted and flattering us with unearned praise but by taking a deep interest in our lives {present and future} and acknowledging our value to him [...]

  3. [...] my previous post, Attitudes of Entitlement:  What are they and why should I care?, I made an attempt to describe what attitudes of entitlement were and why they should be of concern [...]

  4. [...] Attitudes of Entitlement: What are they and why should I care? – Abundant Life.  I just discovered this blog through Women Living Well. My husband and I have discussed this attitude of entitlement at length and I really thought this was a nice in-depth article on the subject. Have you read any good articles this week?  Or did you post a great article you think I would enjoy reading?  Leave a comment with a link so I can check it out. [...]

  5. […] A lot has been said about the importance of spending quality time with our kids.  Rather like a pendulum, our culture has gone from one that believes children should be seen and not heard to one with extreme over indulgence resulting in an epidemic of entitlement attitudes. […]

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