Amy Choate-Nielsen: The age of entitlement: Selfishness is rampant, but can be corrected, experts say
Stopping the selfishness
Jennifer Young loves watching the excitement in her young foster care kids' eyes when her teenage kids come home from school and scoop them up for snuggles.
"It doesn't have to be foster care, but anytime you're busy serving, it's a great way to get out of the 'me-me-me' (mode)," says the Kaysville mother of five biological children and dozens more foster kids. Her family's participation in the foster care program has helps her children stay grounded.
"We have something in common," she says. "Something that we're all working toward every minute of every day. (My kids know) we're trying to help these (foster) kids."
Teaching children to care for other people is essential to warding off feelings of entitlement, Herrin says. Looking out for another's needs is fundamental to neighborhood and community relationships — not just family success.
"We don't get anywhere when we are our own highest priority," Herrin says. "It doesn't work very well."
But parents need not despair if their children show signs of entitlement. To start, they need to make sure they're setting the type of example they want their children to follow. Then, show lots of love, encourage hard work and give children quality time, rather than things.
When entitled teens act out, Miller says parents need to sit them down and say, "I haven't done you a favor. I've let you get away with a lot of stuff and haven't allowed the natural consequences of life to come. There are going to be some unpleasant things in life and this is one of them, me saying that you are grounded for a week and you're not going to use the car. Oh, it's prom night? I'm going to hold my own. I usually give in, but we're going to do it the right way now."
It may not be pleasant now, but it will pay off in the long run, she said. And hopefully it will be the first step toward curbing the trend of entitlement.
"If I were a young parent right now, I could look out and say, 'This is dangerous — there is an (entitlement) epidemic out there, and it could impact the world negatively,'" Fay says. "But it doesn't have to happen to my kids. My kids can float to the top."
Back in Greer's classroom, it's not all bad news. Yes, some students are self-absorbed and unkind, but others are in the process of floating to heights she's never seen. One little 4-year-old boy, with big ears and a bigger smile, is particularly impressive, she says. He helps people off the floor, holds doors open and includes everyone.
"When that sort of stuff happens, we need to celebrate," Greer says. "That little guy wasn't my best alphabet guy, but he was by far the most socially skilled person, and he is going to go far."
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