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Linda & Richard Eyre: Why entitlement is everyone's problem

Published: Sunday, Sept. 23 2012 1:49 p.m. MDT

We've written extensively in this column about entitlement attitudes.

But as parents, we have just got to understand that there has never before been a generation of kids so entitled.

They are indulged and pampered by the society around them and by us! And more and more, they don't want to work (or to wait) for anything.

Not only do they live in a culture of have-it-now media and advertising, bailouts and instant gratification, they live in homes that perpetuate and strengthen that paradigm thanks to parents who give them what they want without anything in return.

And entitlement really is a kid trap, because once those entitlement jaws have grabbed a child, they hold fast. The reason this trap is a particularly bad one is that it stifles children's initiative, encourages self-centeredness and mutes their natural and healthy fear of consequences.

It makes them feel like the world owes them a living and destroys the connection between effort and reward.

So our kids don't learn to work.

They don't feel much incentive or motivation to do their best.

And they don't know much about consequences because someone always excuses them, gets them off the hook or bails them out.

Nothing could be more destructive to their motivation, their creativity, their confidence and independence, and their sense of responsibility.

Entitlement robs our children of the prime elements of joy: appreciation and gratitude, and work and fulfillment.

In giving them what they want, we deprive them of what they need.

So as much as we might like to say "it's society's problem," the fact is that it is our problem and our kids' problem, perhaps the biggest one they face; the one that will affect their future the most.

Here is how the trap works, right in our homes, right under our noses with our kids:

In the name of love, we give our kids indulgence rather than consequences, instant gratification rather than delayed gratification, laziness rather than discipline, dependence rather than independence, and entitlement rather than responsibility.

We are trying to control our kids rather than giving them control. Instead of teaching values, we are teaching them to value the wrong things.

What is happening both in our family culture and in our broader social culture turns into a powerful trap that snaps our kids' initiative and holds them back from the responsibility, consequences and choice-making that could prepare them to live happily and successfully as they grow toward adulthood.

No parent would lay this trap intentionally. We are doing it in spite of ourselves. It is so easy to get swept away in our materialistic, competitive lifestyles, and we have failed to understand the dangers our indulgent society imposes on our kids, or the negative effect of the economic topsy-turvy of the world in which they are growing up.

So instead of countering it in our homes, we mirror it. And as a result, we are not only letting our children fall into the entitlement trap, we are pushing them into it.

Even parents and families that work hard at teaching responsibility and avoiding entitlement cannot escape the problem — because when our children's friends have entitlement attitudes, it affects our kids in all kinds of ways.

We will continue to try in this column to give ideas and solutions for the ever-increasing entitlement attitudes of today's kids. But the first thing we need to do as parents is to recognize what is happening and understand that we are a big part of the cause.

Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.joyschools.com. Several of their books are now available for free on www.EyresFreeBooks.com.

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