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Amy Choate-Nielsen: Richard and Linda Eyre waging a crusade against entitlement

Published: Saturday, July 4 2015 6:49 a.m. MDT

Richard and Linda Eyre have written over 30 books about parenting and marriage.  (Eyre Family) Richard and Linda Eyre have written over 30 books about parenting and marriage. (Eyre Family)

SALT LAKE CITY — In a high-rise that looks over Temple Square, Richard and Linda Eyre are waging a crusade against an enemy as big as the national debt — literally.

Their adversary is entitlement, a growing plague that eliminates responsibility, fosters laziness and encourages the accumulation of insurmountable debt.

According to the Eyres, it is sweeping across the world.

"Look at the national debt — it's quadrupled in the last 10 years," says Richard Eyre, who is sitting on a love seat next to his wife, Linda. "And look at credit card debt — it's quadrupled in the last 10 years, and it's finally catching up to us. I think a lot of parents are saying, 'Wow, I know I have a problem with it to some degree,' but what really gets to them is when they see it manifesting itself in their 5-year-old. It's rampant."

Richard and Linda Eyre (Eyre family photo) Richard and Linda Eyre (Eyre family photo)

That's why the Eyres, authors of more than a dozen parenting books, including the best-selling "Teaching Your Children Values," sat down at their double-wide desk more than two years ago and started writing a book on how parents can keep their kids from becoming entitled.

The result, "The Entitlement Trap — How to Rescue Your Child With a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership," will be released Sept. 6 and is available for pre-order now at www.valuesparenting.com.

"The only way we're ever really going to solve this entitlement problem is one family at a time," Richard Eyre says. "That's why this book has become kind of a mission for us."

The problem with entitlement is it "holds (kids) back from their potential, from adventure, from their independence, from their creativity, from their fulfillment, and from their happiness," and the attitude fosters indulgence and anti-responsibility, the book says.

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The key to overcoming entitlement issues is to teach children ownership of their belongings and actions. It's the "huge, magic key," Linda Eyre says. The book gives ideas on how to teach ownership and financial responsibility to children.

"You can't write a book that just says entitlement is bad," Richard Eyre says. "You have to say, what do you replace it with? And we're saying you replace it with a sense of personal ownership. That's the antidote."

A pivotal example in the book comes from the Eyres' own family.

Once, when their son was young, he came home missing a shoe. It had gotten caught under the road while he floated it down an irrigation ditch, and he couldn't get it out. Flabbergasted, Richard Eyre asked his son if he knew how much the shoe cost. "No," his son replied. "You bought it and you'll probably buy me another one now."

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From then on, the Eyres taught their children the concept of ownership through a "family economy," where the children received money according to how they fulfilled their responsibilities around the house.

The Eyres calculated the amount of money they generally spent on the child's wants and needs, then divided it into shares that could be earned. After putting portions of their earned money aside for savings and charity, the child could spend the rest of the money however they wanted.

That financial freedom gave the children opportunities to make small mistakes in their youth, and avoid major mistakes in their adulthood.

"I think people are looking for not just theories, but ideas of how to make things really work," Linda Eyre says. "This is just packed full of ideas. The ways we've done it might not be great for everyone, but take the ideas and run with it."

The Eyres pulled from other parents' ideas and experiences — shared from around the globe — in writing their book. In many ways, that's what makes this endeavor their best yet, they say.

But it's certainly not their last.

"Oh sure," Richard Eyre chuckles at the idea of crusading against whatever mortal enemy may threaten families next. "There's always another book."

"The Entitlement Trap" is available with a 33 percent pre-ordering discount and bonus free merchandise at www.valuesparenting.com/entitlement-trap.php

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company