I hear many parent complaints of their children acting entitled, “running the roost,” and being disrespectful. Some parents blame their children, while others blame themselves. Studies show that there is blame on both sides, combined with a cultural movement in today’s society. We live in a world of instant gratification that pacifies negative emotions. We avoid consequences and struggle to accept responsibility. These unfortunate circumstances have led to many children adopting an attitude of entitlement.
Given that bleak reality, what can we do? From Innocence to Entitlement: A Love and Logic Cure for the Tragedy of Entitlement by Jim Fay and Dawn Billings is a book devoted to this question. From this book, I will highlight three concrete and practical techniques parents can implement.
- If necessary, adjust the outlook on our role as a parent. Do you serve your children in a way that teaches them you owe them your subservience? Do you steer away from disciplining? Set boundaries and then take them back? Do you placate your children’s negative emotions? If the answer to any of these is “yes” then we may need to change the definition of “parent.” A parent is first and foremost a model of behavior to our children. If we serve our children, we teach reliance on others as opposed to independence. If we don’t discipline our children they won’t learn right from wrong, or that their actions have consequences. If we don’t allow our children to experience, and work through, emotions such as sadness and anger, they won’t be able to handle those emotions later in life. Because, real life can be challenging, right? To help prevent attitudes of entitlement, we must focus on supporting our children, being present when they struggle, and guiding them in the right direction when confronted with difficult situations. It may feel impossible at the time of a tantrum, not to just give in, or even embarrassing. However, a little suffering now for the best right reasons are better now than when they are teenagers, running wild.
- Increase our children’s emotional intelligence. Being emotionally intelligent is having the ability to gain insight into and understanding our emotions, process and accept them, and ultimately control them. We have to understand that we are not helping our children when we dismiss or pacify their emotions. If a child has never experienced and properly processed disappointment, anger, fear, and the like, what will happen when they are in college and get a “C” on a paper, or are criticized at work? How will they handle the disappointment and irritation if they didn’t learn how to deal with it when they were younger? When we avoid reprimanding bad behaviors for fear of a child’s reaction, we are delaying an inevitable reality: negative emotions are a part of life. If we can help our children learn more about their emotions, then we are setting them up to be resilient toward them. For guidance for how to do this see John Gottman’s Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.
- Implement Love and Logic Techniques. The basic premise of Love and Logic is allowing for natural consequences to occur after a child has made a behavioral choice. The book encourages parents to enforce consequences to correct ill behavior in a loving way. Implementing these techniques provides a platform to move away from entitlement. Children can begin to understand that you are not their servant. With your guidance they learn about self-esteem, respect, and hard work. They are set up for success in handling their emotions and being kind to others.
Ultimately, we must realize that entitlement does not disappear on its own. As parents, we have to be proactive in dissipating it in our children. By taking the above steps, and looking further into research such as recommended books here, we can feel more empowered to tackle this difficult task and that empowerment to tackle such a task is important!