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Don't just pick on parents

It takes a village to raise a(n) [unentitled] child

Kids are entitled.

I hear about this daily. Without a doubt, this notion pops up in at least one social media channel every damn day. Adults love to talk about how entitled kids are. And, while many kids are entitled, I always thought it was due to the fault of adults. Perhaps this is why I connected with an article currently circulating on Facebook. 

The article is worth the read. The author, Dr. Leonard Sax, makes valid points about how parents are "going utterly in the wrong direction" in terms of raising kids. But, I loathe gross generalizations, so first let's take a minute and bow to those who don't parent in the way he describes. I appreciate a lot of what he has to say  - but as someone who makes an effort to implement the tips he suggests - I can confidently conclude that parents aren't the only ones to blame in the art of raising entitled kids.

For example:

  • My four-year-old is given a sticker at the end of ballet class each Saturday morning. Yes, I am happy it's not a lollipop, but shouldn't the lessons be gift enough?
  • Both of my children receive stickers after their well-child visits from their (incredible) pediatrician. Not necessary.
  • Both of my children receive trinkets (re: junk) upon completion of each dentist appointment. Shouldn't they learn to understand they are lucky to live in a country where they are able to receive dental care?
  • Both of my children receive treat bags for attending another child's birthday. Shouldn't they learn to deal with going to a party where they aren't the recipients or center of attention?
  • Both of my children receive suckers on the last night of swimming at each session. Why can't learning new skills and meeting new friends be enough to celebrate?
  • Both of my children are offered stickers every time I check out at the grocery store. That is, of course, unless I go to a different store where they are offered a sucker at the checkout. They may as well learn now that grocery shopping isn't fun and that while not every minute of every day is fun, there can be fun in every day.
  • When my oldest reached her goal of biking 3 miles on a two-wheeler to a local coffee shop so she could read a book, the barista offered her a cake pop on the house for such an accomplishment. I wanted her to feel the accomplishment was enough in and of itself. We politely declined but man, seriously?
  • Many schools adhere to a Postive Emotional Behavior Support (PEBS) system which basically rewards kids extrinsically for doing something nice, rather than helping them to understand the importance to do good because it's the right thing to do. Not because you will receive a reward. Funny. I thought youth attended schools to learn valuable information, not entitlement.
  • Many sports and school functions reward culminating experiences with pizza, cake and pop parties, etc. rather than a free trip to a playground or a hike, or heck - nothing at all.
  • In many schools, cake or donuts are served and provided by the parent of a birthday girl or boy. Thus, many kids celebrate birthdays several times (family gathering, school celebration, and an organized party with friends.). How is this level of epicness sustainable through life when for most of us, no one really gives a rip about our birthday? 
  • If a child is involved in any extra-curricular activity during the same calendar week as Halloween, Christmas, Valentines' Day, etc. you can bet the farm that they will be offered candy or some other form of nutrient lacking food for their consumption. 
  • Don't even get me going on screens. Several years ago I had to move on from a child care provider because my children were being bribed with screen time. I have often observed students be rewarded with screen time as well. It's not a good idea, folks. WTH is this teaching them? Research is strong in that we - as responsible adults - should be pulling out all of the stops to decrease kids' alarming rates of screen time. Perhaps we want to ignore this one because of our own ridiculous practices when it comes to screens.

My kids aren't over-scheduled, and while I don't claim to be worthy of any mother-of-the-year accolade, we do spend lots of time together doing things that are fun, outdoors and don't involve bribery. But, the mixed messaging thrown at us daily makes it more difficult to ward off their sense of entitlement. It's my job to say no - after all, it comes with parenting - and I am happy to do it. But, I shouldn't have to feel as though I am swimming upstream due to others' sense of entitlement to bribe or reward my child for no good reason. It's important to help kids understand that there are parts of life that might not be fun, and to help them take responsibility in finding the fun in each day. 

So, Dr. Sax, I hear you loud and clear and hope others will too. It's not easy to combat a society that wants to give kids stuff for no reason or a quick fix. I ask that you go expand your book offerings and audience to society in general - and go easy on the parenting generalizations.

After all, it takes a village to raise a child.



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  • Timothy Scandale

    Awesome post. I love the passion and share much of your frustration! You will be glad to hear that my school has refused to adopt a PEBS system for the past 4 years- eventhough other schools in our district and many in VT are using one (PBiS). Instead, we are reinvigorating our use of Responsive Classroom and trying to make learning more personalized and fun.

    I believe that most learners respond very well to intrinsic motivation and proactive strategies. It is only a very small percentage of students ( many whom have social/emotional challenges) that really need extrinsic motivation or token incentives. Then, it becomes important to ween them off the extrinsic incentives once it is best. Even these students respond very well to meaningful and relevant experiences- especially when they involve physical activity.

    • Amanda Stanec

      I love responsive classroom, Tim! I used it when I taught in Virginia (Albemarle County Public Schools) and felt during training that it was a perfect compliment to my philosophy! I also love how you pointed out exceptions exist in every situation. Totally concur!