“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants…”
Wow, kids these days, right?
Except this was said by Kenneth John Freeman in 1907, as a summary of Socrates’ assessment of his own culture’s children back in 469-399 B.C.!
Apparently entitlement is not a new problem.
I’ve wrestled with the idea of entitlement for the last year or so. It is a huge concern for many parents. We want to know that we are raising capable, empathetic and grateful people. The problem is that we treat entitlement like it’s a new epidemic sweeping across this generation.
When I first read this quote I was forced to seriously consider what I believed about entitlement. Because we hear it so often; “Kids these days are so entitled. They want, they whine, and they’re ungrateful.” We hear on social media, in the world of education, and even in conversations with friends and family. And our daily experiences sometimes match Freeman’s assessment.
We’ve all experienced it; Setting aside a few hours, you take your child on a special date. You buy their favorite drink and dessert, take them to a store and buy a special toy just because you love them and want to do something nice. On the ride home you are positively glowing inside because you did all the right things; quality time, special snacks, surprise gift. Life is good and parenting is wonderful.
Then you hear it. The child asks for something else; something more. You gently say no and remind them of all the things they enjoyed. Instead of exhibiting gratitude and contentment, the child is affronted and a meltdown ensues. By the time you’re home the child is sad and you are seething about his ingratitude.
Encouraging Tools For Raising Capable, Empathetic Kids
1. Kids are KIDS. They always have been and they always will be.
We need to stop thinking that our kids are struggling with something unique. Sure, there are new things at play such as TV, cell phones and video games, but the reality is that every generation has struggled to a certain extent with the kids around them.
2. We need to be careful about calling kids entitled.
When we call kids entitled we are in some ways writing them off. Our young people are looking to us for hope, for affirmation, for guidance. Why would they ever trust us with their hearts when we are ranting about what’s wrong with them?
3. Our kids need us.
Of course kids struggle with gratitude. Disappointment and frustration are completely normal feelings, and are big emotions to process. I think we need to believe that kids are doing the best they know how. For many of them, it is to respond with complaints and tears. Surely you can relate to the deep disappointment or frustration when something isn’t going your way. Luckily, years of experience have given you the appropriate tools to re-calibrate and deal with it. Kids need us to teach them this life skill. They need a variety of tools from us to help them through their big emotions.
4. Kids learn through repeated experiences.
Your kids are going to meltdown. Repeatedly. You’re going to feel like they just aren’t getting it. Take heart and be patient! Kids need hundreds of repeated experiences to practice getting things right. Slowly, you’ll notice more moments where there’s a self-controlled, mature response from them.
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Jerrah-Lee is a middle school teacher with two young kids. She’s been married for nearly 12 years to her husband, Kevin. She loves learning and in recent years has focused her attention on brain science and healthy family relationships. She also enjoys learning about how to organize her family life in a way that is practical and balanced.