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Cure your kids of the entitlement epidemic so they develop happier, more productive attitudes that will carry them into a successful adulthood.
Whenever Amy McCready mentions the "entitlement epidemic" to a group of parents, she is inevitably met with eye rolls, nodding heads, and loaded comments about affected children. It seems everywhere one looks, there are preschoolers who only behave in the grocery store for a treat, narcissistic teenagers posting selfies across all forms of social media, and adult children living off their parents.
Parenting expert McCready reveals in this book that the solution is to help kids develop healthy attitudes in life. By setting up limits with consequences and training them in responsible behavior and decision making, parents can rid their homes of the entitlement epidemic and raise confident, resilient, and successful children. Whether parents are starting from scratch with a young toddler or navigating the teen years, they will find in this book proven strategies to effectively quell entitled attitudes in their children.
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Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time . . . The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling, and a regular parenting contributor for Today. She lives with her husband and two sons in Raleigh, North Carolina.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
What do we see when we look at our kids? We see an imagination capable of turning your great-grandmother’s delicate candlestick into a lightsaber to vanquish enemies from the living room. An energy that drags us on a wild-goose chase all over the house and yard looking for a minuscule ballet slipper charm. And a determination that pesters us for days to let them attend an out-of-state concert, and pay for it, too. And yet, beyond the chaos, the griping and the power struggles, we see potential. And that’s why I wrote this book. I know that inside each of our precious children is the potential for something amazing: a confident adult who has the drive and ability to make her corner of the planet a better place.
You’re reading this book—and I wrote it—because there’s a force that can rob from our kids not only their imagination, energy and determination, but also their ability to live rich, fulfilling lives. It’s the force of entitlement, the idea that life owes us something, and it’s wreaking havoc on our kids’ generation. Children of all ages feel entitled to receive the best of what life has to offer without working for it, to have their whims catered to by their parents and a path paved for success. They believe the world revolves around them—who wouldn’t, when everywhere you turn you see a selfie? Over-entitled kids become over-entitled adults with the same childish attitudes, only on a greater scale. It’s a big problem, because kids who feel entitled to call the shots all the time are unable to handle it when things don’t go their way (like in the real world). What’s more, they’re just plain hard to live with!
But entitlement is not the end of your kids’ story. Imagine a home in which kids take responsibility, contribute to the family, work hard, give back, manage their own finances and feel grateful for what they have. These kids are happy and confident and will be well prepared for whatever adulthood has in store. This is the potential you see in your children—and this can be their future.
Whether you’re in the trenches of the entitlement epidemic, with kids who will barely lift their feet so you can vacuum under them, or trying to ward it off to begin with, I’m glad you’re reading this book. I’ve waded through the entitlement trenches with my own two sons and I know firsthand the challenges we parents face. And along the way, I’ve compiled thirty-five proven tools that really work to stop the entitlement train in its tracks. Your family can put an end to entitlement, too, no matter how many treats it currently takes for your kids to get through the store without pitching a fit. You can make a very real difference in a matter of days by applying even just a few of the tools and strategies you’ll find in these pages.
The Un-Entitler Toolbox strategies throughout this book will give you the confidence, know-how and even the words to say as you rid your home of the entitled behaviors that are not only driving you nuts but also giving you cause for concern about your offspring’s future. Misbehaviors and entitled attitudes (“I can have what I want when I want it!”) will melt away, as kids of all ages learn to pitch in around the house, solve their disagreements respectfully, take responsibility for their actions and even put down their smartphones once in a while. This dream is within your reach, and your kids will be better off for it.
The tools you use will bring out your kids’ very best behavior (no more chore wars, homework battles and sassy attitudes) and help them develop the responsibility, resilience and respectfulness they need for a successful adult life. You’ll do it all while you extinguish the entitlement epidemic and make your home a haven of peace in a world of entitled attitudes.
Let’s un-entitle our kids. Help them imagine new worlds (without expecting a team of workers to come in and build it for them), take on their own responsibility (without needing their hand held every step of the way) and put that determination to use serving others rather than expecting to be served. Then, and only then, will our kids unlock their potential to become their very best—without feeling entitled to it.
It’s the evening before Natasha’s high school graduation—and Natasha couldn’t be more miserable. She’s in her bedroom, crying tears of raw emotion over the fact that she’s out of her favorite hair gel. Her mother is too busy writing Natasha’s name in icing on six dozen cupcakes for her graduation party to rush out to the store tonight to get more. Her mom should have decorated them earlier! Still leaking tears, Natasha reenters the kitchen to let her mom know that she just has to have that special hair gel or her hair will be a huge frizzy mess and she’ll look like a total dork on her big day. After a few lame suggestions, her mom leaves the cupcakes and goes upstairs to try to squeeze out one last palmful of her own drugstore-brand styling gel and then puts away the mess of cosmetics Natasha has left out on the counter.
Natasha wanders off and texts her boyfriend to pick her up, but he’s busy with his friends. The jerk. He just saw his friends yesterday. Maybe she’ll threaten to dump him again—that’ll make him shape up. Sometimes she wonders why she even has a boyfriend. She finds her dad and remembers that she needs to ask him for extra money so she can buy a couple of new swimsuits and sandals for the season. He sees the evidence of her tears and forks over the cash. It’s not as much as she wanted, though, so he promises to put the rest on his credit card, which has been busy lately thanks to another recent purchase: a brand-new car as Natasha’s graduation present. It’s supposed to be a secret, but Natasha overheard her dad on the phone with the dealer earlier in the day. “It had better be a convertible,” she thinks.
Of course, Natasha is proud to be graduating tomorrow. After all, she managed to stay awake in most of her classes, thanks to her smartphone. Her homework took a lot of effort, but the tutor her parents hired for her was able to complete it just fine. Soon Natasha will be out in the real world, and when she wasn’t pitching a fit over having to empty the dishwasher and watch her little brother in the same afternoon, and for only $20, she was excited. Finally, she’d be an adult—able to party every night, not just Thursday through Saturday. Her parents have talked to her about enrolling in the community college and getting a job, but Natasha thinks a gap year is a good idea and no one is hiring where she wants to work. She actually inquired at both places—a clothing store and a makeup store—but her parents aren’t getting off her back. Natasha knows they’ll cool it in a week or two; it’s just this business about graduation that’s getting them all riled up.
Natasha sighs. If she can’t have her hair gel tonight, maybe she should work on her mom about letting her spend next weekend at Amber’s parents’ beach house. All her friends are going, and it wouldn’t be fair for Natasha not to go, too. Besides, Natasha is eighteen and done with school—it’s time for her to call the shots in her own life. And what a life it will be! If she could just get her boyfriend to pay attention to her, her parents to give her what she wants and a convertible, she’ll finally be happy. Look out world, here comes Natasha.
Look out world indeed. Natasha, in case you couldn’t guess, is a classic example of an entitled child. She lacks the ability to look beyond herself, delay gratification or work hard to achieve a goal. Nobody likes to see this in a child of any age, and it can be heartbreaking for parents when they realize their child is floundering when it’s time to leave the nest. And while Natasha probably doesn’t live at your house, some of this tale of the over-entitled may ring a little truer than you’d like. If so, you’re in good company. Most first-world parents struggle with some kind of entitlement issues among their kids.
While we might feel jealous of the kids who actually do get new cars for graduation—and a free ride in other areas of life, too—we can also feel sorry for them. If the free-car lifestyle pervades their schooling, work, relationships and leisure time, chances are they’ve rarely felt the thrill of accomplishment after giving it their best effort, the gratitude of a friend who received their much-needed help for nothing in return, the gratification of finally getting something they’ve been working or waiting for or the contentment that comes from being happy in the moment. Entitlement does more than drive parents crazy. It also robs kids of the ability to realize the best of what life has for them, while they instead chase impossible dreams.
Entitlement is certainly a big problem. In fact, it’s epidemic.
The Entitlement Epidemic
You couldn’t afford your own makeup this month because thirteen-year-old Johnny’s fluorescent orange must-have sneakers cost your entire discretionary budget. You keep a spare McDonald’s bag on hand so you can pretend to three-year-old Emma that her peanut-butter sandwich was made under the golden arches. And in order to get eight-year-old Daryl into bed, you have to let him fall asleep in front of the television, and carry him there.
Since when do parents jump through hoops at all costs to keep children happy? Since when do kids get to call the shots? The truth is kids everywhere—from toddlers to teens—are ruling the roost, and they’re not about to abandon their posts without a fight.
Entitlement happens in every family—including mine. Every one of us feels entitled to something on some level—whether it’s a stuffed animal we’ve slept with since birth, our smartphone or simply a good night’s sleep. These entitlements are all good things, and we might not be able to imagine life without them. If we think about them, we’re grateful for them—but there’s no question there are some things we take for granted. And our kids do, too.
Entitlement isn’t really a disease, but it has hit epidemic levels in our society. And it’s certainly not only rich kids who are afflicted. The entitlement problem spans classes and cultures. It’s also not only about stuff. Entitled kids believe the world revolves around them. They expect things to be done for them, a path to happiness cleared and smoothed, without putting in much effort themselves. They feel that something is wrong if they’re not happy. At any given minute they should be having the time of their lives because after all, you only live once.
How does the entitlement epidemic present in the typical household? Here are a few clues you might have an entitlement problem in your home:
Sound like a child you know? In truth, there’s not a kid alive who doesn’t exhibit some of these symptoms from time to time. Whether you’ve got a big entitlement outbreak at your house or only a minor case, you’ll soon be able to move your kids toward greater independence, responsibility and contentment.
So What’s the Big Deal?
Leon F. Seltzer, PhD, in an article for Psychology Today,* had this to say about entitlement: “Those ‘afflicted’ with a sense of entitlement demonstrate the attitude that whatever they want, they deserve—and automatically at that, simply because they are who they are. So anything they desire, whether material or relational, should be theirs. It’s inherently justified; there’s no need actually to earn it.” We all want what we want—and we want to have it now, please. In our culture of plenty, immediate gratification is very much a reality. We can make our dreams come true on multiple levels. But are we better off for it?
Dr. Seltzer says we’re not. Over-entitled people miss out on some of the best that life has to offer. When they’re not used to persevering through multiple frustrations, they won’t know the pride that comes from achieving hard-won, worthwhile goals. When they expect raises and other rewards simply because they want them and not because they’ve earned them, they’re set up for frequent disappointment. When they attempt to make others bend to their will because they expect to be served, their relationships will wither. And when all of these combine, we have created a person who will have trouble holding down a steady job, cultivating long-term relationships and completing any task worth completing. Because over-entitled people feel as though the world owes them the best it has to offer, they will completely miss out on just that.
But entitlement doesn’t happen out of the blue. The problem begins when entitlement becomes a way of life for children. In these cases, kids rule the roost. Mom and Dad rush around trying to meet endless demands, whether that means making meat loaf three different ways to cater to discriminating appetites, rushing to the store because the six-year-old is out of her favorite toothpaste or shelling out hundreds of dollars so the fourteen-year-old can look like a minirockstar. While parents attempt to give their kids every advantage in life, kids learn that they shouldn’t have to do anything they don’t want to, they can have everything that catches their eye and they can quit whenever they want. It ends up that no one’s happy—parents are run ragged, while kids constantly find they need more, more, more! And benevolent rulers kids are not. They quickly learn to resort to whining, demanding and downright bullying to get what they want.
Entitlement doesn’t just plague our homes: it affects kids’ schoolwork, activities and friendships, too. Youngsters expect that their C effort will get A grades or that just showing up to practice will get them a starting spot on the basketball team. Friendships are self-centered, as entitled kids lack the ability to empathize and sacrifice. When problems arise, in school and beyond, anything from the wea...
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