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Educational Insights The Epidemic of Entitlement

16 May 2018
In this Educational Insights Series, experts from across the Wellington College group give advice, practical help and tips for parents who are keen to give further support for their children's learning. Today's article is from Ms. Dionne Zantua, Head of Early Years at Wellington College Bilingual Tianjin. 

Dionne Zantua   Head of Early Years

Gratitude begins when my sense of entitlement ends
With the rise in the economic advantages of many families, parents have more capacity to provide for things that go beyond the needs of their children. Gone are the days when books and toys were enough to entertain in childhood as it has now included tech gadgets and gizmos.  Even as a teacher I sometimes struggle with this as well, compensating for the things I did not have growing up and now being able to give them to my children so that they will not experience want. The problem now lies when these well-intentioned privileges transform into entitlement.  Words like, “I deserve this” and “I am the only one in my class who does not have it” are signs that a child believes the world owes them and that they have every right to claim it. Children who have a sense of entitlement often feel things must go their way and that their life is an endless pursuit of fun and happiness, and parents and society, owe it to them.  The natural order of life, where rewards and punishments are the consequences of one’s behaviour, is a difficult concept for entitled children to understand.  They have a need to be rewarded just for existing because they have been conditioned to get things without working for it.  Over time this has serious consequences that will lead into adult life and will become a source of unhappiness and depression.  Just imagine how entitled children will react if they do not get the job they interviewed for or when a significant other rejects them.   If you are a parent of an entitled child, do not fret because there is still time to remedy this behaviour. The flip-side of the coin to entitlement is responsibility. Responsible children understand that there are consequences to their actions and will be held accountable.  They know that it’s okay if they are not happy all the time and that they will and can learn from their mistakes.  Furthermore, they develop a personal sense of empowerment and self-confidence “because they know that their control of their own behavior will and can determine what they get in life” (Sauls, n.d., para. 8).
So say “no” and mean it
I was baffled by one comment that I received from a family member, when she said that she does not want to be the one to say no to my daughter simply because she wants to be in her good graces, simply put, she did not want to be the “bad person”.  It is healthy and almost necessary that children are sometimes told “no” as it gives children the message that the world does not revolve around them, that they cannot always get what they want.  Children are smart and it only takes a few incidences for them to figure out who will say yes to them when everyone else said no.  Other family members should support your authority as a parent and should follow through with rules you have established. It pains me to hear parents succumb to the demands of children, conversations such as, “We could not let him sleep on time so he stayed up until 12 midnight” or “She did not want to go to school today so we let her stay home” are classic examples of children who have been given control over the household.  
Raise resilience
Our children are capable of accomplishing things more than we expect. We are sometimes guilty of putting them in a bubble and excusing their age as a disguise to our inability to let go of our desire to do things for them (Mcready, 2015). Oftentimes, the reason they do not do things well is because they have not been given the opportunity to practice and do them on their own.  We need to allow them to try, make mistakes and then try again until they accomplish the task.
An attitude of gratitude
I recently had an opportunity to bring my children to volunteer at Shepherd’s Fields orphanage in Langfang, Tianjin. We painted rooms, organized shelves, cleaned houses and the best part was getting a chance to play with the children in the orphanage after a hard day’s work. This exposure was very powerful and has helped them to become grateful of their own family and the things they have while also fostering compassion to those who are less fortunate.  Whenever my children experience something enjoyable out of our ordinary lives, I remind them that this is not a right but a privilege.  It is sometimes easier to see what other people have and forget to look the other way, to what other people don’t have.  I believe if we focus on the latter, we will become more grateful.  
Parenting is not for convenience but a commitment, refuse the urge to say yes when you mean no, let them try to do things on their own and more importantly, expect them to appreciate you.  
You owe it to your children to teach them to be responsible and I guarantee you, they and society will be grateful for it.

References McCready, A. (2015). The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. New York, New York: Tarcher/Penguin. Sauls, M. (n.d.). Practice What You Preach: Raising Responsible versus Entitled Children. Retrieved from