This is Part 1. Read Part 2: MORE WAYS TO FIX THE “ENTITLEMENT” GENERATION
Ok, so I know that this blog is supposed to be geared towards developing black belt values in business but I really want to share a frustration that is hitting close to home. As you may may know, I have five children from the ages of 16-22. Yes, you heard it right, five. When they were all in middle school I would joke around that I had more hormones in my house than a middle school. Well, my wife and I have been finding it extremely difficult to parent them and hold them to the values that we feel necessary for them to be successful responsible adults. Isn’t that what we want for all our children?
I was having a candid conversation with my oldest and he shared with me that some of his friends talk down to me and say I’m a horrible parent. His friends said to him something like this…”Your dad makes a good living, has a nice house, owns a business and is successful. He should give you a car. He owes it to you.” Could you believe that! I nearly fell off my seat and told him that I would really love to have a conversation with his friends. Even my son understood how that statement was the epitome of entitlement and is a recipe for a future generation of adults that cannot take care of themselves. I don’t know about you but I think this is extremely scary.
As a parent, I always want the best for my children. I think we all want the best for our children, but at what cost? If we hand them everything they desire, what is going to happen to them in the future. They will continue to expect everything handed to them and then you have a generation of adults dependent on their parents. My wife and I work tirelessly on making our children earn the things that they want.
One year my middle son that was eleven at the time wanted new snowboard equipment in the worst way. He had a perfectly good set up but wanted the latest Shawn White board. He literally went around with my father everyday and collected cans for months on end. He cashed in a total of $500 worth of cans. Every can is 5 cents, 20 cans for every dollar which comes to 10,000 cans. Thankfully for him, my father owned an apartment complex where they drank a lot of beer. I think it got to the point where they were drinking more to give him more cans for his snowboard fund. My son had something he wanted badly and we made him earn it. He took more care of that board than anything else he ever owned. If I recall, he even slept with it. Now, my wife and I could have easily bought him the board, but what kind of message would that send? “You want something and mom and dad will get it for you” or “If you want something, you’ll have to earn it.” Which scenario is going to help this generation become more responsible adults?
By no means I will say that my wife and I are the perfect parents because we are not. Just ask any of my children. What I could tell you is that our kids will not be dependent on us as adults. I have created five short tips you could use to make sure your children are responsible members of society and fights the “Entitlement” mindset.
- Give only on special occasions: We all want to give to our children because we want them to have things that we never had as children. That is great and I’m right there with you. However, my wife and I give those “things” on special holidays or birthdays, not often and in moderation. Why, because we as humans are a creature of habit. If children keep getting things for no reason then they will always expect the same. If they get things on special occasions, they will appreciate it much more.
- Experiences over things: When our children were young, we invested in a small house in Vermont. We love snowboarding in the winter as well as hiking and biking in the summer and we wanted to share that with our family. Where they may not have received a lot of material goods, they had an abundance of positive memories and experiences. You’ll be amazed on the conversations you could have with your children while in Nature, and they’ll appreciate it too. As teenagers and young adults, most of them have a love and appreciation for the outdoors.
- Make them earn it: I think this is crucial. We need to teach a work ethic to this generation and they have to understand that success will not be handed to them but they have to earn it. Just like my son and his snowboard, he learned at a very young age how to work hard, save money and take responsibility for his success. My wife and I continue to do this even when things get hard for them. It teaches them patience, perseverance and appreciation which are all essential to be successful adults. If your child wants something outside of a necessity, make them earn it.
- Needs vs. wants: This is a big one that I have to give credit to my wife, she came up with this one. Basically she said that this younger generation has a challenge differentiating needs and wants. They need food, they need to have clothes and they may even need a cell phone. However, they may want a fancy steak dinner, $200 pair of jeans and the latest iPhone. Those wants are different than the needs. Wants need to be earned and needs could be given. Make sense?
- Let them fall: Holy cow this is a hard one. Call me mean or whatever you want but if my kids fall, I make them get back up. I will encourage, advise, inspire but I will not give them an easy out. My son learned this lesson while away at college recently. He had a specific budget for food and decided to spend his money on something else. He called me up and said he ran out of money and he was hungry. Now, I wasn’t going to let him starve of course but I worked with him on a solution rather than being the solution. He worked out how he could have sufficient meals that were less than ideal but he wasn’t going to go hungry. As a result of the un-ideal circumstances, he is much wiser and his food budget comes before everything else. If we didn’t let him work it out, the only lesson learned is that he he’ll always have a bail out from Mom and Dad.
There you have it. I know I moved away from the typical Black Belt in Business article but this is an investment in our future. So in a way, it is applying the same values we talk about every article and instilling them in our next generation. I think that if you have raised independent adults, you have made a huge positive contribution to society. If you raise them give them everything they want when they want it, sorry to say but they will be dependent on you for a very long time. Sad but true.
Final thoughts: As stated earlier, my wife and I are certainly not experts and not perfect parents, but we do have some experience. This is a topic that I feel is getting worse as time goes on. I believe that if more of us are aware of the issue, than we will be able to help change the “Entitlement” mindset to an “Attitude of gratitude”.
In the words of my wife Kathy, “We only have one shot at this and I’m not going to take any shortcuts. I’ll always take the right path and not the easy way when it comes to my children.”
Thank you for listening to my rant. If you like what you read, please feel free to share and comment. The more we raise the awareness of this “Entitlement” issue, the faster we could all work to change it.
Read the Second Part of this post:
MORE WAYS TO FIX THE “ENTITLEMENT” GENERATION
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All the best,