Are You Raising an Entitled Child?

The conversation around child rearing has turned to overindulgence, self-absorption, and entitlement. Is the generation just now hitting adulthood, overly entitled? Do young people feel that they can lay claim to whatever they fancy? Are parents raising children who feel that they need not earn what they want; be it good grades, possessions, skills or jobs? Do children respect authority?


Jeffrey Zaslow wrote an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “The Entitlement Epidemic: Who’s Really to Blame,” in which he discusses this topic and cites some speculative reasons why children feel so entitled. He notes three possible causes for the twenty-something generation’s overly inflated sense of self: indulgent parenting, consumer culture and the self-esteem movement.


Is it okay for children to be self-absorbed and overly entitled?


In a survey taken of the over 35 set, the response to the above question was a unified and resolute, no. “It is mind numbingly boring to be with people totally self-absorbed, and working or living with the entitled is draining and depleting.” exclaimed one participant.


So what is going on with parents? Do they see that by over-indulging they are causing harm to their kids? How hard is it for parents to stop over-indulging?


Now is a difficult time for parents to be raising children. The introduction of the Internet has allowed material into homes that the parents and children of just ten years ago did not have to contend with. My Space, You Tube, and other social networking sites encourage self-absorption. Children spend hours posting photos and descriptions of their daily minutiae. The me, me, me focus is further encouraged by television programs, commercials, print ads and movies that sexualize children, promote indiscriminate spending and value fame without talent. Kids emulate talent-less fame seekers like Paris Hilton. Children have learned that life is all about them, their looks, their needs, their wants. Clothing stores sell adult styles, like thongs, belly shirts and make-up to very young children, blurring the line between adult and child. Society has further compounded the problem by making it taboo for parents to discipline, teachers to grade and coaches to score for fear of damaging self-esteem. Every kick of a ball, small line drawing or block tower is lauded as genius in the eyes of today’s parents.


How is this current paradigm of value to kids?


Get into the head of the college freshman with the inflated sense of self.  If he was raised in a school system that refused to give real grades, where teachers got reprimanded by his parents for marking his papers with red pen, and where he played sports poorly but his parents told him he was a “superstar” so as not to damage his self-esteem: imagine his shock when he receives his first term paper in college covered in red pen with a big D at the top.


Imagine the dismay of the twenty-three year old job seeker who expects her entry-level salary to be that of an experienced expert. Out of college she runs up thousands and thousand of dollars in debt because she believes that she deserves things that she can’t afford.


How does the mother feel who has worked like a dog to give her children everything that she didn’t have as a child, and her children are not satisfied and want more and more and more?  Or the father whose every conversation with his daughter is punctuated repeatedly by her use of the word I?


Parents who over-indulge certainly do not set out with the intention of raising entitled children; they are probably unaware that they are doing it. It is a struggle in our current culture to say no, to deny, to push, or to discipline. Some parents fear that if they parent incorrectly they could psychologically damage their children, causing depression, drug abuse, broken relationships, and failure to succeed. Some may worry that if they discipline, their children will hate them. Others enjoy their kids so much they would rather just be friends, and there are those who parent out of guilt for reasons such as divorce or loss.


Successful parents take a proactive role in their children’s lives. They set limits around spending and other requests, and manage children’s expectations. They establish strict boundaries around computer use, especially social networking sites that keep children inwardly focused. These parents create the child’s reality instead of allowing kids to view a skewed reality through different media channels. Effective parents teach kids that there is a clear difference between children and adults; that by virtue of education, hard work, age and experience, adults are to be afforded respect. They emphasize the truth that children are not on a level playing field with their parents, teachers, instructors or coaches.


The time will come quickly for children when, after having paid their dues, they can make all of their own choices. If parents start early by instilling good values, modeling decent and loving behavior, and teaching respect, then their children will grow up to make smart choices, develop compassion for others, and appreciate the deeper meaning of life. The ultimate goal for most parents is to raise independent and gracious human beings with the ability to make appropriate and smart decisions, and who shift some of the focus away from themselves and onto others.


Here is your book “Tomorrow a Better Day”


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Setting Limits and Establishing Boundaries: A parenting gift that keeps on giving.

My husband is often flabbergasted at the disrespectful things that come out of my five year old boy’s mouth. “I WILL NOT brush my teeth, hmmph!” our little boy declares with a stamp of his mini, size 12 foot, or “GIVE ME another cookie!” My dear spouse’s jaw drops and he says, “I don’t remember ever speaking to my mother that way, how should we handle this?”


I don’t like his behavior, but I don’t feel as concerned…I know that my five year old son’s behavior is normal. He is pushing the limits and testing us.


Am I being naïve? Are we destined to raise a self-centered, narcissistic barbarian?


No! We are going to continue what we have been doing since he was a newborn, to set limits and establish boundaries. We didn’t let him stick a fork into the electrical socket, and we won’t let him be antisocial and disrespectful.  We will continue to parent with the understanding that children are not developed morally at five.

Does setting limits mean saying no, no, no, no, no ad nauseum? …well… no.


Setting Limits

Why set limits? Besides the perfunctory safety issues, setting limits teaches children how to gain self control, which in turn allows them to regulate their behavior so that it is socially acceptable.  Socially acceptable behavior is a good thing; it is very difficult to perform in school, play at a friend’s house, have meaningful relationships, raise a family, or hold down a job with socially unacceptable behavior. Regular people just don’t want to be around people who are boorish and ill behaved.


Setting limits helps children feel safe. Little children do not like to feel out of control. For children to grow and thrive they need a secure home with structure. Kids want a set bath time, bedtime, wake-up time etc. Knowing “what happens next” is important to a child’s sense of well-being. Without too much rigidity, parents should set a schedule and live by it.


It can be tough for parents to set limits because it means saying no. How does a loving mom or dad look into a sweet little face and deny a request? Knowing that part of a child’s development is pushing the limits in an attempt to gain independence is the key. If the parent gives in or fails to discipline, the family will suffer, power shifts from parent to child, and it becomes the classic case of the tail wagging the dog. A parent is doing no favor to a child by allowing the power to shift from parent to child.


Parents should parent, not befriend. They should guide with a warm, loving, comforting, patient, understanding, kind and firm touch.  By establishing and enforcing rules that, for instance, limit how long children are watching television or on the computer, parents remind children that they have limits, and that the parent is in charge. Setting limits helps build the child’s respect for the parents. Setting limits also teaches children how to set their own limits as they mature.



Learning to establish boundaries is a critical part of human development. Children need to understand both about physical and emotional boundaries. Parents should model good boundary setting, and discuss with children that setting boundaries teaches other people how to treat them. Discuss with children that they have a right to be treated the way they want to be treated. Setting boundaries teaches children how to protect themselves both physically and emotionally.


Parents can explain what appropriate physical boundaries are to children and how to establish their own personal space and to respect the personal space of others.  A child’s sense of physical boundaries is very different than that of an adult. Observe a well-loved teacher reading to a circle of little children; if the teacher doesn’t establish boundaries some of the children will literally be sitting on her by the end of the story. Help children to read the cues that people give them and listen to their own inner voice that tells them when they feel uncomfortable with the proximity of another person. Parents should be gentle; the goal is not to scare children away from other people. Instead, the goal is to teach what is socially acceptable in order for children to relate well and comfortably to other children and adults.


Emotional boundaries are a more difficult concept to teach. Many people go into adulthood without understanding how to establish healthy emotional boundaries. Adults who feel pushed around at work, or feel taken advantage of by friends and relatives, often haven’t learned how to establish good emotional boundaries. Parents should teach children how to communicate directly and honestly. Children must be taught to have dignity and respect for themselves and learn that they are priceless and special.


Parents should not blame children for “making them” whatever: angry, sad, heartbroken, or frustrated.  A good way for parents to model healthy emotional boundaries is to take ownership of their own feelings. Children act exactly how human children are supposed to act, they should not feel responsible for the emotions of their parents. Parents should teach children that people are responsible for their own feelings. Children should not be burdened in childhood thinking that their normal behavior can “make” their parents feel a certain way or vice versa, a parent’s lousy mood shouldn’t affect a child’s emotions. Parents do not want their children’s emotions to be enmeshed with their own. Quite the opposite: everyone should take ownership for their own feelings. 


By teaching limit setting and establishing good boundaries parents give an enormous lifetime gift to their children, self respect and dignity.  Modeling good behavior and taking the role of parent seriously allows parents to fulfill their greatest wish of raising happy, well adjusted and emotionally stable children.

And remember everything in moderation.


As the Buddhists say, if the guitar string is too tight it will break. If it is too loose it will not make a sound. Tighten just enough.



Is Your Child’s Most Important Teacher Making the Grade?

There are lots of wonderful options available to parents when sending their children to school; there are great public schools, public and private charter schools, Montessori programs, private religious schools and private niche type schools. These schools often have highly qualified teachers gifted in the area of early childhood education. Parents feel that it is of great consequence where they place their young children for Preschool, Kindergarten and beyond.

 Yet with all of the school choices out there, one thing remains consistent, no matter what school parents choose for their kids, they (the parent) are the most significant teachers and role models a child will ever have. 

While most parents take the previous assertion for granted, they may wonder or worry about how exactly to be a teacher and role model. They may feel that they aren’t prepared or qualified to “teach” their children. They want their children to learn good social skills and the appropriate (or higher) level of reading, writing and arithmetic for their ages and stages. Parents may feel that they do not have the parenting aids and parenting tools that they need to have a significant impact. Lack of time and/or lack of patience can sometimes stymie their attempts at instruction, but this shouldn’t be the case. Children lose out when parents don’t take a front seat in their education.


Does teaching mean sitting down daily at the kitchen table and working on reading and writing? It can, there are wonderful books available to parents who want to teach the basics, but parents can also take a more imaginative approach to learning. Parents have the obligation of teaching lessons in manners, sharing, safety, friendship and health. By promoting peace, quiet and good behavior they set the stage for calm lives that encourage success.


A trip to the grocery store can be a struggle or reframed as a field trip for parents to build their child’s cognitive skills and teach their children about good nutrition and tending to the family. Bedtime and bath time can be wrought with tears, anger and frustration or with some planning an opportunity to connect, wind down, read stories, and reaffirm the love and commitment parents have for their kids.  Potty training can teach children about patience, understanding and trust. The trick is to shift the family paradigm and seek out those stressful situations to use as teaching moments.


The early stages of development are tough on parents. Consciously making the choice to change perspective and build a harmonious family life sets the stage for unstoppable growth and happiness in children.


Parents are captivated and excited by their children’s thirst for knowledge.

Parents should actively and joyfully participate in their child’s learning. Running, playing, climbing, drawing, writing poetry, reading stories, folding laundry and going to the grocery store are all ways to connect with kids. Parents should remember the wonderment they felt when they were little. In addition to subject matter taught at school, children need to learn life lessons and lessons in values and character. Through both word and deed parents make the biggest contribution to their children and to the wonderful people that they are destined to become.