February 24, 2011

Bone. To Pick.

I was sitting in a conference all day yesterday - the same conference I'm headed out to in a few minutes - and was watching comments and emails about my entitlement post roll in. There's pretty much nothing worse than seeing messages that demand a response come in without the ability to really do anything about it. I'm all about immediate gratification. So, while I agreed with most of you, there was a small minority I didn't. And here are my thoughts.

I can't honestly say that the government plays no role in the sense of entitlement kids seem to have these days. But based on my personal experience, I have to say that it's pretty much nonexistent. I live an affluent area and I work with teams of professionals who - by requirement - have college degrees (not to mention master's degrees and doctorates) and multiple certifications. These are smart people who have the means or the opportunity to be upwardly mobile members of society. The only government handouts many of them are guilty of taking advantage of are Federal education grants or the G.I. Bill. So it's really hard for me to point to the government as the main reason for that sense of entitlement that I see. It's not the government. It's the parents.

You don't have to look very hard to find examples of entitlement parenting. As a society, we seem comfortable with television babysitting our kids. It's apparently the government's job to regulate the sale of Happy Meals because parents are afraid to tell their kids no. We blame the Marlboro Man for recruiting our kids into the ranks of smokers. We form councils to shield our kids from offensive music. Parents get into fist fights with coaches over playing time. There are hundreds if not thousands of examples. What often gets forgotten is that the primary caregivers hold the ultimate power and responsibility when it comes to a child's life.

Access to social services and healthcare are not, in my mind, optional. Nor are they a source of this wave of entitlement. They are rights that should be available to everyone in this country regardless of race, religion, political preference or means. The United States is the most prosperous country in the world. To have a population of uninsured, hungry, sick and uneducated as large as we do is shameful.

I'm teaching my kids to work hard, to listen, to ask questions, to be grateful for what they have and work to achieve the things they want and, ultimately, to take responsibility for the decisions they make and the actions they need to take. I'm no model parent but I can't help but think if more Generation Y or Z or whatever the hell we're on now did so, we'd have some less entitled kids.

Am I wrong?

Posted by Chris at February 24, 2011 6:25 AM

Often times, low income families resort to getting their kids happy meals because of several factors other than just the kids wanting them - due to economies of scale, the food at McDonalds is often ridiculously inexpensive. Also, many families have parents forced to work two jobs or extra hours, and often don't have the time to cook, or the resources/knowledge to obtain healthier alternatives.

Not that I am excusing it, but often, that is the reality of it, and companies like McDonalds know it.

I often prefer to think of it as regulating the industry rather than regulating what we eat.

Posted by: Kaz at February 24, 2011 7:17 AM

No you are not. Owen and Mia will be better people and stronger and more capable parents themselves.

Posted by: Maribeth at February 24, 2011 7:22 AM

No, you are not wrong at all! I'm doing those exact same things with my kids, as my parents did with me.

Slightly off topic, I do want to point out that the G.I. Bill is not a "handout" at all. Soldiers spend their first year of service putting money into that.

No, we don't put in the same amount we get out...but it isn't just free money. Also, the requirements to maintain your benefits require at least a little work.

So, in addition to the $100.00 a month for 12 months and 5 years of blood, sweat & tears...I feel like I earned that. Does that make me "entitled"? I don't think so. But that's just my opinion. :)

Posted by: Holly Reynolds at February 24, 2011 7:27 AM

I have only one thing to say about entitlement parenting; if you give your 16 yr.old child a brand new green Jaguar with a personalized tag, are you really helping your child prepare for the real world?

Posted by: Becki at February 24, 2011 7:43 AM

I think parents perpetuate that sense of entitlement by being too over protective. Kids are on all organic diets, no sugar, no this or that, no germs, no TV. Maybe if these kids had a happy meal every once in a while, they wouldn't be so uptight.

We're so busy trying to create this perfect environment for our kids and maybe they don't get enough of a taste of the real world.

Posted by: Nila at February 24, 2011 8:04 AM

I don't think you are wrong. We share alot of the same ideas on parenting. I have good hearted, well adjusted kids, who sometimes act out and who always know there will be a consequence for their actions.

As a parent, I want them to have the best of everything. But I want them to learn the satisfaction of earning it.

Posted by: varinia at February 24, 2011 8:50 AM

I totally agree with you. I didn't get to read all the comments yesterday, but I can't believe (or maybe I can, the way the country is right now) that people were actually blaming the government and talking about "handouts." No. Sorry. The culprit is parents who think the sun shines out of their child's ass, spoil the hell out of them, and then expect everyone else to do the same. Then they're confused when the world doesn't work that way.

Posted by: Fraulein N at February 24, 2011 9:14 AM

Couldnt agree more!

Posted by: 3jaysmom at February 24, 2011 9:33 AM

Not wrong. Parents are the key. I think our society is having a hard time knowing how to parent in a world hell bent on distracting them with pretty lights and flashy objects.

I worry about my kids too. They get a lot of "no" around here but they are still privileged. They thank us for making dinner each night, they are appreciative of the things given to them, but will that be enough? I hope I find the right amount of discipline that allows them to grow a sense of hard work. Their two hard-working parents are setting a good example I think but that's still not enough.

Posted by: Brad at February 24, 2011 10:03 AM

I think that the government does not help the issue, but absolutely, it starts with parents. I think the most important thing my parents taught me was "RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR PROPERTY". Frankly, I think that's the biggest thing missing in today's society. To hell with you, as long as I get what I want!

Posted by: Jaime at February 24, 2011 10:12 AM

well...since I had to laugh at you yesterday I guess its fair for me to say, I do agree with you today up to a point. All those items that you say are rights are exactly where the entitlement feelings come from. Back in the day people didnt EXPECT to be taken care of so they did it themselves. They learned how to do without, grow and use resourses efficiently. Going hungry because you do not have cash to go to McDonalds for a meal is not hungry, its being wasteful. The cost of a happy meal can feed a family of four if you are willing to cook and eat rice and beans. So this logic that the government needs to step to provide for our basic needs because we are a "rich" country is fueling your entitlement. Now, if the government wants to step in and teach people to do for themselves, educate them I can get behind that. People just sit and expect if they are not forced to get off their butt and work. Hence, your co-workers mentality no one (their parents) made them earn anything. so, if you want to provide for basic needs,then do not expect a great workforce, your co-workers are your example.

Posted by: linda at February 24, 2011 10:36 AM

When I read the first comment, I got a bit angry. My parents both came from dirt poor situations. My father is a first generation American. My mother's father died when she was two and her mother had an eighth grade education. They grew up in situations I cannot imagine. They both managed to get college degrees and my mother got a master's degree while working full-time and raising two children.

When I was a little girl, my parents were broke but they still cooked meals at home because that was good for us. They had no problems telling my sister and I no to bad food and to extras that the other kids had. My parents worked extremely hard to provide a home, food, and education, my clothes came from a thrift store way before it was cool. I had my first job when I was 14. I did not get to keep my pay. My mother took my paycheck and put it into the family fund to help pay for my school expenses and extra curricular activities. When the band went on a trip to Ireland, I was expected to earn my own way.

College was not optional even though there was no college fund so I went to my local college and lived at home, I did this for three degrees worth of schooling.

So I have no sympathy for those people who feel entitiled. I am where I am today because of two generations of hard work without government help, except for some student loans.

Do I think we need all this regulation? No, because you can make the sacrifices to get the things you need. My parents always made sure we had health insurance and made sacrifices sometimes in pay and other things to make sure we had it. I don't think the government should mandate it even when it was dicey for me to be able to get a policy and afford to pay for it.

If I am an idiot and smoke, then I deserve to have to pay the consequences. If I give my kids McDonalds then I should have to deal with that. But I do not want the government regulating happy meals when I should be able to tell my children no. I don't want people telling me how to live or what I have to do.

So when the young adults walk into work thinking they can do my job right now, I generally let them try and when they fall on their faces, I pick them up, dust them off and start teaching them something. I shouldn't have to do that. They should have respect for me but when they don't I teach them why I am their boss. Do I like it, no. But I will show them what my Catholic School education taught me. There is generally a reason why someone is the boss and you should just listen and try to learn what you can until it is your turn.

Posted by: goodsnake at February 24, 2011 10:38 AM

I totally agree with you. I blame the sense of entitlement on a society that refuses to take personal responsibility for anything! Perfect example: Did you hear about the lady suing because she thought Nutella on toast was a healthy breakfast? Come on lady, it's chocolate! How could you think that's nutritious? Did you ever just read the nutrition label? hand to forehead...

Posted by: Elizabeth at February 24, 2011 10:44 AM

It amuses me that the people who blame the government for discouraging individual responsibility are actually giving the parents a free pass on their lack of responsibility.

Posted by: Cherie Beyond at February 24, 2011 11:15 AM

You aren't wrong. Or - if you are - I'm wrong, too.

And Linda - your continuing to blame this problem on the gov't blows me away.

Posted by: Mindy at February 24, 2011 11:46 AM

My girls are very coddled and I'm not proud of it. I had a reality check yesterday morning when dropping them off at school, toddling in my high heels, carrying both of their backpacks while they ran ahead. My older daughter's teacher stopped us in the hall way and called out my kids on why is Mommy carrying of your stuff? I felt equally called out for letting this kind of scenario occur way to often. Sometimes I feel like it is too late to make changes, but I have too or else they will not survive in the real world. I was coddled when I was a kid and sincerely think this is why I feel overwhelmed at times by the real world.
I think my new motto at home is going to become suck it up buttercup, delivered in the most loving way of course.

Posted by: meanie at February 24, 2011 12:00 PM

I agree with you, Chris. Parents are ultimately responsible for the way their kids grow. The world at large has tons of influence. It is a parent's job to either combat or reinforce that influence. I try very hard to teach my children that although we are a one-income family, we are incredibly blessed. We lack for nothing. I grasp at every teachable moment. Last night my stepdaughter said she had learned that in many other countries, children as young as 6 work 12-hour days, and most of the things we use are made by those children. I said, "And all you have to do is go to school 7 hours a day." Both kids nodded soberly. I hope these small things make impressions on them. I push against entitlement with all my might. I hope I win that fight.

Posted by: Brooke at February 24, 2011 12:15 PM

If we followed Linda's logic, we Canadians with our (albeit imperfect) public health care and social services system would be one mass nation of entitled, lazy, unproductive people. Of course, we use our "death panels" to get rid of anyone who dissents with our system. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I'd say the problem of entitlement lies elsewhere. There was a study done recently (if I can find it again, I'll send it on) stating the primary issue stems from parenting. We are so conditioned now to give, give, give without ever depriving our kids of anything, that our kids in turn are conditioned to think that the world in all it's forms and rewards will come to them with little or no effort.

Posted by: Mandy at February 24, 2011 12:48 PM

I was MIA yesterday, too. I fucking hate helicopter parents. After going to private school my entire life, I saw a lot of them, and I saw what happened to them after the fact. Surprise, they were fucked up. Why are so many guys our age still living with mom and dad? Because it's someone else's fault? Fuck, no. It's because MOM AND DAD LET THEM.

Parents -- feed, house, clothe, and make sure your kids have medical care, however possible. Oh, and make your kids grow the FUCK up. When they fail when they're four, hold them and tell them there's a next time. When it's their fault when they're 17, stop bailing them out. Let them fail and see consequences.

From someone who had alcoholic, abusive parents and turned out better than a lot of the kids from "nice" homes.

Posted by: alektra at February 24, 2011 2:22 PM

Hmm, maybe it's not quite so simple as lazy parenting. The U.S. is prosperous, true, but almost all that prosperity is concentrated in the top fifth. Here, the families can afford one parent to stay home, or both parents work and are even wealthier. There are gym memberships and art classes for the kids. There are long vacations and educational day trips. They always get the (multiple) toys they want for Christmas. Unless illness or a freak accident happens (in which case, the best medical care goes to them), these kids are used to health, prosperity, and huge amounts of consumption focused on them. So why shouldn't the good times continue to roll after they graduate from college?

It's not really about indulgent or over-protective parenting, IMO, it's simply that our generation and our kids' generation rarely see anything truly bad happen to the people around them (children of soldiers excluded, but then, not too many of them are in the top fifth of wage earners). We don't see, or relate to, true hardship. The professional class is growing soft and self-satisfied, and cut off from the vast service class growing below them.

I am old enough to have been raised by parents who grew up in the 30's and 40's. They grew up in small communities where all classes were represented; maybe not in the same neighborhood, but kids of all classes went to school together, to church together, and played together. (Of course I realize I'm only talking about white people, but that's another can of worms.) I don't want to romanticize it too much, but you didn't see the sheltering in gated communities that happens now. You could get a good, union job without a college degree that made less than a white collar job, but not SO much less. Sure, there was snobbery between the classes, but that's actually a sign that people of all classes related to each other in daily life.

I feel like our generation is much more likely to simply be dismissive, to think of the salesperson at the register as stupid or an idiot over some minor disagreement. We don't see the working poor as like us; they're just extras in our world. So I think this is why young people can be deadly afraid of in any way being stuck with clerical jobs. They've been taught that all this is beneath them -- jobs that "others" do, not them.

Whew, sorry for the proverbial novel.

Posted by: Laura Gato at February 24, 2011 3:50 PM

Unrelated, but I wonder if you've been at the same conference I've been at the last two days...

(I'm guessing not, I'm sure there are several multi-day conferences going on in the DC area at the same time.)

Posted by: stephanie at February 24, 2011 7:54 PM

I don't think you're wrong, and I don't think you were wrong yesterday.

I do take issue with Linda's comments, but what do I know? I only lived and worked in a country in which health care is just a part of life and everybody pays for it and nobody goes without. I must be a fucking Socialist.

Posted by: Alison at February 24, 2011 9:14 PM

i agree with you, chris, again... and i don't need to repeat what i said yesterday.

but linda. your death grip on that antiquated political/economic dogma puts you on the wrong side of history. and someday this country will be more enlightened, i can only hope. good luck with that.

Posted by: kati at February 24, 2011 9:27 PM

Amen brother!

Posted by: Jenn M at February 24, 2011 11:53 PM

Duh. Of course you're right.

Posted by: Aimee Giese | Greeblemonkey at February 25, 2011 2:21 AM

You are most definitely not wrong on the parenting thing and I agree with you 100%. It is the parents' responsibiity to raise and teach their kids. It is up to you as the parent to teach your child what the value of hard work is (especially if it's related towards working towards something that you want), how to be greatful for what you do have, how to value and respect things and people, and to generally be responsible people. These are things we are hoping to pass on to our kid(s) and we are certainly planning to be very active with respect to raising our kid(s) to be good, productive members of society. We have already agreed to send them to private school because we believe it will give them a better start in life (an opportunity neither of us had) but from thereon out, it will be their responsibility to work torwards scholarships / bursaries and procure student loans etc. We are not just handing things to them, they need to learn the value of earning it for themselves. And that in turn, will hopefully bear fruit in the working world as well. But long story short, you are absoltely right with what you said - both yesterday and today.

Posted by: Delia at February 25, 2011 2:25 AM

Thank you for finally saying it! I am so sick of the parental excuses, blaming their kids poor behavior on teachers, video games, technology, anything to avoid the fact that the parents would rather buy their good behavior than actually put in the hard work in the parental trenches and raise decent human beings. What a concept - raise your damned kids! Teach them what you want them to be, lead by example, don't just send them out into the world like the giant sponges they are, see what they absorb from the random outside world, then complain/blame when something sticks that you don't like. I have a friend whose child was suspended for lighting a fire at school recently. I asked whether he was grounded or what his punishment was. She actually said "no, there's no point in grounding him, he has ADHD so it never works." Totally gobsmacked. Probably never works because you ground him for a week and he knows in 2 days you will lift the punishment because it's too much effort for YOU. Granted I've only had 3 years of parenting experience, but the biggest parenting lesson I've learned so far is that parenting is HARD, and it doesn't get easier, only different. I guess like anything else in life, the effort you put in is directly proportional to what you get out, and if you want to raise a decent human being it's a lot of WORK. And you aren't doing your kids any favors by not teaching them the value of hard work and a dollar. The world is a harsh place and isn't gonna hand your preshus flowers anything on a platter. (Can you tell I worked in a job very recently wherein I dealt with college students all day? Talk about entitled.)

Posted by: Jen at February 25, 2011 5:56 AM

You're right in every possible way.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at March 10, 2011 10:45 AM