Friday, April 8, 2016

Entitlement is a Choice

Parents, listen up. We can make a difference in the world and this is how: Don't let our kids fall into the entitlement trap. THEY are kids, and their brains are not fully developed so they really don't have control over their unreasonable expectations, epecially when so few of them ever have to wait for what they want/need. In fact, even their environment is fighting against us ALL the time. Instant access - typically via a mobile device - is conditioning them to be impatient.

I'm serious. Do your kids ever get crazy when someone doesn't text them back right away? The other day I was running errands and I left my phone off while in the store for all of fifteen minutes. This was what my daughter sent me:

are you almost home (notice lack of punctuation and capital letters)

where are you (12 seconds later)

hellllooooo!! (30 seconds later but hey, she's using puctuation here. There is hope!)

ARE YOU HOME YET (I should tell you now that SHE WAS HOME so asking if I was where she was indicates some break here, as do the shouty caps.)

I WANT A DONUT (Okay, this is new information and now I know she's hungry-crazy. Did I mention this is approximately 72 seconds after the first text?)

AND THE FRICKIN WIFI ISNT WORKING AND I CANT FINISH MY HOMEWORK WHERE ARE YOU!!!!!!!!!!! (Hungry, crazy and something isn't working. This is an emergency!)

When I finally saw the text fit, I simply responded: Just got these. On my way. No donuts. Make a smoothie and try unplugging modem.

A few minutes later my sweet child emerged: thx that worked YAY xo

If your children are more civilized than this, you don't have to read further...Facebook awaits.

So, pure panic when feedback isn't immediate...that's not good. Nastiness when something doesn't go their way...also NOT good. Parents standing by, or worse, perpetuating it...REALLY BAD. And we don't always do it on purpose. The other day, I sacrificed my morning tea because my son wanted to get to his friend's house as soon as humanly possible. He followed me around, pestering with his overflowing excitement, until he wore me down. And he wasn't being selfish, he was irresistibly sweet. But I chose to answer his immediate need instead of taking three minutes to make my tea and making him wait. So I allowed his needs to trump mine, even though neither of us thought about it at the time. In isolated incidents, it's ok, but if my default is constant catering, I'm losing the opportunity to teach my children the great importance of hearing NO.

And you know what? There's just not a lot of NO going on out there. I don't think we're consciously trying to ruin them by over-yesing them, but it seems that kids get more and more of what they want, when they want it. I'm not just talking things, they get us as their personal assistants and chauffeurs and short-order cooks. And they don't even pay us!

But we've put a spin on it, haven't we moms and dads? We're just "doing what we can for our kids," who are too busy with activities and school and friends and keeping up, they can't possibly do any of it for themselves. Right? I've done it. I've said it. I've waved the white flag of exhaustion with a sick sense of pride. If we're not all running around wearing UBER-BUSY like a badge of honor, we're not doing everything we can for them. If we're not sacrificing our sanity, our identities, ALL of our free time, then we aren't good parents. No one says it out loud but it's surely implied.

Listen, WE are the grown ups here and we need to bring back some perspective and balance into our homes, for everyone's sakes. That starts with choices. Sometimes hard choices. You might be afraid of being judged. But THIS IS OUR ULTIMAYPTE ASSIGNMENT, to prepare our kids for the real world. I think about this a lot with a sophomore, especially when she shows me her Pinterest pages for her fancy wedding, where she wants to travel and her future luxury beach house. Without shattering her dreams, I want her to know that the grown-up starter kit does not typically include a blog-worthy beach house. That things aren't always going to be easy. I want my kids to be prepared for hard work. And more than anything, I want them to have some of those experiences now.

And they need us to expose them to these life experiences, instead of making everything easy for them. When we say no to getting back in the car after two hours of carpool just to take them to see a friend, they learn how to compromise their wants for those of someone else, like a parent who desperately needs to NOT be in the car for ten minutes. When we say no, you can't go do that fun thing because you've been out doing fun things all weekend and you need to do some chores, we show them the necessity of balancing their obligations and learning important life skills, like laundry and work and budgeting time. When we ask our children what they could've done to better prepare for that test, project, game, etc., instead of telling them they deserve better, they learn that the world is filled with people who don't know them like we do and that their choices reveal their character.

Raising entitled children who don't know the meaning of "not now" or straight out NO, is a choice. Preparing them for successfully living in the real world, is a better one. The best thing we can do is give them the experiences to find growth through grunt work. To show them how to start at the bottom and EARN their accomplishments instead of being "gifted" the best, newest, most expensive. To let them falter a little and support them as they rebuild instead of constantly rescuing them, even if it was with the best intentions.

Hard work, I tell you. For them AND for us. But we can do hard things and the world will be a better place for it. Who's with me?

{J}