Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org

I,m a teenager now

Entitlement. One quick Google search on that term will produce a plethora of rants and gripes about “these kids today,” claiming they are selfish, self-centered brats who, as one article claims, “say, ‘I deserve what I want, when I want it, without earning it, and I’m bitter if I don’t get it’. They believe the world is theirs to manipulate for their own pleasurable purposes.” Some sociologists are apparently deeming this the Age of Entitlement.

What a novel idea – that kids today are so much worse than the generations before them. An excerpt from the above link:

When students walk into Greer’s classroom wearing T-shirts that say things such as “Here comes trouble,” that’s exactly what she thinks.She’s been teaching for 20 years — from preschool to high school — but every year, the attitudes she encounters just keep getting worse. “Ten years ago, the children were more respectful; more prone to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ ” Greer says. “It’s no longer an expectation that children say these things coming from home — the social development is going backward.”

But as Alfie Kohn states here, “spoiled rotten is a timeless complaint.”

“…That’s why no generation of teens and young adults has ever been as self-centered as this one. Take it from journalist Peter Wyden, the cover of whose book on the subject depicts a child lounging on a divan eating grapes while Mom fans him and Dad holds an umbrella to protect him from the sun: It’s become “tougher and tougher to say ‘no’ [to children] and make it stick,” he insists. 

Or listen to the lament of a parent who blames progressive child development experts for the fact that her kids now seem to believe “they have priority over everything and everybody.” 

Or consider a pointed polemic published in The Atlantic. Sure, the author concedes, kids have always been pleasure seekers, but longtime teachers report that what we’re currently witnessing “is different from anything we have ever seen in the young before.” Parents teach “nothing wholeheartedly” and things come so easily to children nowadays that they fail to develop any self-discipline. Forget about traditional values: Today, it’s just a “culte du moi.”

Powerful stuff. Except now that I think about it, those three indictments may not offer the best argument against today’s parents and their offspring. That’s because they were published in 1962, 1944, and 1911, respectively.

The revelation that people were saying almost exactly the same things a century ago ought to make us stop talking in mid-sentence and sit down – hard.”  

Watch this short YouTube clip of Alfie speaking on this subject, where he proposes:

“The idea that the #1 problem in our society with parenting is that we are too permissive and spoiled brats are running wild is essentially a fiction, a huge exaggeration of reality, in order to rationalize still more of the controlling methods already in abundance.  Yes, there are some kids, in some places more than others, who do run wild and make noise in public places, and that’s annoying, but for every child like that, there are hundreds of children who are restricted unnecessarily, yelled at, threatened by their parents, essentially bullied… That is the overwhelming reality of American parenting.” 

 I know that was a long introduction, but let me get to my point. This post is directed toward all the adults who complain about the entitlement of children today.

Let’s just say for a moment, for the sake of argument, that “all kids today” really are entitled, spoiled, selfish brats. Who is raising them? Permissive parents seem to be to “blame” for this “epidemic.” We all remember LZ Granderson’s rant on Curbing Spoiled Brats. I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look, like Alfie says, I see children being bullied, yelled at, smacked, and overly controlled. I’m sure there are some permissive parents out there, but certainly not enough to cause such an “epidemic of entitlement.” So what else could it be? We all know for a fact that parents set the example for their children. Perhaps the reason “that entitled brat” wants the new iPad and the most expensive shoes is just, well, because they’re nice, and because their friends have them. By the way, that is the same reason their parents wanted that big new SUV and Coach purse. And, just a random thought here, perhaps if the parents would put down their gadgets and actually play with their children, the children wouldn’t have the need for so many toys to occupy them. But the problem, they say, is that these brats want all these things without having to “work for it.”

Have you taken any time at all to really think about what it is like to be a kid in today’s society? Often raised in daycare (I’m not knocking any parents here, I realize it’s necessary for many families just so they can stay afloat in this economy), put into the assembly line that has become public education where they do enormous amounts of work at a much earlier age than we used to do, then bring more work home to do “in their free time” which rarely exists for today’s over-scheduled and stressed children. Then, of course, they have to deal with the well-publicized bullying epidemic and the typical societal pressures of adolescence. Believe me, kids are working. Perhaps these adults have forgotten what it is like to be a child, but it isn’t all kittens and rainbows. And if they’re not “pulling their share in the family” whose fault is that? Theirs? Or the parents? Again, we can’t blame the kids here. If you don’t teach your child responsibility, you hardly have the right to gripe that he is irresponsible.

To lump ALL kids into this entitled category is more than unfair; it’s prejudice. Not surprising considering the fact that children are the only class of people we can still openly ridicule and dislike, so of course all the bitterness gets dumped on the children. And before you go hating on these few entitled children, consider their world for a moment. The Secret Pain of the Entitled Child pretty much nails it in this excerpt:

“…Kids who are entitled almost invariably lack an engaged relationship with their parents…Entitled children, and grown-ups, always suffer from alienation, lack of trust and restless unhappiness. They are forever striving for the next free thing, but never feeling satisfied; it’s like expensive charity events where wealthy celebrities relish the gift bag, as if they actually need more swag. Doesn’t this suggest a poverty of spirit that is forever hungry for more free stuff, but cannot be filled because the vessel of the self is a colander as opposed to a bowl?

In the interest of compassion, I invite us to re-think entitled people, particularly children, as the true emotional “homeless”—as those without a psychological pot to piss in, which may be why they so readily piss others off—they don’t see themselves as fortunate, they see themselves as hurt urchins in Les Misérables. The anger the entitled evoke in us is the anger they feel at being secretly inadequate; if we confront them on their entitlement they get angry because they feel that they really are inadequate, unlovable and unable to do better. This is the great distortion that they carry, and which must heal, before the surly mask can be safely dropped.

While each of us who encounters an entitled child (and sometimes we encounter them in our own homes, in our own kids) may feel like we are putting but a drop in the ocean, much less the bucket, if we work to soften our gaze and see to the vulnerable core of the snarky misanthrope, like water on rock, our love just might wear down their self-hate.” 

Here’s an epidemic that isn’t talked about nearly enough, and what I consider the real entitlement epidemic. Self-centered, narcissistic, entitled adults. You know the ones; they’re the same ones who rant about today’s self-centered, entitled children. I’m talking to you now, entitled adults. Let me get one thing straight. I am NOT a permissive parent. I will absolutely teach my child what manners are and how to use them. I will teach my children what is socially appropriate and why they need to respect others. I will not allow my child to kick the back of your seat on the plane or run around your table at the restaurant, BUT I will also not force my child to robotically “sit down and shut up” just so YOU don’t have to be inconvenienced, because let’s get real; that’s what you really want, isn’t it? To not have to be inconvenienced in any way? Because you’re an adult, you think you are entitled to not see a woman breastfeeding her child if you don’t want to. Because you’re an adult, you are entitled to a plane ride or a movie where you don’t have to hear a child cry. Because you’re an adult, you are entitled to a nice, quiet dinner out where you shouldn’t have to put up with the laughter or loudness of someone else’s kids. Here’s some news for you. My child has just as much right to enjoy his plane ride/movie/meal/shopping trip as you do. Let me say that again loud and clear.

My child has just as much right to enjoy his plane ride/movie/meal/shopping trip as you do.

Do you know why? Because my child is a human being, too.


  • Shelley @Little Explorers Posted 31 March 2012 18:59

    I had a book from my university library a few years ago on the history of early childhood education. It opened with a quote expressing a similar sentiment. The author of the quote? Aristotle! Made me re-think things a bit.

  • Alex G Posted 1 April 2012 10:31

    Thank you for this. I think it's ironic to blame a young generation which had no part in establishing the extraordinarily narcissistic society we live in for being "selfish." In Russia, when a baby cries in a restaurant, people will come over and try to make them feel better rather than passive-aggressively staring down their parents yet saying nothing. I think it's clear where the real problem lies.

  • Sherrill Cannon Posted 1 April 2012 10:32

    As a former teacher and grandmother of nine, I like this post very much, especially the section with quotes from past years saying essentially the same thing about entitlement and small children. Small children are, after all, small children – and need to be gently taught to think of others. I would like to offer the following suggestion for a book about manners. In a society full of bullying and self-centered children, it is helpful to teach your children the benefits of consideration for others and being polite as early as possible. The Magic Word is an award winning book emphasizing good manners, which can be read to toddlers. It is a rhyming story of a little girl who was rude, selfish and demanding – and had very few friends. Her mother suggested that she needed to improve her manners; so when she went to school the next day, she thought of her mother’s advice, “What is the magic word?” and she started saying “Please” and also “Thank You”. She tried to become more thoughtful of others, and discovered that she was a much happier person. The repetitive use of the phrase “What is the magic word?” has children answering “Please”!

  • Mama Mo Posted 1 April 2012 10:33

    I used to work at a summer camp for– as I half-jokingly called them– over privileged children. Some spent the school year at a boarding school then came straight to camp. They usually got a few weeks to spend with their parents at the end of the summer, but it was in Paris or Disney World… not home. These children were sad. They were starved for adult attention. The little ones (7)wanted a lap to sit in,or a bedtime story. The older ones sought affirmations that we were watching them, really seeing them for who they were. These children had gadgets, name-brand clothes, and access to jets and yachts. It broke my heart that they appeared stymied in their incredibly affluent lives.

    I can only hope that the shower of our love did wear down a little of their rocks. Thank you for a fabulous post.

  • Cyn Posted 5 April 2012 11:33

    Wonderful article. Many of these 'entitled adults' become the oppressive bully of a parent and it's a vicious cycle. It can be a hard patten to break, as many parents don't even respect their own children as human beings, but as an inconvenience from distracting them from their ipads or phone calls. This article helps me reinforce my rule that while I have to work while she is in daycare or school, when we get home, no laptop or phone or gadgets until after she goes to bed. Only children need their parents to be their best friends, playmates as well as mom and dad. To fail at this, to lose patience too easily, to call it badgering when it's really a plea for interaction, is not an option.

  • Raphaelle Posted 8 April 2012 15:14

    I have read the book "Connection Parenting" by Pam Leo, and loved it, it shares the ideas above, and offers some very practical advice too. In fact, its so complete I haven't read any other parenting books since (except for "The Continuum Concept", at the same time).

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