We are all looking to have grounded, well-mannered, non-entitled kids. I read many articles and posts about how this current generation of kids is entitled. There are several theories out there that conclude how this has happened. Parents doing everything for their kids, helicopter parenting, buying kids everything they want….. I’m sure the list goes on. The remedy would then be the opposite. Simple. Don’t helicopter in and solve their problems. Don’t do everything for your kids. Don’t buy them any toy they want. Learn to say no to them. What I have learned in the past few years though, is that there are very few “absolutes” in life. No one perfect way to do things. What works for you, may not be what works for other families.
To me the jury is still out on this entitlement thing. There are plenty of hard working wonderful kids out there. Are the entitled ones just louder? Do they demand more attention? Were there no entitled kids 30 years ago? I was thinking about this during a recent outing with the kids. I know I do a lot for my kids. I try not to say “no” to everything. I do say no to buying things, but I do get them a glass of milk, or a snack or help them get dressed. The two schools of thought on this seem to be 1. That they will never get their own drink, never learn to get dressed, never learn to clean up etc. etc. or 2. They will learn to do nice things for other people. I lean towards number two. I like to help them, but try I do so only when they ask me, if it is possible for me to help. For example, I can’t get a drink of water for them when I’m in the shower. One reason I help is that they learn to help when asked. I don’t have to argue, I don’t have to threaten, and now, most times they do help when asked.
I also want them to be able to ask for help. One of my many flaws I have is to try not ask for help. Don’t put people out or be a bother. Some may see that as a virtue. But again, there must be a happy medium, not an absolute rule – “Don’t ask for help”.Sometimes you may need it.
Conventional wisdom says one of the things we can do to avoid entitled kids is to not “give in” to them. And for the most part I agree with that. Don’t buy them unnecessary things when they ask. And stick to your guns. This is apparently the most important part. Don’t tell them no, and have them get upset, and then give in to what they want. That is the cardinal sin. They learn that throwing a fit gets them what they want, doesn’t it?
Which brings me to my story. The kids, two of their cousins, uncle and aunt, and I were on a 1 km hike on a nice little trail. It wasn’t too hot, nobody was dying of thirst or hunger. My 5 year old daughter asked “Can you carry me?” I said no. She just finished running after a bird, she was happy, and everyone else was walking just fine. Not only that, she is heavy now. The ground was unstable, and I would not want to fall while carrying her. Oh, I had a myriad of reasons to say no. She cried, she whined she said her legs were sore. I stuck to my guns. She ran ahead a bit, not looking like she was about to pass out. Even laughed a bit. HA, I was right, she does not need to be carried. She is just being lazy. A minute later she asked again, and so as not to have an entitled brat, I said no. She cried a bit, she whined, she asked a few more times, she blocked my path. I calmly informed her that I was not going to carry her. She is 5 years old I thought to myself. She can walk. And when I decide to say no, I mean it. I patted myself on the back. Most of the way back to the car, she asked, she cajoled, she begged. I was stoic. I did not get upset. I was calm. I tried to explain why I wasn’t carrying her, and I let her have her anger. Before we got to the car, she had seemingly forgotten about our argument only minutes before. She joked with her brother, ran through a small puddle, walked through the parking lot with a smile. Another pat on the back for me. I win. I’m right. I’m the adult here. No lazy, entitled kids in this family. She was not tired of walking at all.
We arrived back at the car. Time to pack up the kids. There were 7 of us and it was tough to get the kids in the backseat all seated and buckled in. Space was a little tight. By the time we had all the boys buckled in with snacks and water, we were almost ready to go. My daughter had settled into the front seat playing with something while we got the back seat organized. “C’mon, sweetie, we have to get going, can you get in your carseat now, please?” I asked so nicely. She kept playing with whatever it was she had, and in the calmest voice said. “No.”