age of entitlement


These cows have the life don’t they? That is until, well, you know, the end… But let us not speak of that.

Instead let us speak of this age of entitlement. Let us speak of how it permeates our society. Let us speak of how it permeates the culture. And let us speak, really specifically, of how it permeates my household. A little background first.

When I grew up children were to be seen and not heard. Truth. My brother and I were never consulted about where to take our family vacation, whether we wanted to do our chores or not, what place we might like to eat on the few occasions we ate dinner out, or even what we wanted for dinner at home. We were never given sympathy for having to get up and go to school, for not being able to sleep in, for having to take care of our 4-H animals before school, hang laundry, pick strawberries in the garden, mow, dust, clean bathrooms, make our beds, etc. The only eye-rolling or back talking I ever did was from behind the closed door of my bedroom, never to my folks’ faces. Things were just expected of us kids, and if they didn’t get done we got a pretty stern dinner-time lecture. There were some spankings too, in our younger days. That was the era in which I grew up, and it was standard treatment amongst most of my peers.

My children, on the other hand, grew up with the beginnings of the self-esteem movement. (Just google the words “self esteem movement” and you will be flooded with backlash articles regarding this topic. And you’ll also know where I’m headed with this conversation.) The movement, that at its heart, wanted every child to feel like they were special. An admirable goal, and one that was probably motivated by the idea that kids who don’t feel good about themselves have lots of struggles in life. But there have been some unforeseen consequences to all of this. I believe that it has cultured a sense of deserving completely unrelated to any effort on the part of the child. Speaking of my family specifically, I have spent a lot of energy over the years making the path smooth for my kids. Mistakenly thinking that I was being a good mom. What I didn’t understand completely was that discomfort, challenge, problem-solving, & plain old work are very often the things that increase self-esteem. They help a person realize they are capable, and instill that relationship between effort and reward.

Sadly, for me, my time with my children at home is drawing to a close. Don’t get me wrong, my kids have great qualities and they will do things when I tell them to, but I just have this gnawing feeling that I haven’t done a good job in cultivating their work ethic. They have their areas where they understand effort and reward. They all played sports and had to put in the time for practice and conditioning. They mow (for payment), they can do their own laundry, they can on occasion put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Lately, however, one of those boys only speaks to me when he needs or wants something. And frankly it’s starting to piss me off. But I have a plan! It isn’t too late for an intervention.

I had dinner the other night with two friends, and one of them mentioned a book they were reading – Cleaning House A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma. So the mom coalition all agreed to read the book, implement the ideas, and check in with each other to see how the experiment unfolds in each of our households. BOOM – it’s going down in my house!! I’ll try to remember to update here.

“Don’t be upset by the results you don’t get with the work you didn’t do.”


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting….you know, I have often thought of this, too. I had some pretty hard chores to do as a kid, and though my kids do u usually jump when I ask, and are both really great in their own respect, the younger one who loves the self depraved “personal competition” of besting herself with grades, art, music, etc. She also wants something new after each concert ticket purchased, or concert attended. Or after a clothing purchase. Or after (insert here). The other just decides when things get hard, you scrap it and go back to the video game.

    Let me know how this works and some items you found to work out!


  2. Lori says:

    Oh, yeah, I’ve thought the same things…mostly in the last couple of years. I, too, think that the self-esteem movement went too far. And, yet, I’m not sure I could do it much differently. I really loved those days when my daughter thought her Dad and I were the most important people in the world! I think when that started to change is when I started working too hard to keep her happy. Probably just as much for my self esteem as for hers. 🙂

  3. Ohhh. I’m definitely reading this. (But not until after I finish watching the rest of Friday Night Lights.) This is really important and I’m grateful that you are pointing this out. Peter is MUCH BETTER about making the kids do stuff. Most times, I end up just handling things myself because I am impatient and want the work done quickly.

  4. Sara says:

    This is going on my reading list.

    I was spoiled, and I lack drive and some work ethic, I’ll admit it. But I’m a productive mom, working hard in and out of the home, keeping a tidy enough house, shuttling to activities, etc. etc. etc.

    Last week, for the first time in my kid’s 6 years of life, I received this dreaded question (upon his being asked to put away a pile of *folded* washcloths): “Why do I have to do everything?”.

    You can hear the tone, can’t you? You can see the shoulders droop and the arms limp while carelessly dangling the washcloths?

    Can you also picture my totally ridiculous, flabbergasted, and, perhaps, over-the-top reaction? Screaming! Arms flailing! Bedtime, NOW! No dinner! No privileges! Go lie down and don’t get up for 30 minutes until I can bear to see your face again!!!

    My own laziness and self-absorption has brought me to this point, more even than my willingness to make HIS life easy. MY life is easier if I just do these things right the first time around. But this has lead to a lot of TV watching to keep his dirty feet off the floor while I mop it.

    I know I need to assign chores, but asking an incompetent person to do the things that are important to me is SO difficult. Yes, I want the bed made…nicely. Yes, I want the dishes put away…unbroken. Yes, I want the bathroom cleaned…and I don’t want to slip on soap residue. But how will he learn these skills if he doesn’t practice?

    Sigh. Guess I’d better get started. Thanks for the PUSH, Jackie!

  5. golittlered says:

    I was brought up in much the same way as you described your childhood. My mother taught me some invaluable lessons. Yes, she was there for us, yes she read volumes aloud to us, yes she spent time with us, but she also taught us that her time was valuable and that we were not “owed” things. I can give you two things she said to me that I have never forgotten. “Ellen, the world does not revolve around you.” and “Ellen, I am not here to entertain you.” I do believe that we are largely a society who feels we are “owed” and that things are always someone else’s fault. I am not expressing myself well here, but I know you get the point.

  6. golittlered says:

    Oh, and a p.s. That photo is stellar!!!

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