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You're Not That Special

Why do so many people have a sense of entitlement these days? How can I prevent my children from having a "me-first" mindset?

It seems like some people only think about themselves.

You see the evidence everywhere these days: rude drivers, foul language, bad tempers and frivolous lawsuits. I'm guilty of selfish thinking, too – I’ll be the first to admit it.

Where does this behavior (in adults, especially) come from? It had to start somewhere.

I want my children to grow up to be good citizens, good people, good friends. I certainly don't want them to end up with a “me-first mentality.”

How to avoid it, though? How can I train them to avoid being contaminated by the selfishness that's around us every day? I can’t help but think of how we are constantly bombarded with reality shows, teased by ads for $2500 shoes and made aware of millions of political campaign dollars spent recklessly in our country while thousands of Americans are out of work, cold and even starving.

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey (do people even use that word anymore?) I've noticed that "kids these days" seem to be entering young adulthood with a sense of entitlement. They expect success (and the accolades and rewards that come along with it) even if they've done nothing - or very little - to earn it. They think they’re special - and then when they aren't treated that way in “the real world,” they become highly offended, dejected – even despairing.

Why?

Other than the obvious media hype, there must be other things, too. I've been thinking about this. I try really hard to make my kids feel like they’re special. They are special to me, to their families, to their friends, to God.

But are they better than anyone else? Nope.

Wow. Now that I type that out, it seems much more like a concrete truth. I don't want to raise them with a sense of entitlement. How can I teach them that while they are important – and even “special” – that they don't deserve "special treatment?"

These days, it seems like there’s a trophy for everyone. No one wants to feel bad – and of course no one wants their kids’ feelings to get hurt, including me. But guess what? If my child never feels bad – if she never has to learn to deal with feelings of rejection or sadness, then how the heck is she supposed to deal with those feelings when she’s an adult? Childhood is training for life!

I guess what I’m trying to say here – even to sort out in my own mind – is this: am I doing things that might cause my kids to be inconsiderate? To feel entitled?

I recently read something along the lines of this: If a little bit of praise is good for a child’s self-esteem, then a LOT of praise must be great for a child’s self-esteem. Right?

Hmm. I don’t think so. If I praise my child for regular old everyday things, like: “Hey, good job brushing your teeth! Good work hanging up your coat! You are the best scooter rider ever!” just so they’ll feel good about themselves, doesn’t it downplay the times when they actually work hard to achieve something? In their heads, they must be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Anybody can brush their teeth. Sheesh.”

I don’t want them to feel good about themselves because I am proud of them. Who knows? I may not be around forever.

No, I want them to feel good because they are proud of themselves.

I want them to feel good because they earn that feeling – because they actually accomplish something or they help someone or they stand up for what they believe is right.

Not because they are entitled.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Devone February 23, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Earl, I totally agree that this problem is behind lots of reckless and irresponsible behavior. Not only do people not know how to fail, it seems like a lot of times they have no empathy or compassion for others, either. Yet another sign of selfishness. I really like your comment "If I succeed its because of me. If I fail, it's because of something other than me." That type of thinking is so wrong and, it turns out, dangerous, too.
Devone February 23, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Thanks Jean - I didn't have everything handed to me on a silver platter as I was growing up, and though at the time I thought it was because my parents were being mean, NOW I am so thankful that they were that way! I hope my kids feel that way when they grow up, too.
Devone February 23, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Myron, I don't know much about the teachers' strike, but I'm inclined to think of all of the pro- sports strikes throughout the past ten years or so. It infuriates me to think of all of the kids who would just love to PLAY, much less get PAID for doing what they love! And these jerks complain abut their multi-million dollar contracts? Fire them and let them have to get a real job. Give someone who deserves it a shot and, more importantly -- actually appreciates the huge opportunity they've been given.
Nicole Davis February 23, 2013 at 10:57 PM
I don't know, I see selfishness and entitlement in EVERY age group. Just drive through a pickup/drop-off line at a school, or look at the people who park in the fire lane, or handicap spot without a placard? What about the people who go through the 10 items or less checkout with 20 items? There are plenty examples of selfishness at every age.
Devone February 24, 2013 at 01:02 AM
Nicole, you are right! That's what I was thinking with the rude driving and the frivolous lawsuits. It's not just "kids these days..." It's a widespread problem - starting at the very top of our society. I don't know about you, but I have a huge problem with elected officials bringing in upwards of $250k a year while our servicemen and women IN COMBAT, no less, are struggling to make ends meet on a whopping $32,000 a year. It's RIDICULOUS. It's SELFISH, and they seem to feel pretty darn entitled to it. I'm fairly certain that if we had some better role models at the top (in politics, in entertainment, in sports, etc.) our society as a whole and children in particular would probably make a drastic turnaround. The handicapped thing really drives me crazy. Especially when it's a young guy in a sports car. Aargh.
Chapman Mom February 24, 2013 at 03:40 AM
Devone Please write more blogs on here, some who post blogs on here I think do it just to see how upset they can make people, your words ring soo true THANK YOU
John February 24, 2013 at 01:35 PM
You may as well call this piece "Confirmation Bias." (Look it up if you don't know what it means.) People have been complaining about "kids these days" since the dawn of time, usually with little validity. Too many folks like to whine about nameless, faceless "other people," usually as a way of trying to make themselves feel better about their lot in life. It's pretty pathetic, actually. This article (and many of the comments following) are just examples of that kind of thinking. Sure, there are selfish young people. There are also selfish middle-aged people, selfish old people, and selfish people in whatever other age bracket you'd care to define. But I guess writing about them doesn't make for as good of an article
Myron Shibley February 24, 2013 at 01:57 PM
First, the article is focused on the sense of entitlement that Americans feel. Not selfishness. There is one sentence about selfishness. The remaining context below it is all about entitlement. Second, I have no idea what the point of your comment is. Yes, some people have talked about being selfish in the comment section but no one is saying that behavior is limited to a particular age group. So I'm not really sure what your grand statement is proving. Lastly...if you honestly are attempting to make an argument that we as a nation, especially our younger generation, does not convey a sense of entitlement, then I truly think you and I live in a different world. We have almost 50million people on some kind of welfare program. We have adults (who act as kids) lining up and protesting outside banks because they can't pay back their student loans and don't have the job they thought they would with their expensive degree. We have massive amounts of people who think taking from someone else's personal property is ok because it will be redistributed to someone else who is needs it more than they do according to them or the govt. THAT is what this article is about. It's about a reality check that you, nor I DESERVE anything bc of who we are or what degree we have. It's about personal responsibility and taking responsibility for your actions. The only thing that was "pathetic" was the attempt at connecting the article's meaning to the content of your comment.
John McMillan February 24, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Devone, you make many good points, and commenters have pretty much agreed with you, across the board. Congratulations on hitting the nail on the head as to the origin of many of our problems. I agree in particular with your point (and I've said this for years) about not having our priorities straight when it comes to compensation. HOW do we justify paying our politicians, movie stars and pro athletes millions of dollars, while we insist on skimping on the salaries of our teachers, armed forces, etc.? To me this situation is deplorable, and is a sad comment on what is considered valuable in modern society.
gail gorby February 24, 2013 at 02:11 PM
your column today is so true nowadays. i am so proud of you and the way your kids are being taught what is important in life.
John McMillan February 24, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Myron is reading too much of his own personal opinion into this blog. This piece was as much about people being selfish as it was about them feeling entitled. It is Myron who seems eager to turn the discussion political, with thinly veiled references to his personal contempt for welfare recipients, the Occupy movement, the government, the President, etc., etc...And he does seem to have a vendetta against people with college degrees...he has mentioned them several times already. I can only guess why. But please keep your political propaganda out of this discussion; I'm sure there are other places where it is more appropriate.
John McMillan February 24, 2013 at 02:48 PM
You're saying that teachers don't "deserve" to be well compensated, but pro athletes, reality TV stars, and do-nothing congressmen do? By specifically mentioning degreed teachers, and none of these other "professions", I assume you're OK with those salaries? But the folks that are educating children, and therefore directly responsible for the future of our country...tough luck?? I enjoyed Devone's piece for (obviously) different reasons than you did. She has pointed out some basic problems with our modern collective mindset, without sinking to the level of spewing political buzzwords. Thank you, Devone, for your common sense and rational thought. It is refreshing to hear, without some political slant attached.
Myron Shibley February 24, 2013 at 02:50 PM
John, i only have a vendetta against smug pseudo-intellectuals like yourself. I have several degrees, but they don't entitle me to a single thing. Is there a problem you have with that statement? And after reading your brilliant psycho-analysis of my comment, I now realize that my education couldn't possibly be near as lofty as yours. Name something I mentioned in my comment that DOESN'T correspond with the entitlement culture? It has nothing to do with personal contempt...it's just reality. If my comments were untrue...please let me know how?
Chapman Mom February 24, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Myron I do also put you in the column with the smug pseudo-intellectuals, but also to let you know that I agree with most everything you say
Myron Shibley February 24, 2013 at 05:33 PM
I can deal with smug, but I don't say things I cannot back up or half-truths, so the pseudo-intellectual part I don't agree with. Your comment made me genuinely laugh though (in a good way), so thank you.
Callie E. February 24, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Personally, I am against career politicians completely. Whatever happened to the idea of someone being elected into an office, SERVING for their term, and then going back to their real jobs?
Callie E. February 24, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Looks to me like this article is about the author and what she'd like for HER kids. It's her blog. Doesn't seem to be whining about faceless other people to me. Everyone relates to the world around them depending on their own circumstances and upbringing. I don't see how it has anything to do with confirmation bias - and yes, I do know what it is. Looks like you're using your own version to support your opinion, too. Surprise, surprise!
Callie E. February 24, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Agreed, looks like we could have some more real conversation around here and less fighting.
Callie E. February 24, 2013 at 06:44 PM
I enjoyed this blog post. I find myself doing this with my own kids sometimes and I think I'm going to start thinking about it and trying to stop the habit. Why praise them for doing nothing? Praise them for hard work and for their innate talents and good behavior, not for "nothing." Maybe if more parents these days (and yes I say these days because I believe that this attitude is much more prevalent today than say, 30 or 40 years ago - risking a call of "confirmation bias" :) develop this mindset and have their kids working for something rather than handing things over to keep them happy, we could make a positive change on our culture overall.
John McMillan February 24, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Callie E., I am with you 100% concerning career politicians. They are in there too long, forget about their constituents, keep voting themselves raises and benefits, and screwing things up for the rest of us. They get too comfortable after years and years of "service". I think they should have to return to normal "civilian" life after their term, and see how it is trying to live under the crappy conditions they have created for us. Have you ever heard of a poor or middle class representative? No, they only represent their own interests, get wealthier each year, and get further and further out of touch with the American public.
John McMillan February 24, 2013 at 09:55 PM
LOL still chuckling hours later from being called a pseudo-intellectual. It's my first time...
Cindy Pierce February 24, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Wow what a blog!! No politics! Just about the kids. I agree with you 100%! Children are a blessing from God. I thank Him for them everyday. IN HIM Cindy
Al Sharptonski February 25, 2013 at 12:27 AM
By the sounds of it, I'm sure there's another first time you've never experience either.
Brian Heath February 25, 2013 at 12:07 PM
well put. I think two of the worst problems with people in the world today entail 1) people being so he**-bent on exercising their rights that they forget responsibilities come with rights - and 2) kids aren't allowed to fail nowadays - they aren't allowed to experience the "hard knocks" that come with things not going the way they want. No wonder we have an epidemic of entitlement in society - and kids who go into adult life so unprepared for disappointment. As someone who works in a customer service field, I see on a daily basis people with entitlement mentality - and people who are unwilling or unable to accept responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof). We have to stop sheltering and pampering our kids - it's just like the age old computer programming rule: "garbage in - garbage out"...
Lou Schott February 25, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Hello Devon and all of the other kind people who want to reach out and influence our community in a useful manner, What I see is that your post and all of the comments apparently resonate on this topic. May I applaud all of your contributions? And, if I can offer my opinion, please read on. We live in a complex society of systems. We move from being dependent to interdependent and maybe we will become independent. And, then something in an external system (like a big truck that goes left of center) or an internal system (like our body) fails us and we become dependent -- yet again. When we know how all systems change and grow then we can rapidly adapt and make more informed choices. The process of parenting requires us to be honest, open and responsible. WE must be honest ... with our significant other(s), our children, parents, and most of all with ourselves. If we do the above then our environment rewards us with an even bigger challenge. If we don't do the above then we will continue to repeat patterns of action that result in small returns and higher risks. I do hope this helps. lschott1@gmail.com
Nathaniel Brooks February 25, 2013 at 10:06 PM
You people criticize this entitlement culture like you didn't have anything to do with it. All issues of pain and strife going on in this world currently can be accredited to the previous three generations. Along with the current younger generation who is in power unwillingness to do the fair logical thing. No offense, but I don't need some 80 year old guy in congress making policy for me. Can we all agree that he has probably lost touch with reality. They thought you could have your cake and eat it too. And I guess they were sort of right because now most of them are dead and gone and we are left here to clean up their mess. Turns out cake is expensive and now it's time to pay the piper. You see when you take and take and take under the false pretense of a mandate from heaven things tend to lose balance. What we have here currently is that loss of balance coming to full fruition.
Nathaniel Brooks February 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM
I wish I had the answer to the problem, but I don't. I don't believe that the Amish have this entitlement problem going on in their community. I wonder why? Most people today aren't worth the extra soft Charmin they wipe their butt with. We have become a nation of cry babies and non-thinkers. The politicians are crooks, the police are crooks, the judges are crooks and the district attorney's office is fool of crooks too. Do as I say not as I do lol. A house built on a shifty foundation can not stand. Don't get me wrong, it will stand for a while then it will start to lean and then well it'll start to crumble, and then it will buckle and crush its own self, no longer able to support its weight. Fresh Organic food, clean water, good beer, free renewable energy, and free love. See, there, problem solved. That wasn't so hard.
Callie E. February 27, 2013 at 04:44 AM
I think a lot of the entitlement culture is a direct result of so-called "expert" child-rearing philosophies of the past 30 years or so. Don't damage your kid's self-esteem by telling them they were wrong! Don't damage their fragile minds by "not giving them a trophy" like the author said. Good grief, when did we become such goody-two-shoes in this country? This is supposed to be a country of workers! Of fighters! Of upstanding citizens! Not a bunch of weenie cry baby "I'm telling" lazy good-for-nothing losers. It's no wonder the US is going to hell in a handbasket. If more people - more PARENTS - don't get on board the CORRECT bandwagon, we can just forget a reversal of the downward spiral that we are in.
Lou Schott February 28, 2013 at 01:14 AM
Do you intend to operate in an environment of trust and respect? Or, do you intend to operate in fear and anger? Your intentions will pull you into the future and further expand or limit your choices. Positive or negative reinforcement will further shape your situation.
Sharon March 19, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Devone, you've made some good observations in this article. Much of this problem is because children are not being taught to respect themselves and others, and to 'love their neighbors as themselves'. "Bring up a child in the way he/she should go..." Parents have a LOT of responsibility! Children really do live what they learn. May God bless as you rear your children!

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