BRAT – ENTITLED – AFFLUENZA??

Are your kids Entitled? The answer is probably Yes, but what can we do about that?

Remember the news of the “affluenza teen”? Remember when you thought how ridiculous that was, and how that would never be your kid?

In case you have not heard of it, “affluenza” is the ridiculous term used during the sentencing of 16-year-old Ethan Couch when he drove drunk and caused a car accident that killed four people.  Couch was sentenced to probation instead of jail time, and the defense argued the boy had “affluenza,” or basically an inability to take responsibility because of the permissive way he was raised.

Well it should be as no surprise; the teen could not even take responsibility enough to keep the terms of his probation. He skipped town with his mother and was found hiding in Mexico, and P.S. his mother was paying for his strip club visits. - Poor baby. That affluenza must be so hard on a kid.

For a long time, I thought I was exempt from raising entitled children simply because we don’t really have enough money to spoil them with material things and I considered our parenting strict.  I figured not having excessive material things or the ability to get them would keep them from feeling that sense of entitlement.

But the longer I live in an affluent county and raise kids here, I learned that money really has nothing to do with it. Entitlement comes not from material possessions but from a warped sense of one’s own importance in life along with an inability to accept responsibility or be told “no.” So, I started paying closer attention to the signs that maybe a bit of entitlement was creeping into my own children’s lives. I hate to admit it, but I noticed more than one disturbing trend. 

Your kids may be entitled IF

1. Distorted view of one’s own importance?

I think the first times I noticed entitlement in my own kids was years ago we were discussing back to school shopping and my daughter stated she was not going to big box stores. When I explained that affordability made it so that is where we were going to shop, she then proceeded to tell me that I was a mean mom and was doing it just to make her mad and that her clothes for high school were more important than the other kids so she should be allowed to shop at more expensive shops.

Obviously, I had done as all good mothers do, which is to sit up at night calculating nefarious ways to destroy my daughter’s life. “Yes, Target and Walmart! That will ruin a perfectly good Tuesday and really get her! (Que evil laugh here)

Have kids that don’t pitch in or won’t work. They always have some reason they can’t help with chores or finish an assignment that is difficult. Who else has a kid that when there is work or chores to be done that is the EXACT MOMENT that they had to do homework?? Such a coincidence…

2. Inability to take “no” as the answer? 

The Christmas season had plenty of entitled moments too. We have eight children. So, we have always implemented the policy that we cannot purchase gifts for their friends. They can make something, write cards, or earn their own money. One daughter (a different one) threw a complete tantrum regarding the audacity of us to not give them money for friends’ gifts!

The interesting thing was in January she ended up wrapping her own new belongings and giving them away as gifts. She stated that giving was more important than receiving…

I took that as a sign that as a parent, I am not a total failure. We’re are not on a one-way track to entitled brats. Right?

3. Expect mom and dad to rescue them from forgetfulness and failure.  

Let’s admit it.. Who out there has delivered a forgotten lunch, so kids don’t get the cheese sandwich? Brought in their homework so they don’t get a bad grade?? Or drove them to school when they missed the bus? Truth is, I have done this and claimed it was for my own convenience. Better to bring it than deal with the call from the school, or the make-up test, or the etc. etc. etc.

They want what they want right now, and they are willing to go to war with you every time. For example, they break their iPhone. Ok we have insurance, but it is still $150 to replace. You will have to do chores to earn the $150 FIRST... WHAT??? that is crazy talk around here….

Even with my excuses, a part of me had visions of us after retirement with a kid who couldn’t get a job, still lived at home and thought I should support him till he was 30.

4. Are more concerned about self than others and don’t show or feel gratitude.

How many kids write thank you cards to grandparents for gifts? Has anyone else had a kid that made them late to get somewhere? Or maybe ate the last of someone else’s candy? 

I clearly remember many nights early in parenting making up Easter baskets and dreading the look on someone’s face because their basket didn’t look as full as another. I also remember feeling a bit sad when all the pomp and circumstance I put in to all the other parts of our holiday traditions went almost unnoticed much less appreciated.

5. Pass blame when things go wrong and can’t handle disappointment.

 I don’t know about your house but there is a lot of “he made me” or “if he didn’t than I wouldn’t’ s” and more over here. Who else heard the phrase “If Johnny jumped off the bridge would you do that too?”

I have a son who was disappointed and behaved poorly when HS graduation rolled around and he didn’t receive many cards with money and gifts from relatives, and all I could say was for all those years they sent you birthday cards, gifts and holiday treats you never thanked them or showed appreciation. 

So, what to do?

Wait around until your child becomes a complete brat? Make sure your passport is up to date just in case you must jump the border to avoid your darling child’s latest parole violation? Hopefully not. Instead, here are some ways I found to avoid fostering entitlement, or to steer them back on track.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say no. Make it clear you won’t listen to whining or arguing, and then really don’t. I have a rule if I say no AND you complain or ask again that request won’t be granted for 30 days. Try that for a kid who wants to hang out with friends….

  2. Give kids specific responsibilities in the family that they must do to reap the benefits of being a member of the family. When they do the work, they get the paid. Each child has a time sheet in my house. There is NO ALLOWANCE. Your room, dishes, laundry are your responsibility and you do not get paid for that. Other jobs are available and can replace what we pay others for. Lawncare, Bathroom cleaning, dog grooming, car washes etc.

  3. Let them fail. This is perhaps one of the hardest to watch, but it is essential to let my children fail. Natural consequences like being hungry after forgetting a lunch or a bad grade for a missed assignment are better reminders than my rescuing ever could be. 

I imagine fighting entitlement is going to be an ongoing battle for me — and most parents nowadays — because the attitude is simply everywhere. 

Have you seen entitlement signs in your own children? How do you fight it?