Do children have entitlements? That is an interesting question. Children should be entitled to reasonable food, clothing, shelter and educational opportunities. The operative word is reasonable.
However, those basic human needs are not what I am referring to when I use the word entitlement. There is a disturbing attitude growing among young people. They feel they have other entitlements like a car, a cell phone, an expense account and seasonal vacations. They develop an attitude that they are entitled to these perks without condition.
Some young adults are so manipulative that if they don't get what they want in this area, they guilt their parents into believing they are the most abused and neglected children since Oliver Twist.
Why have entitlements become such a crisis? Unfortunately, because too many parents give their children things that are not earned and are not deserved.
Just because you can financially afford to buy and insure a brand new car for your sixteen year old does not mean you should do that, especially if said teenager curses you out every chance he gets. If he receives no consequences for such reprehensible behavior, what will stop him from further rude and crude behavior? By not holding him accountable, you are subtly affirming his destructive, negative behavior.
PJ has just turned sixteen. He took Drivers Ed. He completed his five hour course and for better or worse, he passed his road test on his first try (now aren't you lucky as a parent!).
However, for the past eight months PJ has been a hellion. Everything is a battle. He dislikes everyone. He honestly believes that everyone is out to get him. He treats his mother poorly and still thinks he deserves a "decent" car. He really believes it is his parents' obligation to provide that perk for him, even though he takes advantage and is abusive.
As he approached his sixteenth birthday, the car conversation came up multiple times. Not only did PJ believe he deserved a car, he also felt it should be brand new. When he was asked why, he said, "Dad can afford it. Why not? Everybody else's parents are doing it."
Upon some investigation, it is sad to say that many parents are being bullied into buying brand new cars and insuring them for their reckless and selfish children.
Today a growing number of our teenagers think they are entitled to a brand new car at sixteen, a paid for cell phone, a state of the art computer with unlimited access to the internet, an allowance for just being and the freedom to do whatever, whenever, without any responsibility or accountability.
The teenage strategy that is employed when in conflict with parents around these alleged "entitlements" is "everyone has them or does that."
The real truth is that everyone "does not have or do that." Unfortunately, in every community there are a growing number of teenagers who have been born into privilege. They do have many material things and are expected to give or do nothing for these things.
Probably even more counterproductive is that families continue to enable their son or daughter's reckless behavior. You just gave you son a brand new upscale car, fully insured. Within one week he totals it because he was recklessly showing off to his friends. The car is not in the junkyard an hour when he is hounding you about a replacement car because he cannot be inconvenienced by the circumstance he created. Financially you can afford to give in and you do.
Every parent wants to give their children what they can, especially things they did not have growing up. Families that have worked hard and have become successful want to share their material success with their family, especially their children. That desire is not bad, however what we do with that desire can be destructive.
One of our principle responsibilities as parents is to lay the foundation for our children's lives. That foundation must address the issues of values, morals, principles around responsibility and accountability.
Adults are quick to criticize teenagers today. They talk about their recklessness and lack of respect. They did not just fall out of bed and become that way. Unfortunately, they learn those behaviors and attitudes from what they see or from benign neglect.
As parents, we need to lead by example. We need to have the courage to set limits and boundaries around social behavior and hold our children accountable.
Responsibility is a key concept in a young person's development. We have a right to expect that our children will work for certain privileges or perks. Giving our children continuous gifts without any clearly stated expectations is setting your son or daughter up for disaster.
A growing number of young people don't appreciate their parents' hard work or the value of something material that has been given to them. Unfortunately, we have set that up by not holding our children responsible and accountable for the choices and decisions they make.
We don't need to burden our children with a multiplication of rules and/or expectations. However, whatever our rules and expectations are, we need to consistently hold our children accountable to them. Mixed messages and inconsistency will surely set your home up for failure.
Every family needs to establish its' own blueprint for family life. Parents should be the principle architects of this blueprint. Respect should be a non-negotiable cornerstone for every family. This respect should be an expectation of every parent from their children, but also every child should expect to be respected by their parents. Double standards on this issue are lethal.
If respect can be the centerpiece in your home, then most other issues can be worked out. However, it is a value everyone must work on.