Five Signs of Entitlement in Our Kids

February 21, 2014 — 66 Comments

A New York based firm met with a group of recent college graduates to talk about their careers. During the conversation, the potential employer asked the grads this question: What’s the one word HR execs use more than any other to describe the mindset of your generation? It begins with an “E.” Do you know what that word is?

The young twenty-somethings began thinking out loud. Some said Entrepreneurial. Others thought it was Energetic, while others felt it was Exciting or Entertaining.

None of the candidates guessed the correct answer: Entitled.

stealing ambition

Some time ago, blogger Kristen Welch posted a simple and clear list of signs that young people are struggling with a sense of entitlement. Whether you’re a teacher, a coach, a parent, an administrator, a youth worker or an employer, these are signals you’ll want to keep your antennas up to spot:

1. I want it now. Kids are impatient, and who can blame them? We live in a drive-thru culture and, instant gratification is, well, instant. Often, we find ourselves living in fear of saying no because our children are used to getting what they want.

2. I don’t want to work for it. Why work when it can be given to you? It fosters a cycle of laziness and poor work ethic when we constantly give to our children without requiring any work. We need to create entry points starting at a young age for our children to contribute to household chores and jobs.

3. I don’t have to clean up my mess. We battle this one often. I’m learning to choose my wars. But I believe this is also responsible living. If you make a mess, you clean it up.

4. I want it because everyone else has it. My 7 year old has asked for an “Elf on the Shelf” every day this week. Why? Because she feels left out that many of her friends have one. And that’s awesome for them, but I don’t want that to be the focus of our season, and I honestly don’t have time or energy to create things for the stuffed animal to do. The bottom line for us: it’s okay for you not to have what everyone else has. I asked my daughter, “If everyone had a swimming pool, would you want one too?” She said yes. Clearly, we are working on this one.

5. I expect you to fix all my problems. I love to help my kids out. But there’s a fine line between helping and aiding bad behavior. If my child forgets their lunch everyday, yet I bring it to them anyway, there’s really not a reason for them to ever be responsible. My kids expected us to give them money for a gift for us. Instead, I found it the perfect chance to teach them about hard work and let them solve their own dilemma.

Talk to me. What other signs would you add to this list? What are you doing to curb a sense of entitlement in the students you lead?

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  • DebMillsWriter

    “It’s my time.” Commitments sometimes are very soft. You don’t really know if they’re going to be there or not…as they mature in the Lord, they become solid. Some days…I wait for that.

    • Sara Blevins

      Yes, I agree with you. All the wisdom we share and the Word of God will eventually mature.

    • Ed Oyama

      Nice thought. Are you talking about your kids’ commtiments specifically, or commitments in general?

  • Sara Blevins

    Tim, thank you for posting! I am an old fashion. I grew up when we serve our parent, rather than the opposite. Kids today expect someone else to do the work. My daughter is 14, and she always come back saying my friend family has this, does this or let her do this. I am not their parents and they don’t live with me. God gave me wisdom and I will use it:-) The one thing I do is share my life growing up and stories of my parents to tell them how hard work is so important.
    Have a great day!

    • Maria Christine

      This is about recent college graduates, who went to college, interned, and worked previous jobs. They are not feeling entitled. They simply hope to start a career after taking the needed steps. Remember how you and your generation could land a decent job after graduating high school and support a family.

  • JayJnTexas

    Unfortunately I experienced the results of too many parents stepping in to fix their son/daughters issues (#5). Apparently my sons employer has had too many parents acting as their child’s “agent”, so now all parents of employees have to sign a form (as a condition of employment) agreeing they would let the employee (son/daughter) work directly with the employer if there were any hours or wages issues.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Wow that is quite a step for a company. Thank you for sharing, Jay!

  • Anita

    I want whatever media tells me I want.

  • Peggy

    I sometimes see an unexpected lack of gratitude – not expressing appropriate gratitude, because they really aren’t that grateful – because they expect (or feel entitled to) whatever was done for them or given them.

    • Ed Oyama

      True! That really helps fight back that spirit of entitlement, along with the “make them work for it” ethic that others here have wrote about.

      Do you have any methods for teaching gratitude though? In my experience as a teacher, it’s a tough thing to pass on.

      • Whitney Combs

        every time our children whine they have to list 7 things they’re thankful for. every time. it doesn’t cut down on the whining, to be honest, but it certainly seems to raise their gratitude “awareness”. Also, whenever they complain or try to tattle, our response typically includes, “Dude that sucks. What are you going to do about it?” And my kids make a choice from what they see as their options. Unfortunately, when I’ve used this in childcare situations with OTHER peoples’ kids, they just completely fall apart in a hysterical mess on the floor because they’re so used to mommy fixing everything they see as a problem that they panic at the idea the adult in authority won’t.

        • Ed Oyama

          That’s way cool that you’ve set that up in your own home. I can see how that’d be problematic with others’ kids though!

        • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

          Seems like a great way to instill gratitude. Thank you for sharing, Whitney!

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      This lack of gratitude is more than likely a symptom of narcissism.

  • Richard Schumacher

    The mentality that “It’s all good.” Apathetic views that eliminate the process of setting goals, making a plan and doing the work to achieve it.

  • Ken

    What I have noticed lately is that this generation wants to share their opinion and they expect their elders to respect what they say, but they do not in return show respect to their elders when an opinion is shared with them. If we do not go with the flow of what society thinks, than we are very judgmental, and everything should be subjective, no more rights or wrongs!

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Thank you for sharing, Ken! We are seeing the same trends across the nation.

    • Howard

      In instances in my work with middle schoolers, they see me as an equal and not as an authoritative figure. Middle schools are also moving towards more positive based behavior interventions…we are told to limit the use of the word no

  • Ella

    how about having kids pay for things they want with money they have earned. seems old fashioned, but it works at our house. they buy their own ipods – and amazingly they take care of them and don’t lose them. when they want to get a phone, they will pay for the phone and the service. they know they need to save up 6 months worth of fees in order to start a contract with a phone company. when they “need” a phone, they will buy it. they will pay for their car and the insurance too. parents do their children an injustice when they pay all the bills – then it will be a shock to kids when they start receiving monthly bills on their own. it also causes parents to have to choose a time to “break up” with their children in terms of paying for everything. if you start with them paying for their own stuff, you never have this bad feeling and break up time later – you just have responsible kids.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Money seems to be a great tool with parenting. Dave Ramsey has many illustrations of using money as a way to instill life skills in kids. Thank you for sharing, Ella!

  • Jonathan Metschke

    Tim, I struggle with this as a counselor I see this issues of self, narcissistic, self centered egotistic behavior as a failure in a young persons life. It is difficult for them to understand that if they live a life of entitlement they will learn the hard way as life is not as rewarding and/or forgiving. I however see the opposite end as when they do crash then they fall into a poor me victimization mentality. It is a sad roller coaster of emotional struggles if one is allowed to move in that direction. I believe it is the parents responsibility to redirect this pattern of behavior. thanks Jon

    • Ed Oyama

      Just curious…. in your work as a counselor do you see any ossible upside to this? Or is this a pure negative?

      That is to say, do any of the young people you work with come out of their crashes with new lessons or positive results?

      Often, It’s kind of hard to be there for young entitled-ish folk who just had some crisis because of their attitude without putting off a “I told you so” kind of attitude.

      This tends to close them up to any advice I have to give, sadly.

      Do you (or anyone here) know a better way to speak in that moment when a young person is coming out of a “crash” due to their poor attitudes?

  • Chris hall

    Darn, I had to read this whole article, couldn’t you have created a podcast and sent it to my phone? Yes, I’m just kidding. We have 5 kiddies and it takes a ton of work to teach them independence. I can totally understand that some parents give in here and there. Ultimately, it’s up to those kids to be the person they want to be.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Haha love your humor, Chris. Thank you for sharing!

  • Mark Thometz

    While I agree that many young people my age have these problems I’d like to point out 2 quick things. 1. Not ALL young people have the “entitled” mindset. The reason I don’t is I had parents that taught me otherwise. I want an allowance, I better work for it. I want a certain toy or special treat? I had better be prepared to pay for it or work it off. I want to go to college? I better work, save and get a lot of scholarships (which I did) and find a way to pay for it. 2. Many times kids feel entitled because their parents didn’t teach them otherwise. It drives me crazy to hear older generations say, “Well, we never acted like this” because it was up to your generation to teach us how to behave. In the same way it is my generation’s job to teach the next generation and so on and so forth. Clearly too many parents failed to teach their kids how to work hard and not give in to the sense of entitlement. If you raise a child and constantly give them whatever their little heart desires, then they will probably grow up with a sense of entitlement. Just some thoughts, thank you.

    • Whitney Combs

      Yup. I struggled growing up (after I left for college, how sad!) because my parents’ concern wasn’t on raising and teaching me but rather on first time obedience, control, and a perfectly clean house. I was taught nothing of life, just not to make my mother mad and if she chose to become angry and out of control it was so totally my fault and I better believe I was going to pay for it. I think that’s why my generation has begun to trend away from the lives baby boomers lived and values they held (some for better and some….ouch)- we’ve discovered what and how we were taught DIDN’T work, because they were simply consumed with following self instead of teaching the next generation. Course, when you live a crunchy lifestyle, you’re goin to gravitate towards similar so perhaps my perception of 30-40’s doing better and getting it right is simply due to my limited life bubble. All this to say, I agree. And I think you’re courageous to say that given the flack I’ve experienced if I even insinuate it. I think overall the people in my parents’ generation did not concern themselves enough with proper raising and TEACHING of future adults, but simply held a very limited “don’t mess with me and my stuff” focus.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Hi Mark, I agree. To your first point there are always exceptions. As for your second point, I have always said we as parents shouldn’t be angry – We created this world and helped kids become who they are today. Nevertheless we as adults need to change the way we prepare students for the life ahead of them.

      • Mark Thometz

        Thank you for the response, Mr. Elmore. I’m praying already that when my wife and I are blessed with kids that we can honor God by how we parent. I know it is only by His grace and strength we could strive for great parenthood.

        • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

          You have such a great attitude towards parenting, Mark. Thank you for wanting to help your future kids become healthy adults.

  • Gigit

    I see this in kids a lot, but I also see it in parents all too often. Too much focus is placed on new toys (boats, motorcycles, clothes, electronics), and the kids see their parents just pull out a credit card. And I see so many adults focused on their own wants and desires, but little or no focused placed on helping others or showing concern for those who hurting in some way. It’s a ‘me’ society, and kids are becoming products of their environment.

    • StepMom

      Agreed! As the “non-custodial parent” household, we find the custodial parent (mom) does everything in her power to give the 2 teens everything they want, without ANY contribution from the kids, so she can remain forever the “favorite parent”. Then, (on the rare occasions) when they are with us and we don’t follow her methods, we are labeled as slave-driving cheapskates who don’t care about the kids. All because we expect 15-yr olds to clean up after themselves, know basic life skills and that we don’t have an endless budget to spend on expensive vacations and $200 Nike shoes every 3 months. It’s tough being responsible, but we may be the only example of it they ever see, so we press on.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I agree, Gigit. I continually tell adults that character is learned when it is seen. If kids see this type of behavior they will mirror it.

  • Anna

    My son likes to ask me what he can do to help me, to make my life easier as a now-single mom. It sounds really sweet, but when I tell him what he can do (clean up after himself, help around the house), he doesn’t do any of it. It’s all lip service. I get disgusted, but then I think it’s probably a little tit for tat, from how I was with my own mom. Kids can be selfish, that’s for sure. And it’s the parents who have to step up to hold them accountable.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Love the last point you made, Anna – Parents have to step up and hold kids accountable. It reminds me of More Equations, Less Rules principle I encourage adults to use with today’s students – http://growingleaders.com/blog/less-rules-more-equations/

  • Tina

    I am a mother of 3, my ex-husband and I began raising our kids
    in a very privileged world, and they had it all. In 2010 my children’s father
    abandoned us decided he did not want to play house any more, quite his job and left all responsibilities on me; bills, house and most of all the kids
    expectations. I went from not keeping up with the Joneses; I was “the Jonsees”
    to poverty poor. I was homeless with 3 kids and no job, the man that promised
    “forever” decided forever ended after 13 years. Life has and is difficult
    for us but it has made me realize one thing my generation is raising
    “entitled kids” (aka) BRATS and I was one of them, if the
    change in my life had not taken place I would not have seen this.

    My children today know what its like to not have cool
    clothes, no food or a room to call home, its heart breaking but when I see them
    now appreciate the small things part of me is glad change took place.

    In addition
    to your list I would like to add “seeing things through” teaching
    kids the meaning of commitment, having to see the commitment through even if we decide
    later its no longer what we want.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      So sorry to hear you had to go through this situation, but am glad you made the best of it. You seem to be a wonderful mother.

      You bring up a great point that I have wrote about before – We need to build commitment and resiliency in today’s students.

      Thank you for sharing, Tina!

  • Whitney Combs

    Love the lunch one. Recently had a conversation with my child’s middle school cafe manager that went – “Your child seems to get a free courtesy lunch every day.”
    “yes, it is apparent that you give him one.”
    “Well, could you fill up [meaning with money] his lunch account so he can BUY lunch or send him with a lunch so he wouldn’t ‘have’ to get a free courtesy lunch everyday?” (emphasis mine)
    “I could. However, we think 12 years old is old enough for him to be responsible for making and taking his own lunch every day and if he chooses not to, after we spend so much money on food at home, he should bear the negative consequences. As well, he has plenty of opportunity at home to earn money (if that’s what he wants to spend it on), and he chooses not to. AND we give him enough lunch money for at least a week per month; it’s up to him how to allocate that throughout the month.”
    “So, why do you think he’s getting a free courtesy lunch everyday?”
    “I think he thinks if you’re going to give him free food that he doesn’t have to make or pay for he’s chosen to take your enabling over our expectation of responsibility.”
    ——silence——- ——awkward silence——– “Oh, OK, well I just wanted to make sure you knew. THank you for your time.”

    We DAILY have situations like this where everyone else in his life encourages rebellion and enables poor choices by steamrolling over our parenting because of a difference in opinion or government regulations (in a public school environment) and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Perhaps this generation is not simply entitled because of poor parenting but perhaps they’re “trending” that way because parents can only do so much to counteract others’ interference. At least that’s been OUR experience, but we also are counterculture in many ways so sometimes it shocks me to hear things that some take as commonplace.

    • Erica I

      As I read the article, I was wondering why my children’s school did not call me on the odd occasion that my kids forgot lunch, but instead gave them a lunch and expected me to turn around and pay for it. It didn’t make sense to me, either.

    • Melanie

      We have battled this same thing with schools! Our children are required to make and take their lunch. Trust me, they won’t starve if they go 6 hours between feedings, but they will suffer just enough to remind them next time to take their food! Allowing my children to suffer consequences is the best way for them to learn.

  • Aaron

    “Being offended when disciplined”
    When being redirected or corrected young people often get offended by the correction rather than seeing it as an act of love and development.

    • Claire

      And then after they are offended, they don’t seem to understand why this must be happening even though it is the same thing they have done before and have been made aware of this fact.

  • Mumsgrumbler

    Finding every opportunity to take… And rarely taking an opportunity to give.

    Run to be first in line. Take the last of something you don’t even need. Collect large amounts of things to keep others from the opportunity. Sharing personal opinion and connections that are not remotely appropriate to the conversation or the learning. Worrying about order when it does not matter. Always insisting that equal is the only way for fairness. I deserve it because he has it… Not because I need it.

  • Daniel Craig

    Do what I did when my youngest son could not get over himself….I put all his crap in the driveway, changed the locks and said ” you don’t live here any more”. He moved to Colorado shorter there after and grew up.

  • craig

    I have seen a combination of “everyone gets a medal for trying” coupled with instant gratification. I see this manifest in employees who feel they deserve a reward just because they worked hard. Working hard is good, but with 3 years of experience you’re not going to be leading a 10 person team. And if the product you complete isn’t right, I’m not going to celebrate until it is right.

    • Jen

      Just a thought…but I have noticed that big business doesn’t value it’s employees like it used to either. So if you put in all those extra hours and say you’re salaried it’s rare to see them offer any praise. They just seem to expect more. It’s a cycle that keeps going ’round.

  • Sharon Rodriguez

    I hear “I deserve it” a lot. Really? What makes you think you deserve anything?

  • Zero G

    Children learn entitlement mentality as much from their parents as their peers.
    Teach your children the value of money early and they will work hard to save instead of spend. As they grow, let your children understand how family budget decisions are made and teach them to explain the importance of their purchases.

  • ATeacher

    At the end of every school year Elementary teachers write each students school growth for that year in a cum file. There is a box marked “Leadership” to check if the student had developed certain qualities. This list of five are the telling lack of leadership growth necessary to become a fully developed citizen. Thank you.

  • LoveReading<3

    As a high school teacher, I get the “just be proud I showed up” or “I did something – give me an A” attitudes. They don’t want to work or learn – they just want a grade so they can “graduate and get out of here.” They seem to believe in some kind of magic that will hit them when they go to college that will make them instantly ready without their having to do anything to get there. I am supposed to just be happy that they grace my presence each day!

  • LoveReading<3

    - and the way I fight it? I give them what they earn, which means I have very few A or even B averages in my classes, and I am NOT the most popular teacher in school!!

  • Jordan

    This is my generation – I can attest to the struggle. This is something I have to fight daily in my life. I am grateful to have realized the battle. I hope the same for my younger siblings who are edging in this direction.

  • smw

    The “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. Should I really have to pat you on the head and give you a gold star because you showed up for work? No. I PAY you to be here. You get a gold star for performing above expectations and fulfilling the standards that are set for you. This generation expects constant assurance and accolades for every minor talent or task completed.

  • Ashley

    I have problems with this with my kids all the time…and yes we are partly to blame but it’s not just my husband and I. My daughter saw a therapist for some issues and the therapist actually told me that she should not be helping to take care of her sister, that she needs to just worry about herself. Um, excuse me? But I know my other children are not my oldest child’s responsibilities, but if she wants privileges (of which she gets many) she will be expected to help out. And I don’t solve all their problems for them (only when things get out of hand)…I won’t drive my kids to school if they are getting ready too slow (we live within walking distance). One child has been late numerous times…much better after she got her detention. She even sat there as I told the school she was going to be late, not to excuse her because it was her own doing, and that she needs to learn to take responsibility for her actions. The sad thing is I felt the need to call the school and tell them because I was worried about what they would do if they thought I was just allowing my daughter to arrive late to school.

  • wri7913

    As a manager, I don’t see much of the entitlement syndrome. I see more of the lack of work ethic than anything else. It is rare to find an outstanding employee who will push the bar when it comes to work excellence. Too many people are simply willing to call from work for no reason rather than show up and plug through their shift.

  • Thomas Dugan

    I have friends that had seven children. While growing up, they ALL had to spend Saturday mornings in service to the family. No exceptions. Helping dad with projects, mowing the lawn, housework, etc. After the morning, they were free to do as they wished.
    Also, my parents never simply gave me money if I wanted to purchase some small toy while growing up. They would come up with a list of tasks that I could do to earn the money. The correlation was always there. You want something? Earn it.

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      I love the application of less rules, more equations. Kids need to know their behaviors have rewards and consequences.

      Thanks, Thomas!

  • sc

    The 6th one is…”It’s not my fault…”

  • Scott

    I don’t think there is more entitlement in the young generation than there was from the third. This all just supports the narrative that kids are lazy and that’s why they are poor instead of address the income gap caused by the corruption in politics and globalization. Adjusted to inflation, the the adults that came into the world in the 50s and 60s had a minimum wage equivalent to $24 an hour by today’s standard. So basically, I make 1/3 of what you older folks did, and I have a four year degree in business and I can’t get past the gap of entry level eight years after getting this degree, so I just run the cafe in the college today for $8 an hour. I thought I’d make a homestead and live a self sufficient life, but no, there are tons of invisible codes and minimum size standards, making it impossible to build a mortgage free home. I have learned to grow crops and will raise chickens this spring, but I’ve no ability to make the leap. I do love how all these old folks like to blame the younger generation for being lazy and ignore the real problems. I found this article to be highly offensive.

  • Adam McGoldrick

    I raise my kids with character in mind. Courage, work ethic, fortitude, persistence and patience are just some of the values that I encourage. I set expectations of the type of behavior that I expect. I praise them when I see good character displayed. Praise and expectation are great motivators of children if used properly. If they don’t show good character I pull them up on it. It is not rocket science, people have been parenting for character since before Plato.

  • DeDe Wylie

    So guilty of having raised my 4th and 6th grader to be this way. So how do we undo it?

  • Jamie Sterbonic Brannon

    PITIFUL. I don’t know my son’s employer or how to get in touch with them & that’s how it should be. Jeez.

  • Robert Harris

    What I notice among good kids who are of the entitlement generation is that they will gladly agree to do a task or participate in a group effort, but then they will only do it when it is done their way. There is no room for alternative approaches. They view any leadership that attempts to get them to accept the ideas of others as being “unloving”, unkind, or mean toward some body. In their mind it seems like they equate their opinion with morality. It can be perceived as though they have scanned the whole realm of human experience and know what is best all the time. I think they mean well, but entitlement has blurred something…

  • Steffy44

    I learned the lessons a long time ago. We used to buy our kids their video games…destroyed in 2 days. Rule put in place that they purchase them and just like magic they haven’t been destroyed since. They work for extra money. I don’t believe in an allowance to do things normal residents of a home should do like cleaning your room, etc. I have taught my sons to cook basics and how to do their laundry. I nearly cried when my 13 yo asked if he could get a job at the grocery store!

  • Jerry

    Not to be Mr Negative here, but the comments are full of middle age folk jumping on the band wagon of “kids these days.”
    First off this “insightful blog post” is comprised of a fictitious quote from a company and person that have no names criticizing people in their 20s. The rest of the piece (except for 4 sentences) is simply quoting another blogger, who wrote her piece based off quotes from Glen Beck (a “wise man” of our television age). What really bothers me, aside from the fact that the entire post is copied and pasted, is that after taking a jab at this country’s future, a future burdened by a crisis fueled by the prior generations greed, the rest of the points all relate to little children. Last I checked, children for hundreds of years have been wanting money from their parents, wanting to play instead of work, and wanting everything right away.

    This blending of 20 year olds and 10 year olds is far from fair as most reasonable people would concede that while both groups are in stages of life where they would like to have whatever they want and right away, the gap of immaturity is large.

    Every generation in their 20s is self absorbed, but if you insist on calling Gen Y the most entitled I only ask where do you think they learned it from…? Certainly not from their teachers and parents in Gen X or the boomers, because us “wise mature” folk were never like “kids these days.”

    • http://www.GrowingLeaders.com Tim Elmore

      Hi Jerry,

      Thank you for your comment. It reminded me that I had not linked one of the quotes. It is from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122455219391652725

      While I understand that most people regardless of generation are “self-absorbed” in their 20s, studies show that this generation has the highest levels of narcissism compared to previous generations. How adults parent their kids at age 10, affects their attitudes and actions at age 20. As I have discussed in many other articles, we as adults have done this to our children. They are this way because of us. In light of that realization, we must adjust the way we lead today’s kids.

      Here is a link to the longitudinal study of the rise of narcissism – http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/7724

  • Bill m

    This was great! As a teacher #1 & 2 are the ones I see the most. I don’t take late work and never give extra credit work and a lot of parents and student are shocked by this.