How to Combat an Entitlement Mentality

In February 2019, a 27-year-old posted a viral video on YouTube. Wearing a fake beard and sunglasses, Raphael Samuel announced he was suing his parents because he was conceived without his consent. This was not a joke.

Raphael grew up in India and felt he was entitled to payments for life, since he didn’t ask for all the hassles life offers like going to school and finding a job. After all, he did not give his permission to be born, right? So Raphael felt his parents owed him cash. “I want everyone in India and the world to realize one thing: that they are born without their consent. I want them to understand that they do not owe their parents anything,” he said. “If we are born without our consent, we should be maintained for life. We should be paid by our parents to live.”

This was only the beginning.

He then spoke directly to kids, saying, “To children, I would like to say: do not do anything for your parents if you do not want to…” Wow. That’s quite a declaration to kids who are minors and their brain is still developing.

To explain, Rafael has embraced the life philosophy, “anti-natalism,” an increasingly popular, yet outlandish, ideology that believes it is morally wrong for people to procreate. It takes a nihilistic approach towards human life.

What’s most strange is—Raphael likes his parents.

“My life has been amazing,” he reflected. But he doesn’t see why he should have to endure the annoyances of life, just because his parents wanted a child. His mother and father, both attorneys, said they admire his temerity, but Mom added: “If Raphael could come up with a rational explanation as to how we could have sought his consent to be born, I will accept my fault.”

I think Rafael Samuel takes “entitlement” to a whole new level. Unfortunately, he illustrates the paradigm of a new generation.

How Did We Get Here?

As history evolved, our lives have changed. As human civilization marches forward, we develop new methods and technologies to make life easier, swifter and more efficient. We call it progress. The unintended consequence of such progress is that as we improve the ease of our lives, we also change expectations. We expect life to be better, faster, and more efficient. And as expectations increase, so does our sense of entitlement. We feel completely entitled to items past generations dreamed about:

  • We feel entitled to indoor plumbing and electricity.
  • We feel entitled to heating and air conditioning.
  • We feel entitled to good customer service.
  • We feel entitled to high speed Internet and technology.
  • We feel entitled to perks like money, jobs and special benefits.

Truth be told—the higher we climb on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Need, the more perks we naturally tend to expect in life. We feel people owe us “stuff.” We no longer think of survival but of pleasure. We deserve it. In fact, self-actualization can become narcissism quite rapidly.

Three Reality Checks to Combat This Natural Sense of Entitlement

There’s no easy answer, but I found three ingredients worked in my home as our children grew up, as Millennials. We gave them a steady diet of reality checks:

1. Proper Expectations

We had plenty of conversations about expectations with our kids and for our kids. When their peers got expensive toys or portable devices—we tried to adjust their expectations. Our children soon learned their parents were intentional about our leadership. Learning to delay gratification was more important than owning a new product. Our goal was not to keep up with the Jones’ but to raise great future adults. When my wife oversaw a community theatre program, she told our kids not to expect automatic favor during their auditions. She would leave the room, and they would have to earn it just like any other kid. Expectations must be clear. In fact, conflict arises only when there’s distance between expectations and reality.

2. Broadened Exposure

When our kids reached various milestones in their maturation, (first year of school; middle school; freshman year of high school), we exposed them to trips and places that unveiled how millions in the world live. We took trips to developing nations and exposed them to refugees who found a way to survive; we exposed them to low-income locations where people found a way to be happy. This was always a reality check for all of us. In fact, our family financially adopted some children in two African nations. We saw two benefits: we helped to fund their schooling, and we reminded ourselves we’re not entitled to anything.  Exposure almost always brings perspective.

3. First-hand Experience

The best way to overcome a sense of entitlement is first-hand experiences of what life is really like. Both of my kids remember working their first jobs, and how work adjusted their attitudes about money and possessions. It also deepened their gratitude. Both arrogance and entitlement increase as we watch passively on the sidelines. Things always look easier to armchair quarterbacks. Perspective comes when we’re forced to jump into the work that needs to be done with ownership and grit. A friend of mine told me his teenage son was constantly criticizing retail store staff for being so slow and lazy. The teen stopped one week after getting a job at one of those stores. Those who row the boat usually don’t have time to rock the boat.

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How to Combat an Entitlement Mentality