I’ve been re-reading Amy McCready’s excellent parenting book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic. In so doing, it’s occurred to me that our generation of parents may be best remembered for our spectacular ability to give our children what they want when they want it.
Need a lesson in promoting entitlement? Look no further.
- Make sure your kids have access to all the latest iDevices anytime they want. For example, they can be playing games on an iPad in the car while you are chauffeuring them around. That way, they won’t even respond when you ask them about school or point out something interesting to them. (They won’t even know where they are, or where they are going, and so they won’t ask you those annoying “Are we there yet?” questions! You’ll probably have to nag them to get out of the car they’ll like being there so much!) Similarly, if they have their phone at dinner, they won’t ever have to stop texting their friends, or engage in dinner table conversation — and so they will never be bored or antsy!
- Do everything within your power to prevent your kids from feeling pain. This includes any sort of discomfort, difficulty, or disappointment. Cover for them when they make mistakes. Insist teachers raise mediocre grades. That way, kids won’t learn how to rise to challenges or handle their mistakes themselves, and they will feel entitled to a life free from discomfort or disappointment. And when the going gets rough in the future, they’ll be more likely to find a way to lie or cheat their way out of the situation — or they’ll instantly start blaming others.
- When things aren’t going your way, point to the shortcomings of other people. You are entitled to good service from the dry cleaners, cable guy, flight attendants, etc.. Since your kids will never have one of these jobs (see tip ten), there is really no need to show empathy or compassion towards underperforming service workers. Similarly, when your kids bring home bad grades, listen earnestly to their accusations about how bad their teachers are. Consider complaining to the Principal or School Head, or at least send an angry email. (Note: This strategy makes it likely that your kids will also complain harshly about you, which can be an excellent way to get in touch with your own shortcomings.)
- Give them money whenever they need it. This is easier than remembering to dole out allowance, helping them find a job, teaching them to manage their own money, or helping them understand the relative cost of all they things they desperately “need.”
- Pay for as many enrichment activities, tutors, and the best sports teams you can afford. When you pay a lot for something, the coaches, faculty and staff tend to feel they owe kids more success, praise, higher scores, trophies, etc. They are also more likely to go out of their way to ensure that your kids have a good time — and that they never feel defeated or disappointed.
- Give your kids a break, especially if they (or you) aren’t feeling well. Everyone is under a lot of pressure these days. It is okay to limit kids’ video game playing or youtube watching to two hours a day, for example, but these rules can be ridiculously hard to enforce on a day-to-day basis, much less if anything out of the ordinary is happening. If you think they might have a sore throat, or if they seem too tired to go to school, let them stay home and watch Netflix or ESPN all day — especially if they don’t like school very much.
- Refuse to consistently enforce bedtimes. It is normal for kids to want to stay up late, especially if they are texting with their friends or there is a big game on TV. One night, nag them until they go to bed. The next night, you’ll likely all be tired from the previous night’s effort, so just let them choose their own bedtime, or ignore them until they fall asleep on their own. That way they will realize that, actually, they are in control of their bedtimes. If their attention or impulse control at school suffers because they are tired, excellent stimulants, like Ritalin, are widely available.
- Confide in your kids as though they are your close friends, especially if you really need someone to talk to about a problem or if you are already crying or enraged. Lack of boundaries creates the expectation that your business is their business to worry about and fix. Having you as a friend first and parent second ensures that their close friendships with peers don’t fully develop, and therefore won’t interfere with their closeness to you (or their ability to support you when you need them). Moreover, this lack of boundaries will ensure that they are often rude to you, much in the same way they are with their siblings.
- Don’t insist kids write thank you notes. Kids are busy, and so are you (and we all know it is you that will be saddled with addressing and mailing the notes). People already know that kids are grateful for all they have and everything that receive; no need for them to learn how to express their appreciation in written form, especially given how much they already have going on.
- Make sure they never have to do an entry-level or minimum wage job. Boredom is uncomfortable and unnecessary (see tip two). Working their way up in an organization is a waste of time if you can use your connections to help them start at the top; hopefully they’ll pick up a strong work-ethic from all the people around them that did earn their positions. (If they need cash, see tip four.) Bonus # one: Kids start to assume that all adults are willing to go the extra mile for them, and that they are entitled to skip the hard bits in life. Bonus # two: This will greatly reduce the odds that they’ll ever work in a service industry, or have the chance to work along side people different from them — and increase the odds that they’ll act superior and degrading to servers and cashiers everywhere.
- Above all, let them out of their chores around the house. Kids often have trouble managing their time; it is understandable if they are distracted by video games, Instagram, or 10,000 texts from their friends. Nothing is more relevant to adolescents than what is happening on their phones — remember, this is normal. They need to keep up with the social scene if they are to have friends and be accepted by their peer group. If they have homework, don’t compound their distraction or time-management issues by asking them to empty the dishwasher.
These techniques will ensure not just that your kid will be ill-mannered and entitled, but also possibly insecure, materialistic, anxious (or arrogant), and dependent. They definitely won’t develop the skills they need to sustain lasting and loyal friendships without your near constant interference, to handle stress and anxiety without drugs and alcohol, or to hold down a real job without your connections. What better way to shore up our family connections than to ensure that our kids always live with us?
***Does this post make you cringe? It makes me a little nervous because I have done nearly all of these things myself at some point as a parent! But then I remember that :
We are parenting in a culture that makes it very easy to make these mistakes! Even so, we can raise kind kids with strong characters.***
Best known for her weekly Happiness Tips, Christine Carter, Ph.D., draws on psychology, sociology, and neuroscience, and uses her own real-world adventures to demonstrate happiness dos and don’ts in action. Dr. Carter is a sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, and the author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work (January 2015) RAISING HAPPINESS: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. She teaches happiness classes online throughout the year to a global audience on her website www.christinecarter.com.
Image courtesy of Michael Bentley.