Editor’s note: Parent polls from a number of sources, including the Meridian Reader poll, indicate that the most worried-about parenting challenge of all is the entitlement attitudes of today’s kids.  Responding to this concern, the Eyres have undertaken a multi-part series on entitlement which will appear here in the pages of Meridian each Monday.

Ever since we started writing about entitlement, we have been receiving feedback comments both on Meridian Magazine and at www.valuesparenting.com/contactus. Thanks for your inputs on Entitlement.  We thought we would just post a few of your “stories” from the hundreds we have received:  (If nothing else, this will make parents realize that they are “not alone” in facing the Entitlement Trap.)

“Our eight year old son was aghast when we suggested he might have to work to earn some money to replace the neighbor’s window that he had broken while throwing rocks.  ‘You’re my mom, that’s the kind of thing you are supposed to take care of.’”

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“My nine year old came up to me the other day and said, “I have to have a credit card. . . or a cell phone.  At least one of them.” 

“The other day my four year old was asked to pick up her things and straighten the bathroom she had just destroyed by giving her Barbie a bath.  Her response was, ‘Isn’t that what Maria is for?’  Maria is the very kind woman who has helped clean and babysit while I worked part time from home the last couple of years.”

“A few weeks ago, I was shopping with my four year old, who saw something he “really wanted”. He got upset when I said “no” and angrily asked me why I wouldn’t buy it for him. My response was “Because I don’t want to spend the money on that”. He frowned, growled at me and said “Fine, then you just give me the money and I’ll pay for it.”

“The other day our 13-year-old daughter, Kylie asked me, “So what car am I going to get when I turn 16?”  I burst out laughing! I asked her why she thought that she would be getting a car when she turned 16 and she said, “Well, I’ll be old enough to drive.” I was speechless.  She didn’t say it with haughtiness or whine; it was all stated very matter of fact.  I thought to myself, “What have we done?”

If we had the space, we would print dozens of these…..just to show how many varieties in which entitlement comes.

Entitlement robs our children of the two prime elements of joy:  1. Appreciation and gratitude, and 2. Work and fulfillment.

     In giving them what they want, we deprive them of what they need.

So as much as we might like to say “its society’s problem”, the fact is that it is our problem and our kids’ problem, perhaps the biggest one they face, the one that will affect their future the most.

And we as parents are the biggest cause…..

In the name of love, we give our kids    

         indulgence rather than consequences…..

         instant rather than delayed gratification….

laziness rather than discipline…..

dependence rather than independence….

       and entitlement rather than responsibility.

 So what is the answer?  What is the antidote?

The whole entitlement problem that so frustrates parents would be solved if we could find a way to help our kids feel true ownership

When people feel that they own things, they take care of them.

As parents, we must find reliable methods to get our children to feel the kind of ownership—of toys, of money, of goals, of grades, of choices, of their bodies, of their conflicts—that gives them a sense of pride and will foster responsibility and displace indulgence-based-entitlement.

And if possible we must do it while our kids are young, before the exponential consequences of entitlement trap them for good in their teenage and adult years. 

Ownership is the lever that can spring kids out of the entitlement trap and motivate them to work for and earn what they want, to take care of things, to fight through difficulty, to face up to their own problems, and to decide for themselves what they want from life.

Over the next few weeks, (always on Mondays, except today) we will explore some ideas and methods to help kids feel ownership and thus to overcome and reverse their sense of entitlement.

The ownership we are speaking of is chosen, earned ownership, something a child decides on and works for and takes pride in, something that is the opposite of the false ownership of taking whatever someone will give you, of constantly wanting more stuff, more privilege, more latitude to do whatever you want.

The Eyres’ next book is THE ENTITLEMENT TRAP*: How to rescue your child with a new family system of choosing, earning, and Ownership.  Parts of that book are excerpted for this series.  Richard and Linda are New York Times #1 bestselling authors who lecture throughout the world on family related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com

*The Entitlement Trap can now be preordered. See details at www.valuesparenting.com