Monday, July 2, 2007

Is It just Me

Written by Desert Songbird from The Ice Box

Back in mid-April, my friend Greg, a teacher, told me that he and his wife, also a teacher, decided that because their oldest was about to graduate high school, they would take an extended road trip, camping along the California coast, and culminating with a two-week stay at their summer home in Washington. They would drive back through Yellowstone, camping along the way, before returning home to Arizona.

They laid out their plans to their 18-year-old son, their 15-year-old daughter, and their 4-year-old son. The youngest was thrilled; the teenagers eye-balled each other, then one asked, “You’re gonna buy us plane tickets to meet you in Washington, right?”

Greg and his wife stared at their eldest, glanced briefly each other, and then nodded.


Am I the only one who has a problem with the sense of entitlement that seems to be prevalent among many kids today?

I admit I’m a bit of a hard-nose parent. I grew up the youngest child of hard-working immigrants. My parents couldn’t afford to give my sisters and me many luxuries, but what we did have was a whole lot of love and fun. Our family vacations involved picnics and hiking in nearby state parks. I grew up knowing that money was scarce, and rewards were the benefit of hard work.

When I was in grade school, there seemed to be a consensus in the United States that children were suffering from low self-esteem and needed more positive reinforcement. Instead of reprimands and punishments, teachers began rewarding students with candy and homework passes (the “get of homework FREE” pass) when a student did something well. When they did not, they received a sad faced sticker or a dulcet-toned “tsk tsk” from the teacher. At competitions, all participants received a certificate, medal, or ribbon acknowledging each child’s participation and sense of fair play

For generations this practice has continued, and now we seemingly have legions of young adults who feel that everything they do deserves a pat on the back, a monetary remuneration, or some other reward simply because they showed up.

My husband and I don’t subscribe to this theory that children need to be coddled and protected from hard work and scolding. I’m not saying we don’t praise our children. When they have worked to complete a difficult task, we show them our pride with a hug and/or a “high five.” When they bring home a report card that reflects their diligence and best effort, we celebrate with a dinner out. Our kids know when we are proud, and they know when we are disappointed. We reward generously, and we correct with authority and love.

Our kids may be young, but they are beginning to understand that hard work and sacrifice are expected in order to reap rewards not just in our family life but in society as well. They will be compensated when they have earned it, not just because they are cute or funny.


I looked at Greg with incredulity. “You’re not seriously going to cave into that demand, are you?”

Sheepishly he replied, “Well, yeah. Who wants to drive thousands of miles listening to two teenagers whine the whole time?”

I shook my head in disbelief. “If it were me, I’d tell them, you can ride in the car with the family and have no expenses, or you fly in a plane and meet us there, but you have to pay for your own plane ticket. You decide.”

Greg blinked a few times, then a knowing smile spread slowly across his face. “I like that! That works for me!”


Desert Songbird lives in the American Southwest desert with her husband and two children. When she’s not scolding her children, she’s proudly watching them at basketball games, dance lessons, and tae kwon do classes, silently cheering them. She also donates time to her kids’ school, her church, and friends in need. You can read more about her foibles and adventures at The Ice Box and Ice Box Project 365.


feener said...

so true, i recall my parents taking us on a houseboat trip and i was just a teen, i was soooo mean and bitchy the whole trip b/c i didn't want to miss a week with my friends. by the end of the trip i was loving it....i hate myself for not having just enjoyed it and realize how much my folks sacrificed to take us on the trip

Surviving Motherhood said...

Seriously? they were just going to buy them plane tickets?!

Wow, why didn't I try that one on my parents when I was a kid?

Oh yeah, because I would have got smacked on the side of the head and reminded just how grateful I should be for going at all.

Velveteen Mind said...

I could write a blog entry of my own in your comments about the sense of entitlement that exists in the 15-30 year old set right now. And I'm in that set. So is my younger brother... okay, no blog post in the comments. No blog post in the comments.

Rumor has it that the tide is changing with the children that we are raising right now. We can hope. And I'm certainly trying.

Fantastic post!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if you want to go on the plane, go right ahead and buy your own ticket!

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Sensible One said...

No, it's not just you! We were just discussing this very topic amongst our family the other night. Although, I too could write a blog post in your comments about this, I'll keep it quick and say that this sense of entitlement is why so many employers are pulling their hair out these days with the younger set of workers. Like you said, they want rewards just for showing up! Well said.

nutmeg said...

I wouldn't have made the deal with my kids - even if they paid. Can you imagine the bond such a trip would build with your older children? I know it would because I was forced to make a similar trip with my family - in an RV traveling through canada when I was 19. Yes, I griped and whined and yes, I cherish the memories of that incredibly special trip to this day. Sometimes you have to push to find the beautiful.

A great post!

Wolf Lover Girl said...

Wow! I never would have thought to ask my parents to buy me an airline ticket because I didn't want to ride with them on a family vacation.

Glad your friend came to his senses.

~ Wolf Lover Girl

NOLADawn said...

Great post. As a teacher of this generation, I am constantly amazed at what the kids today have that I still don't have as a 36yo woman with a JOB!

Sanni said...

My teenager self wouldn´t even have thought about asking my parents to by a ticket. Spending time with my parents was too rare to miss the chance of a (fun) road trip.

You did a great job on this article.
I´m sitting here asking myself how Luis will be in 13 years ;)

kailani said...

There is no way I'd give in to that. If my child had that attitude, I'd leave them home and go on vacation without them! ;-)

Daddy Forever said...

That's one of my concerns in raising our kids -- the sense of entitlement. I want my kids to be happy, but not to the point where they expect to get every thing they want. Life just doesn't work that way and I don't want them to grow up thinking way that either.

Mama Zen said...

Buy a plane ticket? Only one answer for that: Get in the damn car!

Misssy M said...

I can't bear it when I see parents bowing down to their children's unreasonable demands. The other week my childminder gave my friend a bag of her daughter's outgrown clothes.
Some days later when the kid (4) turned up wearing one of the t-shirts, chilminder's daughter goes ape (she is 9). "That's MY T-shirt!"

What did childminder do? Took it off 4 year old and gave it back to her screaming 9 year old.

What's the bet that brat's going to be demanding plane tickets in 10 year's time?

Karmyn R said...

I'd make those kids walk - and then see how they complain about the car ride! (ha ha)

Anonymous said...

So I was just wondering, how did this turn out?

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