I was talking to two local moms the other day in separate conversations. One has a 13-year-old, the other has 7-year-old triplets. When talking about our children’s generation, they both said the kids today had a sense of entitlement and that they will never have the work ethic of their parents’ (our) generation. I suppose that could be said for all generations, but it seems more of a problem today. As with all generations, I blame it on us parents. Who else would be feeding this sense of entitlement?

My own 13-year-old was angry with us because she was the only one in 7th grade that didn’t have her own laptop. She has to share a laptop with her 10-year-old sister. (We have 3 other computers and an iPad, but they aren’t “hers”.) So, instead of buying her one, we told her to use her money. After a huge fit in which we were called mean parents, we headed off to the store to look for one that would fit her budget. We took her to five stores – other kids in tow. She was short by $50.00 to $100.00 for what she wanted. Sorry, better luck next time. We told her to save her money and add to it until she had enough. We suggested she look online for better deals. Instead, she pouted all day and the next week went to the mall and spent half her computer money on clothes. I guess it wasn’t that important.

I am a mean parent. I make my kids do daily chores (make bed and take care of our pets). I make my 13-year-old do her own laundry. I only give out allowance if they did their chores for the week. (I don’t get paid if I don’t work.) Everyone has to help out for an hour over the weekend (yes, a whole hour) doing extra things around the house. All of my kids have been making their own breakfasts and lunches since first grade.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids have $100 Ugg slippers and I think we have eight iPods (including 4 iTouch). It was hard to come up with Christmas gift ideas because they have so much. We want them to have nice things. We know they want to keep up with what their friends have, but because of that, we need to teach them that these things don’t just fall from the sky. Someone is out there earning that money and one day, they will need to as well. My 13-year-old already has a babysitting job. I have encouraged her to find flexible jobs to fit her schedule. I hope our experiences will help her.

I get it. I had mean parents, too. When I was a teenager, we lived next to a teenage boy whose parents got him everything he asked for. He got several nice cars that he played chicken with and flipped or wrapped around a tree. When he was younger, he got every new video game that Atari had as well as the other game systems of that time. They also had a pool. I was very jealous. Today that 42-year-old man lives in the same house with his mother. He never learned how to take care of himself. Everything was handed to him.

I asked my dad for a car. He told me I could get any car I wanted that I could afford. I bought that car with my own money – $1000, when I was 17. It was a 1980 Chevy Monza. It was tan and ugly, but it was mine. After graduating early from high school, I went to work full time. Eight months later, I sold that ugly Monza and bought a brand new, black 1988 Mustang. It was also paid for with money I earned. That fall, with a big car payment, I could only go to school part time. I worked during the day and went to school at night. At 19, I got engaged and my fiance and I bought our first townhouse together. At 22, we bought a bigger place and at 27, we moved here. No one gave us money for any of the down payments. We earned it. Neither my husband or I carried any education debt. We paid for it as we went.

Do I want my kids to suffer that same fate? It was hard to work an 8-10 hour day and then go sit in a classroom for 4 hours. It was a pain to spend time doing homework when I had a house to clean. I wished for a fairy godmother every day. That hard work taught me something that I couldn’t get in a classroom. Yes, I do want my kids to work while they go to high school and college. I am not expecting them to follow my school or career choice, but I am expecting them to find a path to their own. I believe it is my job to give them the knowledge to spread their wings and fly, not have them ride on my back while I do the flying.

I think if these parents of my generation splashed a little cold water of reality on their kids, there would be fewer kids with a sense of entitlement.

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