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Jul. 20th, 2007

The Entitlement Epidemic:
Who's Really to Blame?

The list of suspects is long, and includes the state of California, Burger King, FedEx, MTV -- and parents, especially parents.
Moving On columnist Jeffrey Zaslow and Act One columnist Emily Meehan discuss allegations that young adults act entitled.

I compiled the list this month, after more than 1,000 psychologists, educators and observant readers contacted me in response to my recent column headlined "Blame It on Mr. Rogers." That column included a premise some found too provocative: Did TV icon Fred Rogers contribute to our entitlement epidemic by telling children they were "special"?

Many readers appreciated the arguments. But others felt the column was unfair to target Mr. Rogers, who was such a positive influence. I hadn't expected that column to be taken so literally, and I should have articulated the fact that Mr. Rogers also encouraged hard work and mutual respect. It's not his fault if others now misinterpret the "special" language he popularized.

The truth is, our entitlement problem has many roots:
• Indulgent parenting. Several readers argued that our kids are more capable than we think. Why do we make their beds and pour their juice long after they could do it themselves? Other readers asked why we give kids so many choices, from what's for dinner to the station on the car radio. And why do we do so much trouble-shooting for them, which leaves them dependent as young adults?

Susan Lewis, who teaches at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, calls the cellphone "the world's longest umbilical cord." At her school, when students don't like their grades, some come up after class, hand over their cellphones and say, "My mom wants to talk to you."

TIMEOUT......When did it become okay to have your parents discuss your grades with your college professor?!?!?!?!?......TIMEIN

Psychologist David Walsh says entitled parents and kids suffer from DDD -- "discipline deficit disorder" -- with symptoms such as impatience and inflated expectations. His book "No: Why Kids of All Ages Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It" has led to a movement in his home state. Minnesota Say Yes to No is a coalition of parents and educators working to counteract the culture of "more, fast, easy and fun."

Some colleges are also combating young people's sense of entitlement. At Loyola University Chicago's Graduate School of Business, Mary Burns teaches a course modeled after her book "Entitled to What? A Reality Check for the Generation Entering Corporate America."
• Consumer culture. TV shows such as MTV's "My Super Sweet 16" celebrate acquisitive lifestyles. Meanwhile, advertising fosters entitlement. Consider Burger King's slogan "Have it your way." Tim Curran of Omaha, Neb., believes it encouraged rudeness and selfishness, leading people to become "unglued over minutiae," such as burgers that arrive with unwanted pickles.

FedEx began as a service for packages that "absolutely, positively" have to get there overnight. The slogan helped cement the idea that everyone is entitled to instant gratification, argues Jonathan Spira, CEO of Basex Inc., a business research firm.
• The self-esteem movement. In 1986, California created a state task force on self-esteem. Schools nationwide later adopted "everybody's a winner" philosophies. One teacher told me that her superiors advised her to tell students that she liked their smiles, or the way they sat up straight, rather than focusing on, say, their failed spelling tests.

Yes, it's important for kids to like themselves. But many readers long for some balance. One California woman wrote that her grandchildren are being raised on "self-esteem babble." This year, her grandson wanted to play trumpet in the school talent show, but hardly practiced. Every note he played was wrong, yet he thought he was "awesome."

At the show, so many acts were horrible, though the kids seemed proud, the grandmother wrote. "One child had real talent, but my grandchildren couldn't see past their own self-absorption to even recognize it."

There are remedies, if adults are willing to model good behavior. Syd Corbett, a teacher in Ocala, Fla., says he keeps reminding students: "Self-esteem comes from the self doing something worthy of esteem."


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
All I have to say is...not MY parents. But it's true. We're being told as a country that it's OK to be mediocre because you tried your hardest so instead of trying harder people get patted on the back and a cookie. And then folks are worried about people from other countries being more qualified and "taking" their jobs.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 20th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
Jul. 20th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
How can you try harder if you've already tried your hardest? And I've encountered the opposite, actually, young people being so stressed and working so hard they shut down.
Jul. 21st, 2007 05:55 am (UTC)
I think that young people are being stressed because they're not being taught properly. Not blaming the teachers, but school sets them up to pass tests and BS on essays and memorize facts without ever really understanding the meanings of what's behind them. So, frankly it doesn't matter how stressed they are because they're not going to need half the things they learned anyway because they only needed it to get a grade.

I spent some time in college and I felt like my love of learning was suffering because I was too busy trying to pass. And I think that I was around people who believed that have whatever major they had was DEFINITELY going to make them money and just did it for that reason alone.

I also took up Human Services, and dealt with other students AND even professors that said things like "My parents never yelled at me or raised their voices when I was growing up" or used words like "authoritarian" to describe African-American styles of parenting when I told them that I believe that children need discipline. Many of them disagreed with me because they were all about making friends with your kids and whatnots.
Jul. 20th, 2007 05:34 pm (UTC)
The idea in telling children they were special was supposed to be: "You're special, but so is everybody else."
Jul. 20th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
With Mr. Rogers and a lot of other self-esteem lessons it wasn't "You're perfect just the way you are," but "I love you just the way you are." You can't go around telling kids they're perfect and never need to change, I agree -- that's unhealthy. On the other hand, you have to let them know that you're going to love them and be there for them even if they're not good at everything, or if they get into trouble.

Someone posted a video of Fox News talking about the Mr. Rogers thing and I was about to drive on over there and cut some people. Mr. Rogers fucking RULED and I don't need those smarmy Fox assholes acting like he poisoned our nation's youth.
Jul. 20th, 2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
I think there's an important distinction to be made between your mom, your dad, or whoever loving "just the way you are" and the rest of the world. Yes, mommy and daddy may think that butter doesn't melt in your mouth, but kids are done a huge disservice by being convinced that the rest of the world feels/thinks the same way.
Jul. 20th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
True enough. I just don't think Mr. Rogers counts as "the rest of the world" -- because I don't think that's the way little kids look at things. They think "oh, this nice man with the sweater and tennis shoes and the trolley in his kitchen thinks I'm great," not "everybody thinks I'm great!"
Jul. 20th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
Source link, please
Thank you.
Jul. 20th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Source link, please
Jul. 20th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Source link, please
Merci! :D
Jul. 20th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
I'm really not understanding this sudden media preoccupation with 'entitlement' in my generation. I've never seen any sort of research or evidence or generational comparisons that make this any more than another 'batboy lands on the moon' status story, that people just jump onto.

And suppose that my generation does have this problem. Still, entitlement is divided way way WAY more along lines of class, race, gender, and other identities that tell people they deserve things and are superior. Society is set up and operates around the needs of particular groups of people, yet there are no studies about why white people are such assholes, why men rape, why the wealthy justify their exploitative behavior, why heterosexuals spend kajillions of dollars, time, and energy to making sure queers have no rights whatsoever, why people support the WTO, or any of the other horrible things people do to other people based on entitlement. For the media to be focusing on the horror of 18 year olds who use cell phones and eat Burger King is WAY. OFF. POINT.
Jul. 20th, 2007 08:32 pm (UTC)
Jul. 20th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
God I hate this shit. Every week a new newspaper columnist thinks it'd be great to rag on the new generation. It's not new, every generation thinks the one below them is a bunch of spoiled, entitled brats. And generally they've been right, due to rising living standards. Is it the kids fault?

This article cites FACTS. While the columnists are busy whining about how entitled kids are, young people can't get good paying jobs and still live at home because they can't afford to move out. If they listened to all the 'self-esteem' talk and worked hard and got a degree, then they're drowning in debt. I will be extremely happy when all the people who talk shit about our generation have died off and we can get on with the business of living our lives and eventually talking shit about the next generation.
Jul. 20th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I'm pissed off that this article ignores the reality of people's lives. Like everyone 21 and under has the privileges they described, and like it's some real problem instead of a bunch of fogies going, "back in my day we had to walk 15 miles in the snow." That's all these articles are.
Jul. 20th, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC)
In some article that I read it talked about how adults born from 1981-1987 are ill equipped for the workforce due to the fact that we have problems with time management. That in our youth parents scheduled everything and we've never had to manage our own time. It comes from this whole idea of not saying no, time outs, and etc. Like so how it's hindered that specific age range. WTF?

I always wonder where they get these kind of statistics from. All though I do have to agree that a lot parents think the word no or corporal punishment is a horror beyond words, and I really think they're wrong. I take pride in my ability to say no, and it's an ability that I have only recently realized many people lack.

A coworker of mine has a 3 yr old son, and she doesn't believe is corporal punishment, but her son does. This little kid smacks her and yells, but she says that she won't do anything but tell him that it hurts her. Thus, eventually he'll not hit her because he doesn't want to cause pain. WTF? What if he likes hurting people? This just seems like a poor discipline plan.
Jul. 20th, 2007 08:58 pm (UTC)
So as a Gen X kid, I'm trying to figure out what generation they talking bout. Mr. Rogers not only promoted self-esteem, but promoted learning and doing your part. Why they messing with him!

Now I don't know which gen to point out for this one, but I gathered this conclusion; because we were poor growing up, when we got money and kids, we forgot about basic parenting. I saw a baby, like, not even a year, black baby, with rocawear, painted toe nails (I should've took a pic of her and her momma) and a gold chain around her wrist. When you got a parent like THAT, I expect that child to be spoiled rotten (I could just be hating but mom was young and dumb looking). Tween the clothes, games and cell phones, most children (that means under 18) think they can have it all for simply demanding because this is what THEIR PARENTS allowed to happen.

I don't blame the media, or the companies, they do what they gotta do to make a buck. But these punk ass parents, mofos need to get a whoopin' for letting these kids loose like this. Nobody understands what it means to earn anything, thinks money grows on trees and ain't no bills to pay. By the time anybody tries to explain how the real world is to them, it's too late, they ain't trying to hear it. Then they end up being 30y/o kids still living at home cause them same punk ass parents won't let them fall (well I guess they gotta feel guilty sometime).

On the flip, for those that are taught properly, the reality is that all the hard work they put into school is no guarantee that they will be able to survive. The cost of living vs the average pay for a full time job has a gap that is frightening. We push to get all these degrees, racking up all theses loans and then in today's economy, have to take a job lower than what we should get and spend the rest of our lives trying to stay out the red. Throw in a spouse, house and kids and just put yourself under.

sorry, just had another reality check, didn't like it.
Jul. 20th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
::stands up and applauds::
Jul. 20th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
Not my mom, I earn the grades I earn.

However, I will say that since I've gotten this job doing tech support, I have found that people are insane when their internet is not working. I've been threatened with lawsuits dozens of times, called a liar, told I should quit my job because they wouldn't want to work for a company that mistreats people, I listened to some guy whine (literally, I wanted to go through the phone and punch him) becuase he got his service cut off for abuse, I have yet to be threatened with bodily harm, but I think that's because I've been lucky. They think I have a means of moving their dish from where I'm sitting or a magic button that just switches on the internet.

And really, what it boils down to 9 times out of 10 is a failure to read the contract they signed and a belief that they deserve something that no one else gets. And these are not children. They are grown people, some of them old enough to be my grandparent.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 11:50 am (UTC)
Someone had touched on a VERY valid point earlier in the comments when they mentioned that we are telling our children that it is okay to be mediocre. Now, granted, I'VE never been a witness to this BUT...apparently, there are some in education who feel that "almost" is good enough. Like, if little Timmy says 2+2=3 or 5, then it's okay because 3 and five are ALMOST 4.


Stop trying to NOT hurt kids' feelings. That's PART of the reason why they're so stressed out now. They've never had to deal with adversity (like failing a class, not making the little league team, getting into playground fights, fall off of the jungle gym bars) when they were kids...and now we expect them to be able to do so as adults. Kids are A LOT more resilient then we give those little f*ckers credit for. Yes, it will hurt to not get the answer correct...and you might even be embarrassed. But I GUAR-AN-TEE that the child will remember the CORRECT answer based on the embarrassment that went with getting the wrong answer.

Now...before y'all jump up and say, "NO, that embarassment will shut the child down and s/he will lose the confidence to speak out in class..." let me tell you to STFU!!! Once again, kids are MORE resilient than we give them credit for. And this is also where the teacher steps in. Her/his job is to encourage little Timmy and Tamika and Tyrone-n-em to speak out even if the answer is wrong...to ATTEMPT to think out the problem. The teacher should also make it a point to NOT pick the folks who ALWAYS know the answer because doing so takes a lot of pressure off the other kids...almost like "I know I don't need to raise my hand or even think about the answer because such-n-such already knows the answer."

Think it doesn't work. I use this in my classroom every day. You should see the growth in the students thinking process AND their desire to participate in class, even when the answer is wrong.
Jul. 23rd, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
My contention is that the pain these people try to spare their children is only going to be made worse when they finally encounter a situation that mommy and daddy can't fix. Pain is life. It's not your successes that teach you lessons, it's your failures. If people want wonderful/successful children, they should encourage them to take risks where they sometimes fall on their faces and are forced to figure out how to move on ON THEIR OWN.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )



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