Avoid parenting an entitled generation

Dr. Jonathan Swinton

There has been a shift in culture and expectations. The work of noted family researcher Dr. William Doherty suggests that there has been a gradual shift in recent decades toward a “what’s in it for me” culture. Children are sponges for this culture. They watch television where parents are disrespected by their kids. They see manipulative advertising convincing them to expect their parents to provide the newest best thing.

These and other similar influences may lead kids to have unhealthy expectations regarding the role their parents play with them. They can see their parents as providers of things to consume. They too often expect their parents to consistently give in to their wants. Parents can enable these entitled expectations.

Some examples:

• Parents allow their children to regularly interrupt their phone conversations even if it is sometimes disrespectful.

• Parents may defend their children when a teacher reports a problem rather than consider the possibility that their child misbehaved or didn’t complete the assignment.

• Parents make separate food for each child because mac & cheese or crackers are “all my kids will eat.”

As a parent, I know I have slipped into these traps. We may fear that our relationship with the child will be threatened if we enforce rules or boundaries in the home. I am not suggesting that we never respond to a request from our children. Rather, when excessive, inappropriate, or manipulative requests or demands come, we should not allow our children to call the shots. That is when entitlement is enabled.

Expect your children to respect you, your time and your resources. Focusing on respect is the major key to helping children avoid entitlement problems. They need to learn that you are their parent and not their peer. This can and should be done gently and with love, but the parent-child boundary should maintain.

Children may experience some disappointment. However, it will provide a great opportunity for you as a parent to help them learn healthy ways to deal with disappointment. That skill will do far more for them than the benefits of getting what they want.

Parenting can be difficult and rewarding. Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with some of these things. Just make some positive changes and focus on the long-term development of a child who may need to learn to deal with some disappointment. The child will be much better prepared for adulthood when they get there.

Dr. Swinton is a relationship and mental health expert withUtah State University Extension in Sevier County. If you have questions you would like him to confidentially address in this column, email him at jonathan.swinton@usu.edu.

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