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Oregon Family Magazine

Shedding the “Entitlement” Cloak - Raising Kids with an Appreciation for Hard Work

12/06/2010 ● By Anonymous
These days, the term “entitlement” is becoming rather commonplace.  What exactly is entitlement?  In layman’s terms, it is when someone believes they should be given something they have not put effort into earning or acquiring.  There is definitely an entitlement problem in this country and with each generation the problem seems to grow.

Most children have more than what their parents had when they were growing up.  While it can be argued that parents today are wealthier than their parents were, it can be further argued that societal changes and expectations are also prime culprits.  Depending on the age of the parent, some remember growing up with black and white televisions and radios for entertainment.   As children, most parents of today did not have cell phones, computers of any kind, iPods, electronic games, or social media access.

Many argue that the “personal” aspect of many of the gadgets seems to automatically compel parents to purchase, or kids to expect that they should have their own goodies.  Think of the ”personal” computer, the laptop (big enough for a single “lap” at a time), the cell phone that can be personalized with skins, cases, charms, etc., and the games purchased for children as young as toddlers, complete with their own set of preferred content.  Once upon a time ago (Okay, just a generation or so, ago) there was a lot more sharing going on.  Children knew they had to work hard and save up if they wanted something specific to their own interests.  Parents couldn’t afford to drop $250 for a new phone for the holidays, or $150 per child for a personal game.  Times have changed and so have the expectations of those most impressionable.

The Pitfalls

Children with entitlement issues will eventually grow up and become adults with entitlement issues.  If money is not an issue for the individual, it may be less of a problem.  However, if entitlement is coupled with disdain for those working hard to make their way in life, (as is the case with a false sense of entitlement) it could be construed as snobbishness or arrogance.  Imagine the surprise or lack of preparedness should money suddenly become an issue.  These adults would be unable regroup and pull themselves up by the bootstraps.  They would find it difficult to do what would be necessary to earn a living by whatever means needed.

In a successful venture, there are roles that everyone must fill.  In a business, if a vacancy exists, the other partners or employees must pick up the slack in order to keep things running smoothly.  The flip side of that can be likened to the old adage about “too many cooks spoiling the broth.” Well, those individuals with entitlement issues can weaken the economy for the entire nation.  If someone feels they should not have to do any extra work, even if there is a need for it, or refuses to take an entry level job because they feel they should be starting at the top of the pay scale, those jobs are not being performed. The result can be disastrous.


Due to commercials, peer pressure, a little parental enthusiasm to give children the things they didn’t have in their own childhood, and just human nature, it’s easy to see how children simply want what they want when they want it.  Sometimes it’s even difficult for adults to contain their enthusiasm for new games, movies, and gadgets. (Remember the long lines for the last iPhone release?) However, here are a few tips for helping children stay grounded in order to become mature responsible adults.

  • If possible take advantage of Take Your Child to Work days.  Children often cannot understand exactly what mom and dad do when they go off to “work.”  Let them see firsthand exactly what is done, the number of people interacted with daily, the fact that mom and/or dad has to answer to others, and how mom and dad treat the people who answer to them.  Let them see what is done to earn the income that supplies their goods.
  • Let children know how much the latest “it” item costs, and how many hours of work it will take to earn the funds for it.  If they’ve gone to work with the parent, they should be able to equate three hours of work for the pair of jeans, or a days’ work for a new cell phone.
  • Put them to work! Instead of buying what they want, or handing over the credit card, make them earn the money the “good ol’ fashioned” way. (This is not an instance where allowance should be utilized!) Growing up we did not get allowance in my household, but we were sure expected to contribute.  The understanding was that if we lived there, we should do our share to keep the household running. However, those things done above and beyond what was expected, was typically rewarded.  For example, if dishes were the daily chore compensation would not be expected or doled out.  Washing the car or taking down the curtains to wash them and re-hanging them would result in compensation.
  • Make them save for what they would like to purchase using any funds they might come into on their own.  This is a great use for birthday and holiday money, allowance (if given), or any money earned through employment or extra chores.

Don’t despair if a child is already exhibiting signs of entitlement, there is hope.  Here are a few ways to bring him or her back to reality:

  • Learn to say NO! - As parents it’s completely natural to want to make things easier for one’s offspring.  However, hearing the word no is completely healthy and can be a sobering experience to someone used to getting his/her own way. The average person does not get through adulthood with everyone agreeing to whatever they want, no matter who they are.  Thus, a few “No’s” uttered now, may result in a much needed wake up call.
  • Get their own J-O-B! – Many parents today try to maximize the time their kids have for schoolwork and extracurricular activities by not pressuring them to get jobs.  This is despite the fact that many of those parents began working as soon as they were able with paper routes, in supermarkets, and in retail as soon as they were old enough.  If older children are displaying entitlement tendencies, approve a part-time job with a set maximum number of hours.  This should help the child realize the effort involved in earning.
  • Make them save for it! – If a job is unrealistic, parents should sit down and discuss with the child their new policy on the acquisition of goods, and let the child know that items above and beyond what they consider fair will have to be earned through chores, or saved up for by the child.  Not only will the child learn to budget their money better, but will also learn that immediate gratification is not the norm, and often after time to mull it over, the coveted item may not be that important or necessary.
Let’s face it; the majority of parents today are working hard to provide their children with opportunities that will build a solid foundation for a successful future.  As parents it makes perfect sense to want better opportunities like good schools, nice neighborhoods, stylish clothes, pocket money, and fun activities.  Especially the items that make kids feel more comfortable around their peers and can smooth the way to help them fit in.  However, parents are doing such a good job and making it seem so easy, that children are not recognizing the hard work and sacrifices parents are putting into these efforts.  As children mature, parents should let them know there is not a money tree growing in the yard. Reiterate that the lottery was not won.  Discuss how much time and effort was put into attaining those career goals that allow them the privilege of living well.

The key is to let children see that hard work is the tool used to get the things one wants.  It doesn’t matter what it is, if effort is not put into something, most things are not worth having.  The old saying, “you get what you pay for”, is true.  However, in this day and age, “you get what you work for” should be coined. (Excusing the pun!)

Kim Green-Spangler, B.S. Ed and M.S. Eng, is a freelance writer, wife and mother. Her niche is writing articles pertaining to family life, health, fitness, parenting and home based businesses. She may be contacted through