I was at coffee with a good friend of mine, and she was upset about her son. He has graduated from college and still lives at home with no job, playing computer games and living the good life. The good life isn't so good anymore, as this boy's behavior has taken a toll on her marriage. My friend was asking, "Where did we go wrong?"
A recent survey of American freshmen revealed results every parent should be concerned with. This survey has been ongoing for the past 47 years, and has studied more than 9 million kids revealing that college students are more likely to call themselves superior and gifted even though their test scores don't reflect this subjective rating. In fact, their test scores show the opposite. Their time spent studying has gone down, their handwriting has grown worse, and although they rate their drive to be successful as high, it was actually much lower. The survey shows that kids expect more from doing less.
Of course we all look for whom to blame. Is it MTV, reality TV such as the Kardashians? This show's plot (if there is one) is how a wealthy, good-looking family can break every rule, act immature, and live the good life. Social media gets a lot of the blame as well. Your friends are "virtual," and since kids spend up to 80% of their waking hours in a virtual world, whether it is on games or reading and commenting on other people's Facebook page, it's easy to see how they begin believing they are celebrities in their own life. They post photos, get comments, and with games they begin embracing the assumption that they are bigger than life. They have become heroes if they kill enough opponents. Gamers will tell you this builds self-esteem and confidence, but so will doing chores and being held accountable at home. It could also be the grade inflation that our generation created in our schools, or the "everyone plays policy," which means whether you are capable or not, you get a chance to play. Have we all focused so much on building our kids up that we built them up for a big fall later in life? Part of the study also talked about the rising numbers of narcissism, depression and anxiety in this generation. No matter how much you like yourself, when you find out that others don't like you so much, or that you aren't the king of the hill, something has to give.
As my friend revealed more about her son, I could see her thought process and her desire to fix him. She is a good parent and so is her husband, but they made the mistake of believing that if they talked to their son and explained things he would understand and be successful in life just as they had become. The problem is you have to mentor being responsible. You can talk until you are blue in the face, but if you go on giving in to them, letting them off the hook, saving them from their natural consequences, and doing the chores they were assigned to do in order to keep peace in the home, you are enabling their entitled behavior. When kids aren't happy they will usually let you know. As a parent, we all feel a twinge of guilt, but we follow through with the consequences. Entitled kids have parents who aren't good with the follow through and they give in. They want their kids to be happy, but they forget that unhappiness is what helps our kids learn. Kids learn from their mistakes if parents will let them.
Here are a few suggestions that parents may find helpful if they sense that their child is behaving as an entitled guest in the family rather than a responsible child.
1. Assign chores and follow through with the consequences of your child not doing them. They don't have to like doing them, or like you, but they do have to do them and respect you.
2. If your child fails or gets a bad grade, offer to go with your child to talk to the teacher, but support your child's teacher and try to work with the teacher to help your child succeed.
3. Limit the FaceBook, computer games, and phones. If your child spends two hours on the internet, make sure they are spending three with the family. The virtual world is more influential if the family world is less engaged.
4. In the summers of your child's college years insist they get a job. Your child can work for a professor, at coffee shop or doing dishes at home. The job type isn't as important as the concept of working for someone. Volunteer work is an excellent idea as well, but make sure your child is accountable for their hours there.
5. Never do for your child what they can do for themselves. This is a golden rule. Kids who grow up with supportive parents who believe the child needs to learn how to cope with defeat does much better than a child who grows up believing the world will cater to them because of the magnificent person they are.
My friend is like many of us. She is searching for the answer so she can help her son get his life on track. The answer is she has to change today. Her answer involves an action not words. She needs to make it unpleasant for him to be home. He needs a job, and his parents have to hold the line. Making changes is never easy, but it's not too late. If you have an entitled child, the time has never been better to say "Enough." Teaching responsibility means acting responsible. As a parent, do the responsible thing, and hold your child accountable.
– Mary Jo Rapini