Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Entitlement, Privilege, Reaching for the Dream: Teaching the differences to your child is called parenting

One of the issues that we face in raising our children is trying to create that line where they understand that the life they lead is because they are lucky enough to be in a privileged household but that they are not as of by right entitled to anything that they are given.  Funny in America today most families would not define themselves as privileged, but in reality and in the scheme of the world they really are. "Privilege" afterall, is also a matter of degree. To the third world, even the poor in the United States live a privileged existence, what with electricity, running healthy water, cell phones, televisions, free education for their children, SNAP, welfare and medicaid. So you need to understand that life is also a matter of perspective. (Yes I sound like Obi-Wan in Return of the Jedi.) What we consider average and in some cases even poor in the first world, is actual wealth in the third world. We have a standard of living billions can only dream about.

Entitlement is the idea that you are by right and virtue of your existence supposed to be given rewards or endowments that someone else has earned. While we talk about self-esteem, ad nauseum in our society, we have forgotten that not all attributes of the "trophy generation" are positive. To think that you are ENTITLED to a trophy for just showing up is ridiculous. It takes from the child the incentive to learn, persevere and work.

You also do not have to be "privileged" to have a belief of entitlement. The concept of entitlement is a mentality not an economic strata. You are not entitled to success because of your financial class, your religion, your race, your gender or your creed. Your child is not entitled to that "A" without doing the work and if they have issues in school, it is up to you, their parent, to help solve the problem. Either with tutors, after school help or sitting down with the teacher and figuring out the issue. And yes it is your responsibility as the parent to make certain that school goes well, that your child behaves and that they are engaged in their own future.

It is also important to acknowledge that not every offspring is another Einstein, Gates, Jobs or Wall Street Wizkid. The irrational belief that somehow you are entitled to perfect and excellent children is epidemic in our society. That your child can do no wrong hurts the child and their ability to function in the real world. For a parent to hold the world and not the child to a level of expectation provides the child with the sense of entitlement that they will never have to work for anything in their lives and that the world is waiting for them; that their existence, and that existence alone, deems them superior to everyone else. These children will never succeed and never function on a healthy level.

Privilege, on the other hand, is in fact the reality that you or those in your inner circle just have it a little financially easier than then next person. That there is the money for the extras that life has to offer. The nicer car, nicer clothes, the tonier school and the fancy-shmancy vacation. There is nothing wrong with that. We, as parents work so that our children may have it easier than we did. So what? Is it really necessary that a child struggle and fight and do without? I do not think so. I am tired of people apologizing for giving their children a leg-up on the rest of the world. I am tired of people, particularly those without children, telling our generation we give our children too much. Well too bad. You bet we give our children more than we were given. First off there is more to give.There is better food, medical care, education and quite frankly life is easier with all manner of gadgets, innovations and labor saving devices.

But the other side of the equation is that with all that our children are given, society does expect more from them. They need to know more. They need to produce at a higher level. They need to function on an international scale, not just on a country, state, county or local district arena. Our children are waging a life battle against the rest of the world. They need skills and abilities in order to stand tall and if this means they get to be adolescents a little longer so be it. Adulthood is hard in our world today. Competition is intense and at times overwhelming. Letting them grow into it slowly is helpful and productive. And no I don't care what other milestones another nation creates for their young in order to promote adulthood. We are entitled to our culture and that culture, by the way, has made us the wealthiest, most innovative, most forward thinking and freest nation in human history. To paraphrase former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the demise of the United States: A nation's greatness is judged by how many are trying to get into that country not by how many are trying to get out. Millions worldwide still strive to be part and parcel of the USA. That speaks volumes about the US' standing in the world. The USA is anything but finished. In fact it has yet to reach its full potential. Yet embarrassingly for our society, so many of our young people are left dramatically behind, and no one is willing to own up to this failure. It's pass the buck and time to play the blame game of discrimination and the dumbing down of education.

Being entitled and being privileged are two different ideas that do not necessarily mirror each other. A child of privilege does not have to be entitled and can be taught to appreciate what they are given. Moreover a child of poverty can believe that they are entitled to what others produce. Children can be taught to understand that they have a responsibility to those less fortunate, just as they have a responsibility to take care of themselves. Furthermore,  they are ALLOWED to be financially successful without apologizing for it or having a government think that a citizens' work product belongs to the  government first and only through the ruling classes' largesse do we get to keep what we earn. People are ENTITLED to want to work hard, to achieve the status of "privileged" without being denigrated for wanting more than an ordinary life.

Americans want to work and they are willing to work hard. It is in our nature. How many stories have you read of the thousands who stand in line for a few job openings? Only recently did it become de rigueur to decide that we should all be equally poor instead of striving to better our world in every way in every generation and to castigate those who try to achieve. Remember that life is about equality of opportunity not necessarily equality of outcome.

It is also not the big things that you do or how you instruct your child that will facilitate compassion and understanding. But it is the little almost inconsequential events in life that have the most effect. This past weekend, the boys worked at a homeless shelter. They served dinner and cleaned up. Next week, on Martin Luther King weekend they will participate in a service project, as they have done since they were little.They have been taught charity and compassion, the concept of hard work and responsibility. But they also know about the "good" things in life and they want to achieve these aims as well. They are allowed to be privileged. They are ENTITLED to reap the rewards of their hard work.They used to call this the American dream. Sad that there are so many in today's world who have forgotten just what that dream entails. Sad moreover that so many think that that dream has died and blame everyone for their failures but themselves. If your dream dies, you and you alone have let it die, and have no one to blame but yourself.

Self-Esteem, It's Not a Trophy It's Reality
Entitlement, Self-Esteem, Self-Importance
Chores and Preparing for the Future
Some Straightforward Parenting Advice
Id, Ego and a Sense of Self
Social Stories, Purpose and Use