Take note, parents.
The scene: A child's birthday party.
Most of us have watched as the youngster — your child, or a friend or relative's child — tears into her gifts. She sees what is in one package and quickly moves on to the next. A parent stands by reminding her to say "thank you," often fruitlessly. Feeling somewhat helpless, the parent herself comments on how special the gift is, just what her son or daughter wanted.
The birthday party, particularly the "over the top" extravaganza, is only one way parents indulge their children and cultivate their sense of entitlement. We delight in seeing our children's faces light up when they receive exactly what they want, when we drop whatever we are doing to drive to someplace they have to be "right now!", or when we agree to finish their school project so they can get a good night's sleep.
Yet, when children receive everything they want, we feed into their sense of entitlement — and feelings of gratitude fall by the wayside.
It's what Amy McCready, founder of PositiveParenting Solutions, believes is a "Me, Me, Me" epidemic brought on by parents doing everything they can to insure their children's happiness.
"The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting — over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids endless demands," she says. "Today's generation of parents are overly invested in their child's happiness, comfort and success.
"Overly involved parents helicopter their kids' every move and mow down the potential obstacles in their path," McCready adds. "In our attempt to shelter our kids from adversity, we rob them of the opportunity to make decisions, learn from their mistakes, and develop the resilience needed to thrive through the ups and downs of life. This is all done in the name of love — but too much of a good thing can result in kids who always expect to get what they want when they want it."
Does your child have an entitlement issue? In her book, The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, McCready details signs that help indicate the extent of an offspring's "me, me, me" problem.
Here are 9 signs your child has entitlement issues:
1. The expect bribes or rewards for good behavior.
2. They rarely lift a finger to help.
3. They are more concerned about themselves than others.
4. They pass blame when things go wrong.
5. They can't handle disappointment.
6. They need a treat to get through the store.
7. They expect to be rescued from their mistakes.
8. They feel like the rules don't apply.
9. They constantly want more... and more.
Whatever the depth of your child's sense of entitlement, it can be lessened.
Good places to start: Restrain your overprotective instincts and stop doing things for your children that they can do themselves. For instance, if you are worried about your child, preteen, or teen riding in the car with a new driver, say no and then stand firm. Sure, your child will be disappointed, but don't change your position. Children tend to recover fairly quickly from most disappointments.
If your child wants a smartphone, McCready advises agreeing to pay for a basic phone and explaining that he or she will have to earn the money for a "fancier" phone and pay the data charges.
This article was originally published at Pyschology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.