During the last few weeks we’ve been dealing with a sense of entitlement. I’m not sure if it’s growing pains of the middle schooler, trying to fit in for the 4th grader, or the icy, slushy, “let’s rain for 40 days and 40 nights”, cabin fever weather. What I do know is that I find this behavior intolerable.
Now don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t been anything extreme. I’ve been around other kids who whine and demand until they get whatever they want and sadly those aren’t toddlers that I’m talking about.
An iPhone 6 anyone? The latest game system? Hover board? How about all three? It blows my mind what some kids have.
Our boys believe that electronics and going to movies or fun places is their right when in reality each one of those things is an earned privilege. In our household doing chores, using good manners, and getting good grades help earn those privileges.
Doing the right thing for the right reason matters.
Being honest matters.
And failing to do those things has consequences.
I’m a pretty laid back mom. I’ll give reminders to pick things up, feed pets, do homework, etc. Over and over…. Until my patience wears thin and I am no longer laid back.
Last week I hit my threshold and became fed up with their entitlement and so their electronics became my electronics.
The. Worst. Punishment. Ever.
In their opinion of course.
Yep, we’ve had some ugly moments since then. I would say there’s been some withdrawals happening, but I’ve stuck to my guns because I want them to be better people.
I want them to understand and to appreciate how fortunate they are.
And I want them to understand that everyone needs to pull their own weight, that I’m not a maid, and that mundane chores is just a part of life that never goes away.
Guess what has happened in between those ugly moments when the elder was begging to check his Instagram account?
We see their little faces more.
And they talk to us.
And they listen to us.
And they sit on the couch with us or they hang out in the kitchen while I’m cooking and cleaning.
Just like they usually do, but without any distractions and with more interaction. I honestly think they are happier now than they were with the electronics although I’m sure they wouldn’t agree with my assessment.
This afternoon the boys and I went to the allergist without any phones or iPads in the car. We talked all the way there and back. Maybe a little too much talking for my introverted self, but I was enjoying it all the same. As I was getting off the interstate to go home, I got in the inner turn lane. The light turned yellow as I approached so I stopped.
I glanced to my left and saw a man standing in the light drizzle, holding a sign. I quickly looked away. It isn’t unusual for people to beg at this particular red light and many times we’ll see the same faces standing there day after day, but I didn’t recognize this guy. He had on dirty clothes and he looked cold and tired.
I looked at him again while weighing my options before rolling down my window and calling out to him.
Me: “I don’t have any money (which was true), but I have food. Would you like some food?”
I held my breath. I wasn’t sure how he would react. Some of these folks are very outspoken and will tell you they only want money.
Him: “God I’m starving.” His voice broke at this point. He paused and took a deep breath. “Yes. Yes, I would like some food.”
I handed over a couple of pack of crackers that I had put in the car when we went to the farm. I glanced around to see if we had any drinks, but we didn’t.
Him: “God bless you”.
Heartfelt, genuinely said, and with a look of relief in his eyes, if only for the moment.
I looked him in the eyes and nodded, as I was at a loss of words. I was sure I got more out of this exchange than he did.
The boys were quiet as we drove off. I gave them time to process things and then I asked what they thought about it.
Them: “You did a good deed and you should be proud of that.”
Me: “No, that’s not what I meant. This wasn’t about me or what I did. What did the man say?”
Them: “God bless you.”
Me: “Before that?”
Them: “I’m starving.”
Me: “Yes! And that’s what I want you to think about. It doesn’t cost you anything to give food or your time. He may have been a druggie who just schmoozed me, but then again he may have been a Veteran who was doing the best he could. Either way he needed the food (which we take for granted) more than we needed it. It cost us nothing to be nice to him.”
Even though I never intended for this to be a life lesson, I turned it into one. The boys saw someone who actually needed the things we take for granted each day and that reality finally hit home. They saw someone who was so appreciative over two packs of crackers that you would think he had won the lottery. They saw the opposite of entitlement.
A brief moment in time. A brief interaction. A large impact on me. That would best describe this afternoon for me.
It’s the small things that can make the biggest difference. Never forget that.
So how do we, as parents, change this sense of entitlement in our kids?
We lead by example.
We do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because of the recognition we might get.
We hold ourselves accountable in how we interact with others so that when we hold our kids accountable that they will understand.
We dish out tough love because we love them and because entitlement is a dead-end road.