children who feel entitled

The one phrase that changes an entitlement mindset

Ever wonder how we could wind up with a whole generation of kids who feel entitled?

Entitled to good grades without having to work and study for them.

Entitled to a spot on the team or in the organization without having to practice and prove themselves.

Entitled to success without having to work for it?

In my last post on grit, I wrote about Angela Duckworth and how she found that students with grit weren’t necessarily the students with the best home environments, the most talent or the highest IQ. Students who were successful were instead students who combined passion with perseverance.  They applied themselves to the task at hand and they didn’t give up when things got rough or challenging. Intuitively we all know this.  But sometimes as parents or even educators we want to protect children from the challenges ahead and the disappointment of failure. Ironically this desire can have the opposite effect.

In his book, The Entitlement Cure, Dr. John Townsend addresses the problems that businesses are confronted with due to  the rampant entitlement attitude.  He recommends one phrase that parents can replace in a child’s vocabulary that is guaranteed to change an entitlement mindset.  It’s pretty simple and here it is:  Change “I deserve” to  “I am responsible”.  Here are some examples:

I deserve an A on my test… change to:  I am responsible for  studying and  earning the grade that I get on my test.

I deserve a special position on the team or in the organization I am in… change to:  I am responsible for practicing and earning my place.

I deserve to have the latest video game or name-brand clothes or whatever… change to: I am responsible for taking care of the things I own and earning the right to new things.

I deserve special treatment in any situation… change to:  I am responsible for working diligently and giving it my best, even when things are hard.

Of course, there are healthy “deserves”.  We all deserve basic human rights and care.  The problem comes when we come to believe that we deserve things that we must first earn through applying ourselves with passion and perseverance;  when we forgo grit for comfort and ease.

Neuroscience shows that changing the phrases and the words that we use can change attitudes and changing attitudes can change behavior.  “I deserve” is a dis-empowering phrase;  it encourages passivity and a victim mentality.  “I am responsible” is an empowering phrase;  it encourages action and a leadership mentality.  Let’s teach our kids to be responsible, even when it is hard, so they can create a successful future.

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