The Age of Entitlement

I recently heard a story that really seems emblematic of our times. At a school where I consult a group of disenchanted Grade 3’s filled with righteous indignation about a teacher’s attempts to set boundaries with them, stormed into the headmaster’s office and demanded the teacher gets fired. When the parents were called in and the situation explained to them they defended their children as if it was the last stand at the Alamo.

The teacher’s position became irrelevant, and she became the nasty scalping enemy. The thing is the teacher was not engaged in paedophilia or any other possible sadistic activities, she was merely an older teacher who had the misguided notion that ethics and good manners had a place in the modern classroom. As a psychologist and a father of 5 – about this story, this bothers me.

If I had to name the current period in history, I would call it the Age of Entitlement. If the kinds of parenting practices I see all around me are anything to go by then I predict that the age we are moving into is the age of adult brats and wooses.

It used to be that we thought children were blank slates, waiting to be formed by their parents, school and society. Now it seems we think of children as fully formed, albeit temporarily diminutive beings whose natural gifts and talents merely need to be protected from evil, ignorant, ill intentioned educators, alienated parents in law and ex-spouses in order to retain their inborn perfection.

This attitude , besides leading to teachers losing their jobs, changing careers to becoming corporate trainers, ex-spouses becoming locked in endless litigation and grandparents crying to psychologists about not being allowed to see grandchildren, leads to children being so quarantined that they are given no chance of actually growing and reaching their true potential.

I would like to offer an alternative view that is sure to make a few shudder. Children are born with potential, naturally endowed with good qualities and capacities that, like clay or fire can be moulded and directed into forming something great, or become dust and burn everything in reach.

I suggest that rather than quarantining children with protection and indulgence, we as parents need to challenge children with values and disciplines, teaching them to give, be grateful and reciprocate.

I guess as parents, the challenge is to grow up before we are outgrown.

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