It’s The Self-Entitled Child Epidemic, And I Hate To Tell You, The Catalyst Isn’t The Kids

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During a recent vacation with my family, we had an experience at the resort pool that really made me sit down and think about what we can do as parents to make sure our kids don’t grow up to be self-entitled a**holes. That’s right. I referred to kids as a**holes. They can absolutely be a**holes. Let me explain.

While splashing with our kids in the main pool, three boys around 13 to 15 years old jumped in next to us and started tossing a ball back and forth. We didn’t think anything of it until both my husband and I noticed three things simultaneously. The boys were screaming loudly and throwing around curse words so easily, we knew it was a vernacular that had to be accepted in their home. They were fighting and jumping on each other to the point they were running into other people and small children, and not once did they apologize to anyone for either of these behaviors. They had no concern for the fact they were in a family environment, and their behavior was not only rude, but dangerous. 

In fact, as this went on for several minutes, they kept throwing their ball so hard it would hit others around them, and they even almost fell on top of my four-year-old. My husband said something to them, and he was ignored, so we moved farther away. There was a man sunbathing nearby, and after the fourth or fifth time he was hit by their ball with no apology, he actually took the ball and kept it. The boys asked for it back, and he calmly explained they could not have it back until they apologized. The young men spit out a few nasty words at the man, and then proceeded to get out of the pool. What happened next is what really made the rage fester within us. 

The boys proceeded to call someone on the phone, and then they waited on some pool chairs. Not long after, what seemed to be their parents or guardian, came out to the pool area, went up to the man who took their ball, and simply grabbed it without saying a word, even after the man explained why he took it. He walked back to the boys, gave them the ball back, and left. The boys then got back in the pool, laughing at the man and making comments, and resumed their previous obnoxious behavior. To say my husband and I were dumbfounded is an understatement, but we quickly realized we see behavior like this from kids all the time. What was more infuriating is that the parents not only excused their children’s behavior, but they allowed it to continue.

It’s an epidemic. It’s the Self-Entitled Child A**hole Epidemic. It’s spreading like wildfire, and I hate to tell you, the catalyst isn’t the kids. It’s us. It’s the parents. We are the ones fueling the fire.

Here’s the thing. I am not claiming to be a parenting expert, and to be honest, half the time I’m just winging it when it comes to the day-to-day decisions regarding raising our son and daughter. I also try to never judge other parents, and mom/dad shaming is not my thing. But I do know a thing or two about teenage behavior and attitude problems after spending six hours a day with them, 180 days a year, for the past 13 years as a teacher. I know enough to believe, wholeheartedly, we have a serious problem on our hands. We are raising a generation of children who need instant gratification, believe they are never at fault, are quick to point fingers at anyone but themselves, are glued to screens, don’t understand how to overcome failure, give up easily, and don’t know what respect (for themselves or others) truly means. I’ve seen examples of this more times than I ever care to admit. 

But, guys… they don’t become this way right out of the womb. They are conditioned and they are molded into this version of themselves by the words and actions we teach them. Sometimes, we don’t realize the behaviors and actions we allow on a daily basis can have such a direct impact on their cognitive and physical development. I’m aware everybody parents differently, and I’m aware there is no “one size fits all” solution. I’m also aware what works for one parent might not work for another, and we have to constantly change it up. I get that. The fact is though, some of the stuff we choose to allow or teach our children will directly come back to bite us in the a** when they get kicked out of a pool for throwing balls at the nice man sunbathing or when they get fired from the local pizza joint for telling off their boss.

If we want our children to be great, if we want them to love and laugh and stand up for themselves, if we want them to show compassion and find their inner strength and change the world, then we need to show them the way.

young boy upset at grocery store, sister sits in cart
Courtesy of Mari Ebert

As parents, there are many things beyond our control. In this day and age of social media, of YouTube, of iPhones, of people becoming overnight millionaire celebrities because they uploaded videos of themselves chewing food into a microphone, it seems we are up against an opponent we just can not defeat. Am I right? Let it be known, I am not speaking about all children here. There is a clear distinction. I’ve known plenty of amazing kids throughout the years that have grown up to become amazing adults. I’m just speaking about the Self-Entitled A**holes. So, how do we make sure our kids don’t grow up to become one? 

Model grit.

Our kids’ generation has no effing clue what it means to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again when something is hard. Period. They try, they fail, they give up. Grit is the innate ability to persevere when things get difficult. I honestly don’t know if this is a quality you can truly teach a child, but I do know I can show my kids what grit looks like by modeling it myself. I can show them I don’t give up easily, and that I will always treat failure as a beginning rather than an end. I can share my own personal experiences with a grit and growth mindset, and I can be there to help them back on the seat when they are in tears and can’t possibly get back on that bike one more time. 

Fight the instant gratification battle.

Don’t always give them what they want IMMEDIATELY. Trust me, I did not want to walk through the pet store for 20 minutes yesterday, carrying a toddler screaming like she was being murdered because I wouldn’t let her walk and put her hand in the hamster cage. But I did. And she’s heavy. She didn’t get what she wanted. For many reasons, but the most important being that letting her walk freely in the pet store would lead to her wanting to walk freely everywhere we go, and that is an absolute disaster for all parties involved. Haven’t y’all ever read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?

Teach them manners.

For the love of all that’s good and holy, please teach your children to say “please” and “thank you.” It’s such a simple thing. It’s a simple thing that will lead to a lifetime of doors being opened for them. As a teacher, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is when I hear a student speak politely on the phone. I notice it immediately, and it speaks volumes. This is something we can easily teach our children that will carry them through kindergarten and all the way to their first job interview. My daughter can’t count to three yet, but she sure as hell says ‘thank you’ after I give her something. Even if she forgets because hello, toddler, I always make sure to remind her. 

Teach them if they want something bad enough, they need to WORK HARD for it.

Imagine that?! Things just aren’t handed over on silver platters for the majority of people, and you can never expect to be one of those exceptions. My husband and I are hardcore opposers of the “Participation Trophy.” In my eyes, you don’t get something for doing nothing. You can’t just show up to your job, do the bare minimum, and expect a promotion. If you realize you aren’t great at basketball, then don’t waste your time riding the bench. Instead, spend it finding the one thing that will make you fight for first place rather than settle for last. We need to teach our kids success is something that is achieved through hard work and dedication, and that none of the GOATs out there like Michael Phelps or J.K. Rowling just settled for the participation trophy. 

Get rid of the excuses.

Excuses are just a way for people to defer the blame from themselves. One of the greatest lessons I can teach my son and daughter is if you do something wrong, own up to it. End of story. Don’t blame somebody else. Don’t make an excuse. Don’t try to get yourself out of it. It takes a much stronger person to admit their faults than to constantly hide from them.

brother and sister sit together smiling while at the beach
Courtesy of Mari Ebert

Teach them respect must be earned.

Teach them if they make a commitment, they need to honor it to the best of their ability. Teach them how to deal with anger, and how to process it in a healthy manner. Teach them the proper way to speak to an adult. Teach them to be humble. Teach them how to stand up for themselves when needed, but in a way that conveys strength and not hate. Teach them to be proud of where they come from. Teach them tolerance and acceptance. Teach them to love themselves for who they truly are.

Practice what you preach.

As parents, we are famous for saying things and not following through with them. I recently saw a meme that said, “No one is more full of sh*t than a parent who counts to three.” I legit almost peed my pants laughing because that is exactly my life at this moment, but it’s so true. We have to be cognizant of what we say to our children, and we have to be ready to back up our words with actions. We have to show them words matter, and they can hurt just as easily as they can heal. 

Guys, I wish I could say no child is a Self-Entitled A**hole, but I’d be lying. They are everywhere, and the epidemic is growing by the minute. It’s the three boys in the pool throwing their ball and cursing like sailors, and the kid who cuts in front of yours while waiting in line for a ride at a theme park. It’s the girl who argues with you for 20 minutes about how going to Google to find the answer on a quiz, and then copying and pasting the answer, is NOT a form of plagiarism because they don’t cheat. It’s the kid who complains to their baseball coach about not playing in the big game when they have missed five practices in a row. You see, all of these children have one thing in common. These behaviors and attitudes are ones that were allowed and accepted by the adults in their lives. They are learned. 

I may not have been a parent for very long, and I may not be a child psychologist, or have a full 30-year career under my belt as an educator. I know some things in life are beyond my control, and that my kids may not always listen to me. But I also know I will do everything within my power to make sure they don’t end up becoming Self-Entitled A**holes. Because, let’s be real, nobody likes that kid.”

siblings, brother and sister, play in a foam pit
Courtesy of Mari Ebert

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Mari Ebert. You can follow her journey on  InstagramFacebook, and her websiteSubmit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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