In your parenting how do you approach entitlement. What do you do/plan to do (or not do) in regards to the rampant sense of entitlement people have? I’ve mostly lived in the Boston area but assume what I see her is how it must be in most of this country.
Entitlement? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Oh, might you be referring to the woman I knew in Mountain Lakes who was complaining her property taxes were too high because she lived in a giant, lakeside mansion and paid $35K a year in property taxes while sending FIVE children to the public schools. FIVE. That means she was getting her kids’ education for the bargain-basement price of $7,000 per child, with the lakefront mansion to boot.
(It might have been four children, but that math is way to complicated for this hour of the night.)
I walk around every day feeling so grateful and even embarrassed for all that I have. I don’t write a lot about it here because I’m acutely aware that others have less, but I’ll come out and say it: I have enough money for everything I need and many of the things I want. It helps that I’m the kind of person contented with jeans filled with holes and new underwear once a year, but still, that’s a pretty incredible statement to be able to make.
All the time, all the time, I think about how fortunate I am and wonder about ways to give back. That’s why I do stuff like buying diapers for people I read about who need them or getting my kids involved in raising money to help a homeless man. But it doesn’t seem enough because it isn’t enough. I feel like I should be taking my kids to volunteer every week, and I’m not. I think of my friend Catherine, who is intentionally living with her family in a community that is considerably poorer than what she can afford in order to be able to more effectively work with the people she has chosen to serve.
And then I feel like a heel.
How do I teach my children, other than telling them regularly, “We have enough money for everything we need and some of the things we want”? Mostly, it’s little things like forgoing the first night of gifts on Hanukkah and sending presents to kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Or talking honestly about the severely mentally handicapped adults they see in the pool at the JCC.
We give our kids a lot. They have tons of books and a lot of Legos. They have chances to take all sorts of classes from gymnastics to piano. They seem pretty happy with what they have, as well they should be. We get a little kvetching about the fact that we don’t have any sort of gaming system nor plans to buy one. To make up for its absence, the kids have found other things to play with, including but not limited to: four old chairs from the basement, pine needles, old pajama pants of mine that had been cut up to make rags paired with Mardi Gras beads from heaven knows where, and the left over ribbon from Lilah’s birthday presents. The STUFF in our house is making me crazy, but I’m grateful that most of it is of this ilk. Also masking tape. I try to thwart their tape-entitlement by keeping it in a high cabinet so they have to ask me to get it for them.
I think that it’s actually entitlement that needs to be taught, not the other way around. Lilah has never had much new clothing. In fact, when she was three, I took her with me to buy myself a pair of shoes, and she was delighted to discover for the first time that there were entire stores dedicated to clothing. She loves clothing, but she loves it best as hand-me-downs because then it is endowed with the essence of the person who wore it before her. She thought it was fabulous that she shared her birthday party with a friend this year. It made it that much more special.
Maybe because we don’t much go to stores or watch TV with commercials, but I just find our kids don’t ask for things that much. Or maybe it’s because we let them bring vast collections of rocks into the house that they don’t feel they need to fill that emptiness with purchases. Or maybe it’s because we spoil them and don’t realize it. Or maybe somehow they sense my unending gratitude for all we have. Or maybe it’s the allowance that they need to split between saving, spending, and charity.
Whatever it is, so far we’re dodging the entitlement bullet. If only we could do something about the 25 fall leaves Benjamin has stacked on the kitchen counter.
How do you approach entitlement in your children and your communities?