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Entitlement and Fitting In

January 15, 2014

There’s an article going around facebook about raising kids without a sense of entitlement. I do agree that kids need to learn a good work ethic and not take things for granted. But there was one sign of entitlement that rubbed me wrong.

4. I want it because everyone else has it. My 7 year old has asked for an Elf on the Shelf every day this week. Why? Because she feels left out that many of her friends have one. And that’s awesome for them, but I don’t want that to be the focus of our season and I honestly don’t have time or energy to create things for the stuffed animal to do. The bottom line for us: it’s okay for you not to have what everyone else has. I asked my daughter, if everyone had a swimming pool, would you want one too? She said yes. Clearly, we are working on this one.

Of course she said yes! Look at us as adults. If everyone has an iPhone, or Fitbit, don’t you start to wonder if you aren’t missing out on something useful/enjoyable? xkcd points this logic out beautifully in one comic.

And then there are those with food allergies, who can’t have what everyone else has. If my son is somewhere and everyone else is eating and I have forgotten to provide him with an alternative, of course he’s going to feel left out. This pain is very valid and very real.

So what are we going to do about it? Parents can’t afford to buy every cool gadget kids want, and food allergic kids can’t eat what everyone else is eating without doing damage to their bodies. First, I think kids need to learn that everything has a cost. And not just monetarily – there’s time, health, and opportunity costs. Once kids understand this, they can judge for themselves if it is worth it.

Second, kids should learn to look beyond the fact that everybody has x to what is everybody getting out of x. Would our kids even get the same benefit out of it as everybody else? If x is unobtainable, then is it possible to find a substitute? If they are empowered to find a solution, that would build their confidence to take on bigger problems. I know that’s happened as I have found alternate recipes.

Third, and most importantly, kids (and everyone) need to learn to accept, and even celebrate differences. If a person is welcomed into the circle, the pain of feeling conspicuous due to lacking x lessens until it often vanishes completely.

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