I am a college professor, as well as a corporate consultant with a number of clients who hire interns and younger people. I continually hear at school, and from my clients, about the “entitlement” attitude amongst the younger generations. Where does entitlement come from? It doesn’t always come from giving our kids too much. It comes from what we teach them about how to treat other people – and about the fact that they can’t always be the one on top.
The importance of this message was driven home to me again today – and I witness things like this all too often. My teenage son was at a special training at school (school doesn’t start until next week). The training ended at 11 a.m. I drove up to the driveway at school at 10:59 and my son came out of the building at 11 promptly – along with several other children. The way the parking area is constructed, there were cars parked and people waiting for their children. It’s impossible to move unless everyone moves. The three cars at the front of the line did not budge. The rest of us sat there, and I watched the clock move to 11:05, 11:07 and then 11:09. Rather than pull over and move out of the way (there are plenty of places to do this), those adults just sat and waited for their kids while the rest of us burned gasoline. I couldn’t help but think how rude these people were and how little they seemed to care about anyone else’s needs.
I searched online to find any statistics on being rude. Most studies seem to have been done several years ago. One most compelling one was by Bozell Worldwide/U.S. News and World Report which, in 1999, reported of those polled:
So, it begs the question – what are we teaching our children? In the scenario I experienced this morning, the first person got there early and was at the front of the line. Therefore, no matter how long their child takes to come out, they get to make every other individual wait for their child? And what’s the message to the child? “We can sit here as long as we like, honey, you are the most important person in the school.”
In my work, I talk about “It’s all about me” and the problem is that for kids, it IS all about them. This is the natural framework on the world as they grow and develop. I believe it is our job as adults to teach them there are other people in this world, too, and if everyone wants to be first, where are all of the rest of the people going to go? We can’t all be the most important one around, can we? Isn’t that physically impossible?
And what happens to the child who is taught that the world should wait for them when they get a job? I work with hundreds of companies and am unaware of many that tolerate that attitude. And, as a college professor, am I expected to wait to start class for every person who comes in late for any reason? These are life skills we are talking about here, and they hurt our kids if we don’t teach them the ways of the world.
Who likes the person that thinks they are most important? Most of us are drawn to the person who puts out their hand and says, “I notice you. I care about you and I respect you.” We can’t possibly teach this if we are teaching “You are the only one that matters, kid!”
Here are my thoughts to parents, grandparents and caretakers of children. Please think about some of these things as you model the behavior that will teach your children:
I’ve said it millions of times and I will say it again, rude people are everywhere. They don’t care that they are rude and some actually revel in it. But if you are a person with responsibility for a child, think about what rudeness teaches a kid. Think hard about it and decide what type of person you really want to be, and what you want your child to learn from you.