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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Raising Spoiled, Lazy, Irresponsible Children? Parenting Experts Teach How to Stop Pushing Them Into The Entitlement Trap.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

  • Your college-age daughter insists on living in an expensive off-campus apartment because the dorms are "totally tacky." She's "concentrating on her studies," not working, and expects you to pay her rent every month.
  • Your teenage son whines and begs for every new gadget that comes out. When you insist he pay for them himself, he huffs, "My friends' parents just buy them stuff. Why are you so mean?"
  • A new employee at your company demands a raise, even though he's only been working there for a couple months and hasn't done anything more than his job requires. He says he deserves more money because he's got a college degree and a family to feed.
  • You notice on Facebook that the couple that rents a home from you just got back from a 2-week European cruise and bought a shiny new sports car - even though they're several months behind on the rent.
  • Your kids tear through a mountain of presents on Christmas, barely pausing to look at the expensive gifts you've bought them. When the last box is open, they demand, "Is that it? Where's the new iPod/XBox/bicycle/designer jeans I wanted?"

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? If they do, you probably know a little something about entitlement. Even if you've never heard the term, you've seen the problem in action. All of us have witnessed spoiled children whining for toys in a department store or bratty teenagers insisting their parents buy them designer clothes, but what about overindulged young adults who haven't learned how to work or wait for something they want? Or pampered wives who harp on their husbands to spend longer hours at the office so they can cruise to their weekly nail appointments in a fancier car than their friend's? The problem - nay, the disease - is everywhere.

In their new book The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership, parenting experts Richard and Linda Eyre address entitlement, a crisis they say "may be the key problem of our age" (23). They believe that, like so many things, the trouble begins with good intentions. Parents want to give their children everything, especially if they, themselves, grew up without such luxuries. While there's nothing wrong with providing one's family with life's little pleasures, the danger comes when children are given so much that they grow up believing they deserve everything they want - without having to work for it, without having to wait for it, without having to earn it. According to the Eyres, "Entitlement is a double-edged sword (or a double-jawed trap) for kids. On one edge it gives kids all that they don't need - indulgence, dullness, conceit, and laziness; and on the backswing, it takes from them everything they do need - motivation, independence, inventiveness, pride, responsibility, and a chance to really work for things and build their own sense of fulfillment and self-esteem" (5)

No loving parent wants to raise a selfish, unmotivated child, but for some, it may already be too late. Right? No, according to the Eyres, who insist, "It's best to start early, but it's never too late" (37). To help kids learn how to effectively handle their money, the Eyres advise creating a "family economy," or a system which allows children to earn, save, and spend money in a safe environment where the consequences are less damaging than those incurred in the real world. They give a detailed explanation of the system they've used with successful results. Giving children ownership of their money, say the Eyres, helps them to learn about responsibility, success, disappointment, even charity. Parents are counseled to let the children make mistakes within this faux economy, to avoid bailing them out, in order to teach kids about disappointment and other natural consequences of poor money management. If children grow up thinking about money in these terms, it will make all the difference when it comes time for them to find jobs, pay their own rent, buy homes/cars/etc. and support their families.

In the second half of The Entitlement Trap, the Eyres apply the same principle to teaching children values. If, the authors say, a child learns to take ownership of her own choices, her own morals, her own beliefs, then she's more likely to make wise and healthy decisions. By dealing with the consequences of the choices she makes - be they good or ill - the child learns about personal responsibility. She learns to trust herself, to avoid blaming others or making excuses for her own messes, and to deal with her own problems rather than leaning on someone else to bail her out.

While I think teaching children values is more important than teaching them about money, I still found the first half of this book most helpful. The Eyres' system makes sense to me, more sense than other methods I've tried with my kids. With their detailed, but no-nonsense approach, the authors give parents a system that is smart, workable, and proven. While it definitely requires commitment, the family economy seems very doable. The values-teaching part of the book seemed to have less concrete methods, although I still found the Eyres' suggestions helpful. I've pondered how to keep my children out of the entitlement trap, but I've never read a book on the subject. This one is honest, timely, and, most of all, hopeful. Bottom line: Read it.

(Readalikes: Hm, I don't read a lot of these kinds of books. Suggestions?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: G

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of The Entitlement Trap from the generous folks at Laura Rossi Public Relations. Thank you! Please note that all quotes were taken from uncorrected proofs and may have been altered in the final version of the book.


  1. I didnt see this book at my local library but I saw a couple of their other titles that look good.

  2. I'm soooo grateful my parents didn't buy me anything! If I wanted something I had to earn the money myself and buy it myself. I didn't even get an allowance. Kids who have everything given to them are so freaking annoying! But after reading this, you know that. ;) It sounds like a good book, I hope people read it and learn a thing or two.


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