The age of entitlement’s been around for a while. As a former teacher and school counselor, I’ve observed privileged teens over the last three decades, beginning with kids raised in an American economy of plenty. Not only do modern kids receive excessive material items, they get trophies just for being on a team, and expect A’s for minimal work.
Raising teens myself, I’ve also witnessed an expectation of entitlement that’s embedded in the current generation. Even if you don’t raise your kids to expect privilege, today’s youth assume they should have certain benefits.
So how do you raise kids in an entitlement generation? How do you teach fiscal responsibility, understanding the connection between work, debt, and living a life within your means? As part of a monthly series on privilege, here are the first principles that will get us started:
- Accept that entitlement is part of your teen’s culture. Teens and tweens “absorb” entitlement just being in today’s society. It permeates from peers, media, and advertising. You can raise your kids without extra privileges, and they still might have those expectations. Understanding this helps your own expectations of how to teach your children.
- Understand your teens won’t inherently have the work, money and financial values with which you were raised. Don’t be hard on your teen, or have unrealistic expectations just because they don’t think the way you do. If you were raised “old school,” before the age of entitlement, the culture you were raised in was truly different. Because their generation is embedded with privilege, they just won’t “get it” naturally.
- Decide what you believe about privilege, work ethic, and financial responsibility for your kids. If you want your teens to learn something different than what their culture tells them about entitlement, you’ll need to teach them. What are your thoughts about them working, having an allowance, or paying for their own goods and services? What relationships do you want your kids to learn about these entities? If you have the financial means to provide materially for your kids, how can still teach them the value of work, money and responsibility?
- Teach and model your beliefs. Intentionally parenting includes sharing the reasons “why” you do what you do, or why you expect your kids to do what you do. “Just because” isn’t a good answer. Give the moral reason why you’re saying “no” to what other kids may have or why you’re expecting them to pay for something. Walk them through your budget or tax preparation process so they see what goes on behind the money scene in your home.
- Release your teen to live it out. Once you’ve set expectations and explained the “why” behind your fiscal values, step back and let your teen figure it out. This may result in success, or it may cause lessons learned from mistakes. It’s better your children learn lessons of fiscal responsibility under your guidance and support than when they’re completely on their own. Don’t rescue them, but guide them in how to recalibrate after poor choices are made.