Entitlement, failure and self-esteen

by DaniGirl on November 17, 2008 · 8 comments

in Mothering without a licence

In my search for a new nanny, I’ve had a lot of exposure to the 20 to 25 year old age group and I have to agree with the prevailing opinion that this particular generation seems to have a highly over-developed sense of entitlement.

A week or so ago, I read about a study by Ellen Greenberger, a psych prof in California, who examined that sense of entitlement and found that students today expected high grades for modest efforts and were extremely demanding of their professors: they expected same-day e-mail responses, special consideration for effort over achievement, and believed that professors had no right to ban cell phones during lectures. I’m not that far removed from my own academic career (only a decade or so) but I can’t imagine making the kinds of demands on a prof that I see students making of Beloved where he teaches.

Hot on the heels of that article, last week there was another report, this one about a high school in Saskatchewan that is thinking of doing away with those self-esteem crushing Fs when a student scores below 50% on a course. Instead, students would receive “incomplete” or “no mark” on their report cards and transcripts. (I’m barely able to type this for the rolling of my eyeballs.)

“Failing marks do not encourage student engagement with school,” [the principal] said yesterday, pointing to the permanent scar on a student’s transcript, as well as negative effects on motivation and self-esteem. Teachers are also demoralized when they hand out failing grades, because many see it as indicative of their own efforts, Ms. Figley said. “Just like doctors don’t want patients to die, teachers don’t want their students to fail.”

So the message to students is, “we know failing sucks and we don’t want your feelings to be hurt, so if you don’t pass we’ll just pretend you never took this course.” Yeah, that’s a healthy approach.

In the past month, I’ve been appalled by the lack of respect shown by the young nannies applying to take care of the boys. This is a job where trust and personality are two of the keys to success, and I’ve received replies that are barely literate, let alone borderline impolite with their immediate familiarity. That, and we’ve scheduled four interviews so far with only one candidate even bothering to show up. One at least had the decency to call a couple of hours before an interview set up three days ago and ask for a reschedule due to that old standby, a “family emergency.”

I don’t want to seem like an old biddy shaking my cane and tsk-tsking an entire generation, but what the heck is going on? And, more importantly, what do you think we as parents can do about it to avoid the same fate for our kids? Is this sense of entitlement a product of being raised in an environment of leniency and lack of discipline, or is it a question of having always gotten everything they asked for? Is it that in waiting longer to have kids, we’re too tired to mount a decent offense in the discipline department, so the kids are running roughshod and getting away with stuff we never would? Or are they posh because they were constantly escorted and chaperoned from playdates to skating lessons to sushi dinner?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jennyandtim November 17, 2008 at 9:04 am

I work in a college and the pathetic writing ability and lack or responsibility by students is appalling. Equally appalling is the fact that parents are so involved with a college student’s life, and feed the “it’s someone else’s fault” mentality.

It is sad the number of times I speak to parents instead of students when the student has done something wrong. Students take no responsibility, but complain to their parents, and the parents are pathetic enough to come to the students defense regardless of the students responsibility in the situation.

If you want to avoid the same fate for your children, realize they will fail at things and the world will not end. Realize when they fail or make mistakes it is in fact their fault, and they should suffer the consequences. Realize it is your children’s life, not yours, let them take some responsibility.

2 Rev Dr Mom November 17, 2008 at 9:46 am

The whole grade thing makes me nuts…it was there when I was teaching and fear it’s gotten worse.

As a prof, I didn’t want students to fail–but if they did fail it was not my doing; it was generally the result of not coming to class, not doing assignments, etc.

I will never forget the student who skied more than he came to class (and didn’t really try to hide it), had grades in the 50s on his exams, wasn’t diligent about his other assignments, and then told me that I couldn’t possibly fail him because his brother made As at an Ivy League school. Well, okay then. (He failed…and had to repeat the class, but he still got to go through the motions of commencement with his class).

3 Natalie November 17, 2008 at 11:34 am

Interestingly, I am at once on both sides of this debate. As a mom of three who in the last year has gone through a similar ordeal trying to hire a caregiver for our three kids and as a mature university student myself witnessing younger students in action. Ironically, I am currently writing a term paper on “kidults” or “adultescents”, this prevalent social phenomena where young adults just don’t seem to want to grow up. One general consensus out there is that these “former” children were (and in many instances still are) coddled by their parents. So yes, I would have to agree wholeheartedly with your assertions!

4 Andrea November 17, 2008 at 12:06 pm

I am totally with you in regards to this “me” generation. Like you, I’m not that far removed (33)…but I was most certainly raised with a firm hand and instilled with respect, morals, and values. Perhaps the collective “we” are exploring psychological impacts on child rearing too much; therefore changing certain teachings, etc. to more gently and philosophically raise our kids. While this has some benefits to raising a more subdued and thoughtful generation, it also has its downfalls. ie: talking and reasoning with your children as to why they “shouldn’t do that” (instead of a simple “no, that’s dangerous/mean/hurtful”) only encourages them to believe that every situation they encounter as they grow, they will be able to barter or change the outcome to suit their needs and wants. When it comes right down to it, every generation will have their own pitfalls…I just hope that all the ass wiping and dance lessons allows my selfish heathens to put me up in a nice seniors residence when the time comes.

5 meanie November 18, 2008 at 7:39 am

i totally hear you i’ve been trying to hire a sitter via kijiji – you know, THEY put the ad up that they are looking for babysitting work and then they: don’t reply, or if they do, they don’t show up for the “meet the kids” appt. and they are asking $9-10 an hour? back in my day i tell ya….

6 Lisa November 19, 2008 at 7:35 am

As a “seasoned” Mom, a “forty-something”,and having kids from toddler to twenty-six, I say it is most definitely the coddling. We don’t let our kids truly live in the world any more, and they are not learning the skills necessary to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and start all over again. Becasue we never let them fall down, figuratively or literally. Everyone is running around chasing their own tails trying to be so-called “enlightened”parents and totally forgetting about the basics. If you think about it, it really is VERY simple, this life thing. A is good, and B is bad. C you can do, and D you can’t. We need to stop giving the little darlings so many options and choices and ways out, from babyhood. Just my humble opinion and I will stop now because, honestly, I could fill a book!

7 smothermother November 19, 2008 at 8:11 am

I have to agree with the idea that coddling our children into complacency seems to be the issue. Although my little guy is only 1 1/2, my sister has three teenagers, all of which have gotten pretty much whatever they wanted and none of which has any respect or appreciation of their previledge and feel totally entitled to everything haded to them on a silver platter. I hope to be able to give my little one everything, but I also plan to make sure he understands his previledge and respect the fact that he is very fortunate, and NOT feel he is entitled to it all.

It would seem that there is a huge shift in parenting thoughts in just a decade. Where my sister coddled, I seem to be swining in the opposite direction, taking a harder line and making my little guy stand up and brush off his own knees when he falls down. Most of my friends seem to be swinging in that direction as well. I guess we’ll have to wait another decade or so to see what our kids will become as young adults and what nickname their generation will be coined with. I hope it’s something like the “Uber independant, smart, respectful and compasionate generation.” A little long but has a certain ring to it, non?

8 Catherine November 25, 2008 at 1:23 pm

You have totally hit the nail on the head with this post. As a mother of three (ages 6 to 16 months), I have had plenty of challenges with the over-entitled 20 somethings who have applied to care for my children. A good friend of mine works in H.R. for a hospital, and she encounters the same sense of entitlement in the young nurses the hospital hires. One of her nurses recently left on a vacation to Japan for a month, without even bothering to tell anyone that she was going. She was quite surprised, when she returned, to discover that her employer had a problem with that type of behaviour.
I think this sense of entitlement may come from the “helicopter parenting” phenomenon, possibly combined with the sense of empowerment that some parenting philosophies cultivate. Providing the children with plenty of choice and control over their environment and circumstances may well lead them to believe that the world will always bend to their will.
When I was a child (I am 41 now), children were disciplined, and my grandmother in particular still reminded us that “children should be seen and not heard”. We knew our place in the pecking order, and were taught to respect our elders.
Oh dear. I do sound a bit old fashioned. However, teaching children to have unrealistic expectations of how the world will treat them will do them no favours in the long run.

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