Generation Z – A Sense of Entitlement

I’m a Generation X‘er… you all know about these… many of you fall into this category.

Generation X (people born between 1965 and 1980) came of age in an era of two-income families, rising divorce rates and a faltering economy. Women were joining the workforce in large numbers, spawning an age of “latch-key” children. As a result, Generation X is independent, resourceful and self-sufficient. Unlike previous generations, members of Generation X work to live rather than live to work. They appreciate fun in the workplace and espouse a work hard/play hard mentality.” (About.com)

The Generation Y‘ers (born in the mid eighties), now in their twenties, are entering the workforce with their own character traits.

Generation Y grew up with technology and rely on it to perform their jobs better. Armed with BlackBerrys, laptops, cellphones and other gadgets, Generation Y is plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This generation prefers to communicate through e-mail and text messaging rather than face-to-face contact. Nurtured and pampered by parents who did not want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, Generation Y is confident, ambitious and achievement-oriented.”(About.com)

Then there are our kids, those born between 1994-2004, Generation Z.

Generation Z Born into a downturn in the economy, they will have very different views on life. Generation Z is highly connected, many of this generation have had lifelong use of communications and media technologies such as the World Wide Web, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 players, mobile phones and YouTube, earning them the nickname “digital natives”.

Some can be described as impatient and instant minded, and tending to lack the ambition of previous generations. Psychologists are claiming an “acquired Attention Deficit Disorder” since their dependency on technology is high and attention span is much lower, as opposed to previous generations who read books and other printed material, along with watching live television.

They are also more consumer-oriented than the previous generation. In short, from the very beginning, Generation Z-ers have grown up in a world that is all about connecting through technology. Zs are a more sophisticated generation who will use technology and their own small networks and innovations to make a difference.” (Wikipedia and Annalise Walliker)

My husband and I have prided ourselves on raising unspoiled children. With the odd meltdown here or there, I can honestly say, these are good boys. (My seven year old never asks for a thing, and my four year old just wants candy all day, but overall… nice kids). We have, however, spoiled them with love, affection, nurturing, and always encouraged them to blossom and spread their wings. But lately, I have started to see a tiny shift. This sense of entitlement setting in, that we are trying so desperately to nip in the bud.

We are sometimes a driving family… we drive to Maine in the summer (that’s five hours), we have driven a slew of times to Toronto with the kids, we have even driven to New York. The kids LOVE road trips. We throw a few DVDs and snacks in the car, and off we go. Our boys are amazing travelers… no matter what the method of transportation– they can fly 6 hours without saying boo, they can ride in the car for hours. But last weekend, we had a family party in Toronto, and drove with the boys. We were expecting the usual easy breezy drive. Well, it wasn’t our usual 10/10 easy. It was more like a 6/10. Why? well, our boys who are now 4 and 7, apparently prefer to FLY. They don’t pay, but they like the good life. 🙂

After hearing some kvetching in the back seat, I simply said, “It’s okay boys, we can turn around and go home or not go to The Hockey Hall of Fame if you guys don’t like the drive. Or better, we can leave you at home with your grandparents and we can go alone. No problem. It’s a simple choice.” Well, that shut them up quickly, but we still got a, “Why couldn’t we fly?” and better yet, my four year old said, “Why aren’t we going to Florida this weekend?” Wow.

And believe me, we ain’t no Spielbergs or Jolie-Pitters, but I ask you the way Oprah asks her guests… “How you do you raise unspoiled kids without a sense of entitlement when they are surrounded by abundance?” And again, I reiterate, I do not mean abundance like private jets, drivers, chefs, and trips. No, I mean abundance of love, coupled with possessions that some children have today, due to the great personal and financial sacrifices made by their parents… private school for some, 1-2 cars per family, extra-curricular activities, some dinners out, some vacations, ipods, or ipads or Wii, etc… How do you raise a child to be appreciative and unlazy?

With the large number of women in the workforce today, and parents more exhausted than ever before, moms and dads sometimes find themselves overcompensating for issues they feel guilty about… such as divorce, or working many hours. We’ve all been guilty of plopping our kid in front of Baby Einstein just to get a moment’s reprieve. But we as their parents are the role models. Children don’t only learn by listening, they learn by watching. It is up to us to model proper behavior and practice restraint when it comes to demands placed upon us by these Gen Z’ers.

I also know that to grow, kids need to feel some sadness and deprivation. They have to hear “no,” sometimes, even when it’s easier to say “yes.” They have to get a little knocked down. They have to experience failure. It is through failure that they grow- I can tell you from experience, failure is the biggest gift.

So today, the “on the fence” question remains: How do we shower our Gen Z’ers with both love and discipline, and how do we as parents learn the fine balance between not giving enough, and giving too much?

I’d love to hear from you on this debate…

xoxEDxox

21 Comments
  1. I agree that kids learn the biggest lessons when they experience or feel some sort of failure. I’m from the school of thought that parents should be a little tougher on kids to raise unspoiled children. My problem is knowing what to do in each situation. I never know if I should push and be tough or be nurturing at that moment. That is the hard part I find.

  2. Life is hard enough. I think kids need unconditional support and nurturing. I’ve always been on the softer side while my husband is the tougher one who would agree with you in this post. I guess we make a good balance. Great post. 🙂

  3. This is a great debate I agree. If I was a billionaire, I wouldn’t give an unlimited supply of things to my kids. That is why I respect people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Our kids learn by being loved and nurtured and yes I agree by seeing that they don’t get everything they want. There has to be some kind of appreciation from kids and by giving them everything they want that is not the answer.

  4. I think we should be our children’s cheering squad and not be the ones to break them down. I do agree with you in certain areas but it is up to us as their parents to shelter them from pain.

    1. You can be your child’s cheering squad without sheltering them from pain. It might be a matter of semantic and age of the children but at a certain point they need to be free to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Better now than later. Better small mistakes than life altering ones. It’s also a valuable life lesson to learn that pain is a part of life but not the end of it.

  5. Entitled children can grow up feeling they need to be entitled adults, many times without working to get there. I know many children who came from very rich families who spolied them, made them believe they were better than others (money, sports, education) just to see these same people fall on their asses and not be able to pick themselves back up. Of course we should encourage our children and make them believe that they are special and that they can achieve whatever they want but only with hard work and respect!

    I do still struggle with this though. I grew up very poor, raised by a single mother and knowing never to ask for anything because the money would not be there. Now that I have my own children I sometimes find myself falling into the category of the parent I described above. We are by no means rich but we are comfortable and my kids are aware of this. I hate that I try to makeup for what I did not have by giving it to them whether they have earned it or not. They are good children but not always as appreciative as they should be and that should change. It is sometimes hard to find that balance but I know how necessary it is!!

    Thanks for the great blog, Erica!!! This one really got me thinking!!

  6. I have three daughters in their first, third and fourth years at University. I can say with a sense of pride that my girls are not ‘entitled’, though they have grown up with friends given both more and less than they have. I stayed home with them, by choice, voluntarily choosing that over my physiotherapy career options. Entitlement comes, I believe, from deeply ingrained and subtle attitudes from parents and grandparents that ‘stuff’ matters. Casual comments about desire and need and who is doing what with whom, all convey to children, from a very early age, what is important. Our girls went to public schools. They all worked part-time throughout high school and are expected to contribute 1/3 to their university education and they do well in their chosen degree. They gave up television for one year in elementary school. We only ever had one TV. Still do. None of them got their own laptops till they were in university. Their Dad is particularly stellar at saving money, being practical and knowing the difference between need and want.
    None of this is to say we went without. There was always plenty of food, summer holidays in Tofino at the cheapest vacation rental on the beach, road trips, hiking, and canoeing.
    I think that families with wealth on their side almost have to go out of their way to not only not give their children everything but to provide ample opportunity for adversity.
    That’s just my take. It worked for us, I think.

  7. I learned the hard way with my 20 year what guilt can do to the “abundance” factor. I also found out how guilt from divorce can wreak havoc and play with your brain. I used to feel that she should be rewarded more often than not given that I was never rewarded at all. A reward was not always a “something” but more of a ” I am really proud of you”- I can never express how far that goes! I did however have growing pains as I was only 24 when I became a Mom and 25 when I became a single mom. What the hell did I know!
    Fast forward to today, if I could share anything with any parent, I would say this; leave what your parents taught you on the curve, do not bring it inside your house. Whether it is good or bad is irrelevant- just do it your way. I would also suggest that we focus more on the “Earn while you Learn” concept. Children love, but love to feel a sense of accomplishment. Let them by finding ways to earn some pocket change. Show them how the “other” side lives, take them to hospitals or senior’s homes. Let them recognize what it means to feel good on the inside, not the outside. The more our children learn to feel good on the inside, the less they will care about the outside hence allowing a more “balanced” attitude. Every single child goes through an entitlement phase, rich or poor, it goes with the territory BUT the degree that they have as entitlement is what will allow you as a parent to deal with it easier and not feel like you’ve done something wrong. Parents are not perfect and we never will be nor are our kids BUT we can save ourselves the headache and alcohol intake by showing our kids how to strengthen the inside and see the outside for what it really is.

  8. I am of the boomer generation. We not only have our kids in college as but have to care for our aging as well. I have a hard time relating to parents now a days that feel their child should get a ribbon or trophy for participating not for excellence. We are so afraid of children being disappointed that failure isn’t an option. You learn from disappointment and failure. It is okay not to have the best sports shoes or be the smartest in your class. Help them by focusing their attention on what they are good at but also let them struggle a little. Being handed everything in life from iphones to ipads does not teach them a strong work ethic and makes expectations in life inordinately high. This leaves many people in their early twenties truly unhappy in life. I put myself through school and struggled to find a career and I managed just fine. “The joy is in the journey.”

  9. This is the question of all time isn’t it? I recall not having the right clothes at camp and getting bullied so I try and give my daughter the “right” things so she’ll fit in. In fact, she doesn’t care, it is just my baggage that is doing that. My kids live in a bubble similar to the one you described above and just recently I had to explain to my kids that summer camp is an expensive privilege, not a right. Many kids do not go to camp. I have started making them pay for things they want that I consider extravagant. And we do A LOT of charity work as a family which really does help put things in perspective. But overall this is an issues I struggle with on a daily basis. Thanks for starting the discussion!

  10. GREAT REVIEW! I totally agree with all your thoughts you said in your post, especially at the middle of your article. Thank you, this info is very valuable as always. Plase check my free ipad 2 blog, hope you will find interesting information about free ipad 2 there! Keep up the good work! You’ve got +1 more reader of your great blog:) Isabella S.

  11. While reading your post about children who didn’t ask for things and were great travellers I was dying, wishing ours were like that. Our girls do ask for things and don’t love being cooped up in the car. I recently blogged on this topic after a trip to Muskoka.
    The balance between them desiring the things they are bombarded with on TV and through their peers and what is truly important is a difficult one to strike.
    For my husband and I it’s a focus which we are determined to stay plugged into.
    We do not give in and give the kids what they want because it will be easier. We remain steadfast in teaching that “things” are earned most of the time.
    We are teaching the girls (5&7) that they are rewarded for good efforts and attempting to instill a good work effort while reiterating that love, integrity are more important.
    Tough balance indeed.

  12. It is my honest opinion that part of the issue is assuming that love, and discipline are two different things. That discipline is somehow “opposite,” of love. Part of it is because discipline has been traditionally associated with punishment, or the destruction of self esteem. I can understand the origin of this because in prior generations discipline, and punishment, and degradation of the self often did come together.

    This has echoed down through generations. Personally, as a Gen. “cold” Y-er, I fight this battle in myself. I catch myself looking at my set backs, my obstacles, and even my own goal oriented self sacrifices as a “divine” punishment of some sort, view it negatively, as a “divine punishment,” rather than valuing these things as a source of necessary education, and growth.

    The lesson here is that deprivation, discipline, and rules are all gifts we give ourselves if we are willing to change our own views. The gift of long term gratification. Of true, well-founded self esteem built on accomplishment and growth through fair, and loving discipline. By learning how to accept this ourselves, our children, who are so amazingly, intelligently, and intuitively wired, can pick up on our own discipline/punishment model, and it reinforces the cultural atmosphere of entitlement.

    A favourite image of mine is that of the wheel. Any wheel will invariably turn in circles, up and down perpetually just as life brings us up, and knocks us down again. The only place in the wheel that is stationary is the hub. The people that we, or any generation, are being called to become are those who can be centered in ourselves, accepting of the ups and downs around us as part of the cyclical, teaching, and effective turns of life that teach us how to become better, and better versions of ourselves through the lessons that come through deprivation and discipline, and seeing love as something more than just the happy/cuddly stuff we romanticize.

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