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Thursday, March 11, 2010



Um, no. Mostly because we don't have enough money for this to be a problem. My kid's just almost 3 but she knows she's not getting whatever she wants. She says stuff like, "wow, that ball is so, so beautiful! Me can take it home?" and she takes it very well when I say, "no, not today." I think it's a whole culture of entitlement that you have to fight against. I also deny her food for 5 whole minutes while I finish what I'm doing and I punish her for breaking rules and I discourage her from interrupting adult conversations...this is my problem with the whole "princess" thing, btw. I'm sure it will become much harder as she gets bigger but for now, this is one thing we've definitely got under control.


I'm like you - my parents gave me whatever I wanted (within reason), they paid for my college and I didn't have a job until I was 20 either.

Aaaaaand I'm pretty normal and shockingly conservative with money now.

When Claire threw a screamfest at Wal Mart last week over the mylar balloon, I knew I was teaching her a bad lesson. But at the same time I couldn't help but think, IT'S A BALLOON. Nobody's life is going to get ruined over a balloon.

It's hard for me to properly get a handle on the ask/give dynamic right now because she can't talk much. I say no and she doesn't really understand why. I'm not too bent out of shape about it (in a few minutes she's usually over it).

I guess what I'm more aware of is the slippery slope. There will be no Coach handbags, you can bet on that. But if I buy her a bunch of balloons now, will she be asking for one later?


Yes, I am totally dealing with this, more than I ever expected to. My son is 14 and is about to be 15, an only child and a child of divorce. Those three things combine to make one hell of an entitled child EVEN THOUGH ALL HIS FRIENDS HAVE MORE THAN HIM AND DON'T HAVE TO DO CHORES OMG.

He got pissed off at me last night because I made him get off his Xbox after FOUR HOURS and read a book for 30 minutes. He has to read ALL DAY AT SCHOOL and I am a horrible person for making him read at home. He gets any time on his Xbox and it's not enough. I wanted to make him earn the money to buy an IPod Touch (he wanted an IPhone) and instead his father (without discussing it with me at all) went out and bought him one. It's hard to control what your child has when the other parent refuses to co-parent with you and acts like a disney dad with no responsibility at all.

It's infuriating, especially for someone who grew up like I did.


My kids are 3 and 1 but I think we've got a pretty good handle on this for now. I'm more worried about when they get to school and they don't have the fancy backpack or shoes. Kids are mean and schools don't do much about bullying! I'm not going to spend $120 on shoes that he'll grow out of in 6 months. That's silly and I just don't have the money for it.
I just hope that by then all parents will have figured it out. It doesn't take fancy clothes/shoes/purses/phones to become a productive member of society.


Cash is only 20 months old and I rarely take him shopping with me so there’s not a lot of opportunity for him to throw fits in order to get something. But now that I think about it, he did get really upset when we were leaving a friend’s house and he wanted to take one of her Matchbox cars with him. I was in the process of taking it away when my friend said “Oh, just let him keep it, she’ll never miss it.” I wanted to say “No, he needs to learn that everything is not his to keep” but I didn’t want to make my friend feel awkward, so I just let him keep it. Probably not the right thing to do, but sometimes I take the path of least resistance. Which probably means he’ll grow up to be a hatchet murderer who continually begs me for a new blade. Sigh.


I hear you-- and I don't mean for this comment to sound a criticism of you or your parenting skills. I read you for inspiration or a sense of empathy or something. All that said, do you have a cheapo stroller or anything? You may have gotten a deal-- but I'd be willing to bet cash dollars that it's one of four or five brands (cough BOB). And I would have to say the same thing about mine. We all want the best for our kids and we have to be aware of how that want is satisfied by things branded as "better" with pricetags to match. Now its strollers and diapers and formula and care providers and organic everything. A few years from now it will be sports equipment, clothes, schools. Maybe what I mean is that what we're really trying to do is teach our kids how to take advantage of the benefits of some of those better things without either them or us becoming enslaved to those things? Or maybe that's too dramatic sounding.


Joanna, yes, I have a BOB. But the point is, I bought it for ME, not for my kid, truthfully. I think the point I was trying to make was that I don't let other people's opinions influence what is right for me. Like, the reason I have a BOB is because I wanted a great stroller to exercise with - not because everyone else had a BOB and I felt like I was shortchanging myself or my kids if I didn't get one, or if I used something cheaper. (I did use something WAAAAY cheaper for a whole year and I hated it.)

I totally get where you're coming from, though. I didn't take your comment offensively, I just wanted to clarify my stance on expensive stuff. As long as we aren't buying it just because we feel PRESSURED to do it because of what everyone else is doing.


I was an only child, my parents worked very hard to provide for me and ensure I had everything I needed and even wanted. However, I put myself thru school with assistance from the Air Force, which also gave me a skill to generate an income! :-) So I am one of those who take offense to the "spoiled child" term.

I have two boys 13 and 7. You can imagine the 13yr old is completely into what he wears, but I choose not to pay full price for a trendy item. In fact, he has these knock off brand shoes we got from Target he gets lots of compliments on. Every compliment is one point for me simply because he wanted the name brand!

So, it can be a battle, but it doesnt have to be, like with anything else set boundaries.

I am very afraid of my child being set up for a life of financial hardship if we continue to hand him things and not make him work for / earn them. The lifestyles we grow up with are not instantly achieved when we start out on our own. There can be a HUGE difference and I do not want my sons drowning in debt to try to achieve that lifestyle. Certainly can be difficult to teach our children to live within their means.


Funny you should mention this ... I'm a Girl Scout leader for young girls and right now we're working on etiquette. It scares me a bit how even this early on they've acquired the belief that the world revolves around them, that sense of entitlement. For example, we were discussing various situations -- one of which was being at a friend's house where they served something you don't like. Many of the girls thought it was completely appropriate to tell the family you didn't like it and ask the mom to fix you something else. What!!! Even if you're not spoiling your children with "things", you can also be spoiling your children with a distorted view of the world - that they are in control.


I think Becky totally nailed it. Even though we don't have any money for extras like a new whatever-gadget-is-hot when Maureen gets older, there are still other ways that she can grow up spoiled and entitled.

And, I have to totally side with the mom who ran out and bought a brand-new stroller. I would never do that, but I can see why someone feels that they *should*. Especially if the other mom is implying "ZOMG, how can you keep your baby in that DEATH TRAP?"


I'm not a parent yet. I hope to be one day. Growing up we had what we needed and not so much what we wanted. I mean sure I had Cabbage Patch kids, but once I started junior high we pretty much only got what we needed. I don't remember getting to go shopping for new school clothes each year. I got a job at 16. I got a very old used car at 17. I used grant money to fund 3 years of community college and when it ran out, I had to drop out. I guess student loans was something I wasn't prepared to do and my parents would not have payed for or co-signed for anything.

So clearly I grew up not feeling entitled to much of anything. And now as an adult I have a major problem with overspending. Sure I love a bargain, but I am not too caught up in designer labels (except maybe when it comes to handbags).

I think because I felt deprived I now go overboard. I worry if I will continue this once I become a parent. I think maybe not because we pretty much live paycheck to paycheck as it is so any kid that comes along will probably suck up all my shopping money. I still worry though about it. I guess in the end my kid will probably grow up like I did, but hopefully with a better feel for how to save and budget. My parents didn't really teach me anything about money.

Sounds like a good book. I'm glad it didn't fill you with rage the whole way through.


Luckily, I do not have to deal with this yet. Plus it seems that F and I are on the same page about it. Whenever we see my nieces and nephew and all that they have, we look at each other and say, "Our kids are totally screwed." We both know what it is to work for what you want and even though you may want everything everyone else has, (we are the only ones in our family that don't have a huge flat screen tv) you don't NEED IT. Heck, my allowance came out of my dad's change jar and usually consisted of pennies and nickles!! I never felt entitled as a child and I certainly hope I can pass the same on to mine when they finally arrive.

Lisa Munley

Emily, thank you for an excellent review, and (even better) this wonderful conversation it generated in the comments. I esp. like the comment from the GS leader..her example was great. I am also a GS leader and it truly is shocking some of the attitudes these kids have.

Anyway, thanks again for all the time spent reading and reviewing this book. It is greatly appreciated.'

PS You can give a copy or two away if you like!! (US/Canada only)

Sarah in Ottawa

Like you and A'Dell, Emily, I wanted for very little as a child and how to pay for University was never a concern (study abroads included). I am an only child, but the child of two oldest kids (one of whom immigrated to Canada with her parents and virtually NO money) who had incredibly hard-working parents from modest backgrounds. As such, my parents were (and are) extremely responsible with money and that has rubbed off on me. My husband's parents were similarly responsible, so we are very lucky that we view money in the same way.

I bristle at generlizations about "spoiled only children" or "those kids whose parents paid for everything". As you and the PP have mentioned, entitlement tied to the behaviour of the parents and their attitudes. My parents were strict and privileges had to be earned. Tantrums or any sort of similar behaviour were NOT tolerated. They were not my friends then - they're my friends NOW. Hard work was lauded, as was charitable and loving behaviour. I hope to model the same behaviour to my kids.


I guess I'd be considered an entitled kid--my parents gave us a lot, we never wanted for clothing or toys. On the other hand, there were things I asked for that, looking back, seem perfectly reasonable. I asked for a telescope about three years running, and never got one. Instead I got Barbies and things like that. I don't know why they thought a telescope was unreasonable; I seem to remember them saying something about me just breaking it anyway. I was twelve.

And I got my undergraduate education paid for; my parents paid it all. However, my mom had this nice little habit of calling me up at school and reminding me to never skip class, because every class I skipped would be X amount of HER money down the drain. The end result of this was that when I got mono? I went to classes and and wrote papers with a 103 degree fever, I never skipped a class, and ended up in the hospital.

So...entitled, no. Guilted, yes. Made to feel like I owed them something, yes. Kept in the dark about money for a looooong time, yes.

And my kids don't want for much--my husband grew up poor and doesn't want them to want for anything---but somehow they haven't turned into monsters. We have limits, and budgets, and they are aware of this.


I don't know if I can objectively say that I was or wasn't an "entitled" child. I am an only child of divorced parents; my mother left when I was 13 and my father remarried shortly thereafter. My father was the main custodial parent for me.

I came from a fairly wealthy family (though I never really understood what that meant until I was older) and never had an allowance. My parents paid for my college 100%, and paid for some of my law school. As a result, I have a small amount of student loan debt from law school and that's it.

Was I entitled? I don't think so. Although they did provide me with basically whatever I wanted, I didn't really want much. I never had a TV in my room, I bought my first car by myself (although my father did buy me a car as a wedding gift), and I worked from the time I was 16 in various jobs. I was able to save a lot of money during college and law school and was therefore able to buy a house one year out of law school.

The thing is, I don't think that how much money you have has anything to do with whether you've got an entitled attitude. I know plenty of people who DON'T have the money to pay for the things they've purchased, and who purchase them anyway because they believe they "deserve" them. That's what I consider an entitled attitude. By the same token, I know plenty of people - my stepmother is one - who grew up much, much wealthier than I, and who are incredibly unentitled. Frankly, I think the issue of entitlement is one that stems from a pattern of behavior instilled in us from birth and then reinforced throughout our lives.

I didn't get everything I wanted (though I got lots of things I didn't ask for or want). I take issue with the assumption that an only child is automatically spoiled or entitled (Emily, you didn't say that, but another commenter alluded to it). Having siblings, being rich, being poor, being an only child - none of those things automatically equal mannerly, entitled, unentitled, or anything else. It's all in the way your parents reared you, and the way you allow life to shape you after you grow up.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

I'm not a parent... But this whole topic of the "entitled child" fascinates me. I guess because I saw it first hand while teaching college. And I think the education system is one area where the issue of entitlement... and parents intervening to ensure that their kids are getting what they are "entitled to" is really causing problems.

It's sad that a natural, wonderful impulse - to make sure your kid has everything s/he needs - gets so blown out of whack and ends up destroying important values like work ethic and frugality and patience.

Especially sad when, as you point out Emily, you can still give your kids everything they need without spoiling them, or failing to set boundaries.

Anyway, thanks for a thought-provoking post.


I'm not an entitled kid, though I did have a few things many others do not. I had a brand new car but I had to have a job. I paid for college on my own, still am and will be forever. However, I will probably struggle with maintaining a balance for my son. I am working on being firm when he wants something and I have said no. He's a willful boy and reaching the terrible twos at one and a half. I don't want to be that parent in the store with a screaming child because he wants something and I said no. And as he gets older, I want to encourage him to work but I want to be able to give him things I didn't have. I need to read this book!


Of course I want "the best" for my kids, but we've defined "the best" as what fits into our budget.

I L.O.V.E.D. that quoted paragraph from the book. I work with teenagers and BOY HOWDY do some of them exemplify why exactly boundaries need to be set and followed through with early and immediately.


My family had a lot of money when I was growing up, and my parents paid for a lot. But there were limits, and I was never a kid who asked for big or expensive things (for the most part). My parents also taught me a lot about money: how to find good deals, brand names aren't important, how to balance your checkbook, how to create a budget.

My husband grew up with very little, and he rarely if ever got the things he wanted or sometimes even the things he needed. However, once he turned 18, he started racking up a huge amount of credit card debt that he was paying off until he was probably 26. He still buys things that aren't in our budget every week, and brand names are more important to him than quality. (Of course, he has many wonderful qualities too. He's just bad about managing money.)

I hadn't thought about entitlement in the way of the Girl Scout comment above. That's a good reminder for me that entitlement is an overall attitude. I really do agree with the idea that it's not how much money you have, it's how you teach your kids and how you expect your kids to behave. Good post, Emily.


I was a pretty entitled kid until high school when my dad's company went out of business. After that, I went from having pretty much whatever I wanted to much less. My parents struggled just to provide needs. I got a job at 16 and have pretty much had one ever since. It's made me not take anything for granted and to always make sure my husband and I are prepared for any worse case scenario.

But I do struggle with how I am to have a child that is not spoiled. I can afford to buy my son something at the store that he will eventually start asking for (he is only one.) Do I say no, just to say no, or to teach him that he can't have everything he wants? I know that once I say no, I will stick to it, but its just remembering to say it sometimes so that he does not start expecting something for him everytime we got to the store. I guess we will just play it by ear.

Great review. Its definitely a thought provoking issue in this day and age!


We're expecting our first child in six months, and what worries me is the entitled attitudes I see developing in everybody else's kids :P. A friend of my husband's has three kids in their tweens, and he recently was going on and on about all the popular brands and how that's what the kids want so that's what he has to buy. Like ... really? Growing up, I had an allowance, it was all the money I got, and if I wanted popular-brand tennis shoes, I either had to save up for them, or find them at discount. In middle school, this was hard, but by the time I got to high school, I figured out what I liked and what looked good on me, and wore what I wanted (to sometimes disastrous effect, ahem). It's easy to say "Oh, you don't have kids yet, you don't know how hard it is" but I was a kid, with a mom who pretty much laughed at me if I tried to make those things matter. She's got a spine of steel, that woman - I didn't get junk food either, or my own phone line, or tv, or whatever else some of my friends had. And now I thank her every day for it, because I'm still close to one of those friends from high school, and she's one of the most entitled people I have ever met. Grrrr. Sorry for the rant, but this is a huge button for me.

I will say that college is a bit of a different animal. My parents paid for my schooling too (but not my wedding, heh), but wouldn't cover my apartment or bills once I decided to move out. They couldn't afford more than a state school either, but I'm perfectly happy with my education - if it ensures your kids go to college and don't end up living in the basement until they're 30, I think counts as an investment, not a gift. :)


Okay, here's what I think is often missing from discussions about parents' behavior affecting their children:

No one discusses the idea that parents must have the capacity AND demonstrate critical thinking and value judgment when it comes to making decisions about buying stuff and doing stuff. Want a new purse? Well, does that purse fit into our budget? Is that purse what we want to spend our limited dollars on? Did we come here today to buy that purse? WHY exactly am I buying this purse and is the reason a good one?

I think it's far easier for a child these days to disassociate buying with need when shopping frequently at places like Target (something I do to a fault as well) is normal and unplanned-for purchases are frequent. I realized this when my child started saying things like "we don't have __ we need to go buy it." And she's three for chrissakes. So nowadays we have lists, we stick to the lists or whatever objective we had for going shopping, and remind our daughter of what we are buying and why. It's the why stuff (or why NOT stuff) that's the most important I think.

But I don't know either, really. I only have a 3 year old. AND it's not to say that if you're buying stuff for fun at Target every once in a while you will automatically create stuff-hungry kids, because that's NOT the only way to instill purchasing judgement. But maybe in the absence of any other discussion of money and then if money frequently seems to be spent without discresion then...I don't know what I'm saying really.


My parents gave me big things, but not little things. So I didn't have all the toys my friends had (no Barbie Dreamhouse and I am still sad) but they paid for my college and gave me a car when I graduated from college. And I am so grateful for that, since my husband and I would not be in the secure place that we are if we were still paying off college loans and had car payments. (His parents did the same.)

We are planning to do similar things for our kid(s). We will get them started on the road to adulthood, but they don't get whatever they want on a daily basis. (If Elizabeth did, she'd own all the balloons in the entire world.)


I think that Becky also hit another great, oft-misunderstood reality that has become the norm in our communities: a complete lack of consideration for other people and understanding of their position. You know, BASIC ETIQUETTE.

There's entitlement to THINGS that's certainly a problem, but the attitude that you're entitled to be ask people to make special effort for everyday things, and be treated like someone really important and respected is jarring as well.

I can't believe those girl scouts wanted the mom to make them something else (I sure never would have DARED to ask that).

But at the same time, yep, I *can* believe it. This also makes me think of parents-as-friends in that only a "friend" would make another kind of lunch and a hard core parent would say, "this is what's being served."

I'm rambling off topic now and not making much sense. But, yes, entitlement issues abound!

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