Silver Spoon? Nah, I Prefer Platinum genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

It's All Rainbows

Not long ago I wrote about what I call our "Chain Letter Society"...the construct that we have become a society obsessed with being number one, being the best, being the person at the top of the pyramid. Parents seem to be teaching children that they are entitled, that they are the best and that the world will acquiesce to all of their needs and demands. I contend that this is not only a negative construct; it is going to handicap a generation that will struggle to understand why the world didn't react according to their expectations.

Much to my surprise, I found an article today that voices many of the same concerns. For the most part I agree with the author though I think he may place too much focus on forces outside the home. I'm more inclined to see the home as the primary source of this burgeoning problem.

I've included some excerpts below but I would definitely recommend reading the entire article.

Don Chance, a finance professor at Louisiana State University, says it dawned on him last spring. The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A's.

"They felt so entitled," he recalls, "and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers."

Fred Rogers, the late TV icon, told several generations of children that they were "special" just for being whoever they were. He meant well, and he was a sterling role model in many ways. But what often got lost in his self-esteem-building patter was the idea that being special comes from working hard and having high expectations for yourself.

While children may be influenced by television programs, the reality is that much of their behavior and their perception of the world are adopted from their parents. I could be wrong but if I were asked to bet what would happen if we took away Mr. Rogers (and his passing effectively achieved as much), the impact on the degree to which a child feels special or entitled will nary miss a beat.

Signs of narcissism among college students have been rising for 25 years, according to a recent study led by a San Diego State University psychologist. Obviously, Mr. Rogers alone can't be blamed for this. But as Prof. Chance sees it, "he's representative of a culture of excessive doting."

Prof. Chance teaches many Asian-born students, and says they accept whatever grade they're given; they see B's and C's as an indication that they must work harder, and that their elders assessed them accurately. They didn't grow up with Mr. Rogers or anyone else telling them they were born special.

By contrast, American students often view lower grades as a reason to "hit you up for an A because they came to class and feel they worked hard," says Prof. Chance. He wishes more parents would offer kids this perspective: "The world owes you nothing. You have to work and compete. If you want to be special, you'll have to prove it."

Don't get me wrong, I'm no proponent of teaching a kid to swim by throwing them in the lake...just as I'm not in favor of telling a three year old that they will win a gold medal because they swim well for their age. History tells us that reality is somewhere in the's the principle of the bell curve...a few people make up the extreme points and the rest are traveling shoulder to shoulder with the pack. I appreciate that mommy and daddy want the best for their children...but preparing a child for the world needs to be more than promises of bells and whistles.

In America today, life often begins with the anointing of "His Majesty, the Fetus," he says. From then on, many parents focus their conversations on their kids. Today's parents "are the best-educated generation ever," says Dr. Rosenfeld. "So why do our kids see us primarily discussing kids' schedules and activities?"

He encourages parents to talk about their passions and interests; about politics, business, world events. "Because everything is child-centered today, we're depriving children of adults," he says. "If they never see us as adults being adults, how will they deal with important matters when it is their world?"

I have a slightly different take on this final phenomenon. I think we've seen a gradual progression of the entitlement mentality and what parents are doing today is acting out the fulfillment of their own unmet expectations.

You see, they may be successful but the only relevant measure is whether they are as successful as their expectations. It depends on what they believe. While it may be reasonable to view their achievements as success, if they don't feel it as such, then the natural instinct is going to be to transfer that need to their children. It’s the, "By god, I'm going to do everything to make sure my kid doesn't miss any opportunities" mindset.

What we often fail to consider is happiness and how that is best achieved. Our consumption society is hyper-focused on a concept of happiness that is measured externally...what do you have...what is your well known have you become. The problem with that notion is there will always be someone who has more, has a better title, and is better known. Perhaps we need to adjust our notion of happiness?

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Daniel DiRito | July 5, 2007 | 7:33 PM
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1 On July 6, 2007 at 1:02 PM, Trey Cruz wrote —

:-) You know what movie I can't wait to see!!! That Adam Sandler movie with the fat guy... can't remember the title.

Thought Theater at Blogged

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