Teach your child…no one owes you anything

The current generation of young adults have been pegged as the “entitled generation.”  I have a feeling that each subsequent generation has been dubbed similar by the preceding generation.  I think the idea of entitlement looks different in different generations and that by nature, we all feel entitled to one degree or another.

Let’s work to break the chain of the entitlement mentality and teach our kids that no one owes them anything.

Your parents do not owe you a car simply because you are of driving age and you want a vehicle.

Your teachers do not owe you an A in class simply because you bless them with your presence.

Your sports coach does not owe you playing time based on the reality that you are breathing.

The world does not owe you a good job after college because you now hold a piece of paper that says you met the minimum requirements to complete a degree.

Your boss does not owe you a preferential schedule and regular pay raises because you show up and do the job you were hired to do.

Life does not owe you blessings upon blessings of easy street living because you planned out how you want life to go and demand that those expectations are met.


Teach your child that if they want a car — they can work and save their money to buy a car.  Teach them that they do not earn a car because they have reached a certain age. With age comes greater responsibility, but not entitlement.

Teach them that their grades should be and are a direct result of the time and effort they put into their studies. Teach them that they should never expect a teacher to give them a certain grade based on anything other than their academic performance. Any attempt to manipulate a grade out of a teacher who also happens to be their coach is wrong. Earn the grade.

In a world where everyone gets a medal or a trophy for participating, teach your child that they do not deserve playing time just because they are on the team.  Being on the team puts them in a position to earn playing time, but does not entitle them to even a minute of playing time.  Teach them that the good of the team as a whole trumps what is good for them as an individual, even if that means they ride the bench all season.  Teach them that regardless of playing time, they are to give 100% effort in practices and be 100% supportive during games. Teach them to celebrate the success of individual players and of the team collectively; that their job as a teammate is to make the team better, whether on the field or off.

Teach your child that they do not automatically receive a job as a result of receiving a diploma.  Teach them that a degree without an actual transfer of information into their brains is useless. A degree without knowledge and skill is just a piece of paper. Teach them that the piece of paper is not a guarantee of a job, and certainly not a guarantee of what they deem an ideal job.  Teach them that the completion of college is merely another stepping stone and their new task is working to acquire a job; putting effort into resumes and interviews, meeting people and putting themselves in positions that will increase the likelihood of a job – networking events over mid-morning surfing, for example. The degree is just the beginning, it is not the end in itself.

Once they have been fortunate enough to secure a job, teach them that their boss does not owe them anything. They have been hired to do a job, their “reward” for completing those agreed upon tasks is called a paycheck. Their boss does not owe them a customized schedule to meet their whims and fancies. Their boss does not owe them accolades and special recognitions, similar to those participation medals and trophies received for merely participating. Their boss does not owe them regular raises because they show up for work and do the bare minimum. Teach your child that success in the workplace requires WORK. It requires work beyond the bare minimum, beyond merely the job description. It requires effort and commitment and persistence.

As the picture perfect plan for what their work life will look like after college doesn’t quite meet their expectations, teach your child that the world does not owe them a picture perfect life. They surely have plans and goals, but rarely do the plans and goals of an 18-22 year old come to fruition without some bumps and detours along the way. Prepare your child to be ready for those bumps and detours and help them to see the journey as part of the adventure to embrace, and not expect their desired destination to be handed to them on a silver platter with no strings attached.  If they want business success, pursue it passionately, but expect to work hard. If they want academic prestige, a professorship at an elite university and an abundance of published works, go for it wholeheartedly, but expect to study hard and write profusely and be prepared to handle rejections.  Goals are great, but any goal worth achieving is going to require effort.

As Thomas Edison is claimed to have said:

“Success is 99% Inspiration and 1% Perspiration”

What about when the boss passes over your child for a less qualified coworker, or a professor unfairly gives a lesser grade for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of work, or a coach plays his own son over yours when your son is a far better player: in essence, what about when life isn’t fair?

Teach your child that life isn’t fair:

and not to expect otherwise.

There are so many factors that your child will have absolutely no control over. Deal with it. That is life. It’s not fair. And there may be no reasonable expectation. So be it. Teach your child to not focus on those aspects of life that are outside of her control, but to excel in the areas that are in her control: her own effort level, her own attitude towards work, classmates, coworkers, bosses, the job in general.

There will be biased coaches. There will be biased professors. There will be backstabbing coworker. There will be jerky bosses. You can complain about it and use circumstances as an excuse of you can rise above the circumstances and determine to succeed anyway.

When your child goes through life understanding that no one owes them anything, they will develop a level of grit, a level of determination that will enable them to bounce from event to event, and never allow any one disappointment or failure to keep them down for very long.

Teach your child.

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