Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Are U.S. Children Too Entitled?

By Peter DeWitt — July 26, 2012 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A friend of mine was on the train from N.Y.C. to Poughkeepsie and watched as a few young children began jumping around the seats and doing pull-ups on the luggage bars. As much as most adults would prevent their children from doing these activities in the first place, these children were fortunate enough to have parents and relatives who cheered them on. Apparently they must be training for the Cirque du Soleil.

Some passengers on the train stared in disbelief and others tried to ignore the spectacle. Using her 21st century skills, my friend posted a comment about it on Facebook and a few people chimed in saying a number of things I am not able to write. Mostly, it boiled down to the idea that kids and parents have changed. This is not the first time most of us have heard these comments. Actually, “kids have changed” is a phrase that has been around for decades.

Parenting in the U.S. seems to be churning out a population of overly indulged kids that act like Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That is, if you believe everything you read on Facebook. It has been said that children in the U.S. score low on international comparisons in math and ELA but are number one in self-esteem. Is that such a bad thing? Only when it prevents children from seeing that life is filled with successes and failures, and that they are not entitled to everything they want.

It is important to mention that not all parenting has changed. There are still many parents who expect their children to behave while they are on public transportation, in a restaurant or at the mall. However, there are also helicopter parents who want to bubble wrap their children and expect them to get a trophy every time they show up to a competition. They want their child to get the best seat at the movies, the best table at a restaurant and the most gifts at their birthday party. That sense of entitlement will only get worse as the child grows older.

Failure Happens
I wonder why some parents want their children to get a trophy for everything or why they want to shield them from hardships or failure. Sure, no one wants to see their child go through a tough experience but it’s often those tough experiences that shape us and make us who we are today. It’s when we don’t get what we want that we truly understand what is important. In a society where the slogan that “second place is the first loser,” we are at risk of raising children who only look out for number one and neglect the people around them.

I was fortunate growing up. Although my dad passed away when I was young, my mom was there to support me and she never made me feel as though I should expect the best of everything. Life is hard, and for many of us, we achieve success through hard work, not because we are entitled to it. As a former long distance runner, I won some local races, finished in the middle of the pack for most of them and finished near the end at some of them, but my family was there to cheer me on during each one. They did not say the other guys cheated because I didn’t win. Sometimes my one of my brothers would look at me and say, “Wow...I came to watch you and that’s the best you could do,” as he smiled and we walked away from the competition.

The reality is that we do not always win and sometimes we come in dead last. Winning is great but you learn a lot about yourself from coming in dead last. To act like that is not a part of life is doing a disservice to all children and it makes them feel as though they should be entitled to a trophy for every match when they really aren’t. They grow up to be adults who think they should get thanked for showing up to work. We truly get thanked for showing up to work on pay days or when we complete a successful project. If you’re fortunate enough to work in a school, we get thanked every day that the students enter our classrooms.

In the End
Our job as educators is to teach students about ELA, math, science and a variety of other liberal arts subjects. However, it is also about teaching students that they are not entitled to everything they want. Life is not only about take, it’s about give and take. Not all students get A’s and not all students can win races. Sometimes we try really hard and still end up short.

Most adults cannot walk into work and say, “I don’t like my boss, so I would like a new one.” (Actually, they can they just may end up with a new one because they’ll be looking for a new job). We live in a society where people buy houses they can’t afford and then blame someone else for selling it to them. There are people who rack up huge credit card bills because they want what they want when they want it, and then get upset because they can’t pay their bills. To quote John Stossell...”give me a break.”

In the long run we need to make sure we are preparing students for the future. The best part of life is when we do things for other people and do not put ourselves first. If you want to see a great example of that, read Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. Children, and some adults, need to understand that they cannot have everything they want, and it starts by telling them they can’t swing on the luggage bars on the train.

Connect with Peter on Twitter

Peter will be doing a free webinar for Corwin Press on August 7th at 1:00 p.m. PST where he will offer resources on how to safeguard LGBT students and create an inclusive school environment. Click here to register.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)