I learned long ago in high school that any condition with “itus” at the end of it indicated the presence of swelling. And no other era in my life could have been more appropriate to see the evidence of the most prevalent swelling of all, that being the overblown sense of entitlement that I was displaying in my actions and expectations with my parents. Something that for the sake of this article we’ll call “entitle-itus”.
Now the years that followed my departure from the bratty teens quickly taught me a few dozen lessons about the real world and the fact that my expectations of it were completely skewed. None of the ideals I had could be supported by my inexperience and the small wages I was pulling in, and inevitably, I fell on my face a few times.
By the time I had children, I knew I wanted to set them up right from the start and teach them the right attitudes and values that would translate into independence and a healthy perspective of the world. I have since met the challenge that stands in the way of making this happen. From the moment I met the eyes of my first child, I knew that not only was I wrapped around his tiny finger already, but that it was my first instinct to give him everything.
And now it’s four and a half years later, and the temptation hasn’t gotten any easier, especially now that he screams and protests for the things he wants. Developing proper boundaries hasn’t been as simple as it should be. When Andrew started the “terrible twos” at 13 months old, I found myself so exhausted from his temper tantrums over practically everything, that in some strange way I caved easier to his demands because it gave me a temporary retreat from the lashings of his screams.
Just to see his delight somehow served as some sort of approval, and actually gave me a break from feeling like I was responsible and deserving for all his meltdowns.
In short, I felt lovable by giving him what he wanted. It is this type of codependent thinking that has not helped me teach my sons about reasonable expectations of the world around them.
But I aim to change that. The society in which we live in certainly doesn’t set the stage well for a parent to teach their children responsibility, patience, or a modest approach to consumerism.
I’m pretty sure that Andrew and Matthew believe that everything they want is just a short car ride away to the mall, and that getting a toy is as simple as wanting it. I have recognized some of this to be normal toddler behavior, but I’ve also exercised my right to “just say no”.
It’s important that they get a good sense now that, for many reasons, or even no reason, there are going to be times that they can’t have what they want. And I’ve boldly held my ground with Andrew, even in times where it feels easier to say yes, or if I’ve had to carry him out of the store screaming and kicking.
I know that I’m going to have to absorb the dissatisfaction and deal with it in order to keep him grounded in reality. He’s not really capable of holding his love and affections hostage from me, as I once felt he was. No, toddlers are not that complicated, sort of an all bark no bite concept.
It’s certainly easier for me to cave into his demands, but it’s critical that I don’t. The best gift we can give our children is love and a solid foundation of reality. When it comes down to it, we’re strong enough to endure the trials and fires of all the wants and whines.
After all my experiences growing up, it’s my goal to save my kids from coming down with a long drawn out case of “entitle-itus” and help set them on the path with a more realistic vision.