The older generation perceives the millennials as self-entitled and need to just work harder to have a better life. How did millennials become like this? Is it the new challenges of a changing society? Or is it something close to home?
Dr. Michael Wetter, a clinical practitioner and best-selling author, believes the millennials are fully to blame for their discomfort with today’s systems. “There’s a difference in work ethic and responsibility when you look at the Great Depression Era and Baby Boomers and Gen Xers and the current zeitgeist. It’s a lot to do with the parents of millennials and how they raised them,” Wetter said. “This is a product of the 1960s and 1970s, when there was a shift in what was recommended in terms of parentings, which was less about kids being pushed to win and more about nurturing the child to support them and build their confidence. Trophies weren’t just for first, second and third place — everybody gets a trophy because its great to just show up and try your best. While I agree that it’s good to support and encourage, you don’t necessarily always want to reward just participating. While this didn’t exactly impact those growing up during the 1970s and are middle age now, it did have impact on they raised their kids.”
Wetter held a book-signing at BestSeller in Tamuning on Nov. 17 for his latest title, "Earn It: What to Do When Your Kid Needs an Entitlement Intervention.” The book guides parents on how to raise children who won’t end up entitled. As a father, Wetter raises his family to be hardworking and self-sufficient. “It’s not about what you feel you’re entitled to. It’s about what you can earn,” he said. “You can nurture, support, even sometimes spoil your children without them becoming entitled. For example, if you have a 9-year-old and they want a new Play Station, if you go out and buy it for them, it can contribute to them feeling entitled. What they learn in that moment is all they have to do is ask and they can get it. Instead, ask your 9-year-old, what they can do to earn that Play station.” Wetter suggests having a child do extra chores or even volunteer in the community in order to be rewarded with a new item.
Wetter believes that “Earn It” can help everyone in the community. “Teachers can learn how to work and communicate with parents and children who are acting entitled in school,” he suggested. “Let’s say a student does poorly on a test and says to a teacher, ‘I worked hard, and I deserve a better grade.’ A teacher would reply, ‘I’m glad you worked hard, but you don’t deserve a better grade. Maybe you should study in a different way.’ Then the parents would write to the teacher saying their child feels that they’re being treated unfairly.’ Are parents recognizing they contribute to entitled behavior? ‘Deserve’ is a yellow-flag word. It matriculates to ‘I deserve to get into this college, I deserve to get this job’—you don’t deserve anything. Life isn’t about what you deserve, rather what you can achieve.”
Wetter said parents should prepare their children to have skills to cope with the challenges of modern society. “Parents should recognize that when children want something, there’s more value in achieving or earning it, than just receiving it. Another practical skill is having conversations with your kids,” Wetter said.
Children must learn that they can’t just snap their fingers and can get what they want. “Let your children know that you’re not saying ‘no’ because they’re bad. Sometimes you have to say no because you can’t afford to say ‘yes.’ Having those conversations with a 5 or 6-year-old isn’t taboo, that’s actually a good conversation to have. I disagree with kids thinking, ‘I have expensive shoes and you should like my shoes because its expensive.’ That’s bragging. Parents must explain the value of things and how we must work toward those things. It doesn’t matter if you have a little money or a lot of money. You still must plan accordingly.”
While some parents may just realize that they haven’t taught their children how to earn it, Wetter believes that it’s not too late to change. “It’s harder for parents of teenagers to change, because teens talk back,” said Wetter. “One of the first things I encourage parents of teens to do is admit to them that you’ve made a mistake. Say, ‘I should’ve said no and set limits and had you work harder to achieve certain things. We’re both going to have to struggle now because we must change. Their teen may say it’s unfair and unreasonable, but parents must remain resolute. The key to any age-child is to be consistent. If parents wavier or fluctuate, then kids don’t know what to expect. The worst kind of reinforcement is intermittent reinforcement because then children never know what comes their way, so they will just try everything to get what they want.”
Many may argue that as a society develops and poverty decreases, more will feel entitled for things they don’t necessarily need. “When we think of entitlement, it’s about being focused on what we want in the moment rather than what you need in the future,” said Wetter. “It leads to impatience and impulsiveness. Having a community-based approach, a mindful approach, is important. One thing I advocate for in my book and in clinical practice is volunteering. Stepping outside of yourself helps recognize the benefit and value of others.”
“Earn It” is but a guide to better parenting and as a doctor Wetter’s aware that parenting is not always black and white. “There’s no such thing as perfect parenting,” Wetter asserted. “We don’t necessarily fail our children, but we don’t exhibit behaviors or teach skills we intend to teach. Don’t try to be perfect or create perfect children. Focus on kindness and values, whatever your culture, racial or ethnic backgrounds are. Focus on raising good, decent children. Have them involved in the community and create a sense of self that is sometimes greater than themselves. These things are the antidote to entitlement.”