What Always Getting What You Want Is Getting you
We give to enhance an experience; however, what happens when giving becomes an expectation and turns a receiver into a taker?
Since my son was young, I have always sung him my version of the Rolling Stones song, ‘You can’t always get what you want.’ I don’t repeat the message in the chorus like Mick Jagger, I simply say, “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.” For a while now, there is no need to finish the sentence, my son does it for me.
Work For It
"Do you know why I don't give you everything that you want?"
I love bedtime talks and recently the topic of entitlement came up. Why? My son was pushing for me to read him one more chapter and I informed him that I was done so he did what any kid would do, he pressed. My mother always said to me, “I pray you get 10 just like you.” Well, my wife and I may not have had 10 kids just like me but we got 10 kids rolled into one. I swear! My son can be like a dog with a bone, he doesn’t want to give it up. This prompted me to ask my son a question, “Do you know why I don’t give you everything you want?” He thought about it for a moment and said, “Because I don’t need it?” I smiled. “Sort of,” was my reply.
In our home, my wife and I do our very best to limit screen time. We permit about 1 hour of video games per week and say no to TV requests on the regular…but we never say no to books (unless it's bedtime). And when my son answered that I don’t always give him what he wants because he doesn’t need it, I followed up with a discussion about entitlement. I shared my definition of entitlement with my him. I told my son that when someone is entitled they have grown accustom to getting what they want without working for it. They start to think that they deserve to be treated differently than others; just because they are who they are. Like I said, my wife and I never say no to books and our reason is when you read, you have to work for the story. Unlike television, the story comes with a simple click. Engage zombie mode.
Ambition, Goals & Dreams
“People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.” ~ Sarah Churchwell
I remember driving in the University district years ago. I’d stopped for the light and waited for it to turn green. As it turned, I prepared to drive on and as I was about to apply the gas a student walked in front of my car, like he had all the time in the world. I swear, I must have tiled my head like a curious dog. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t so much that he was walking in front of me but more in the way he walked…like he had a right to cross on a green light. I tooted my horn and got his attention. It was just a toot of my horn, I didn’t HOOONK!!! it. Even though I felt like it. I got his attention alright and he looked at me offended as he flipped me off with a "I can break the rules and if you call me on it, you’re the A-Hole," kind of attitude. Entitlement at its best. Where did the belief I was witnessing originate? How was it learned and reinforced? As a parent, I hope I'm able to teach my children to know their own worth but to see the worth in others.
When you learn that work is required to achieve you start to see the value in hard work. When you start to understand that effort is key to skill development and that effort is required for success you start to get ambitious, set goals and, yes, you even start to dream. When you are given everything on a silver platter, you ask for the platter, too! Forget ambition and goals. You start to live in a dream world where the rules apply, just not to you.
As a parent, I get the pull to give my kids whatever they want. I sometimes think that we give our kids too many restaurant meals or ice-cream visits, and we still feel our kids have too many toys they don’t even play with. Thanks grandma. Okay, this is not entirely fair to grandma. I remember, not too long ago, I’d take the kids to Value Village so they could play in the toy section. I would permit each of my kids to get a small toy. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. However, as the useless toys piled up at home, collecting dust and, more importantly, my kids began to expect something each time we entered a store, I nipped that practice in the bud, it was gone faster than a toupee in a hurricane! Expectation kills the beauty of giving because no matter how much you give, expectation expects more. Now, if my children get something at a store, they plan for it and they pay for it with their own savings. We have ways for our kids to earn money and it does not involve their chores, chores are contributions to the family team. This practice has helped my wife and I to teach our children the value of work and saving as they now enjoy the thrill of watching their bank accounts grow and think twice before unnecessary purchases.
Getting Back Up
"I told my son, no one was coming. I'd left my phone at home."
My kids, they want for nothing. They don’t yet know real struggle and to be real, I often question my own limited experience with struggle despite the trauma I’ve had in my life. This is why I sometimes put myself in situations that push me, like this past summer when I went from running 6 km, to 12 km, to 21 km in the span of 3 days. I wanted to feel the work required for that accomplishment. Now, to a marathon runner, that’s nothing; however, to me, in that moment, I’d ran further than I had before. I now knew what it took to run for almost 2 hours straight because I ran for almost 2 hours straight. That and I wanted to beat my cousin who’d just accomplished the same thing. But no, I’m not competitive. I also wanted to model to my kids what that effort looked like, something they noticed when they drove with their mother to pick me up at my finish line.
Now, when I say my kids have not experienced struggle, I guess that depends on what kind of struggle I’m talking about. We satisfy all of our kids’ needs. We don’t want them to struggle in that way but know that experiencing some forms of struggle can teach a child, if supported through the process, what it takes to be resilient. I recall a run my son and I went on when he was 7-years-old. I did not measure the route and accidentally took him for a 3km run. My bad. On the way home, about ½ a km away I heard my son fall behind me. He’d tripped over an elevated curb. I stopped and turned around to see my son, on the pavement, hands sprawled out in front of him, his glasses laying on the ground just out of reach. I doubled back and retrieved his glasses and placed them on his face, hugged him as he cried, then helped him up. He had cut himself and was bleeding from his right knee and both of his palms. Frig!
I did what any father would do, after his tears subsided, I talked about what we do when we fall down. My inspiration, Batman Begins, where we learn what to do when we fall down, “We learn to pick ourselves back up.” I told my son that no one was coming to pick us up. I’d left my phone at home. So, we had to get home on our own. After our discussion, a few empathetic comments, I shared a story with him when I’d fallen down in my life and as I finished my tale, he started running. A proud papa moment. When he returned home he was proud of himself. He didn’t need me to be proud of him. He had completed his run on his own despite his obstacle. I did not carry him and his mother did not rescue him. While we cleaned his cuts, I reminded him of his effort, his mindset, and he felt what he had done, he knew he’d accomplished something.
Find The Meaning
"The reward is the experience you have when competing."
I have a theory, if you do nothing, you get nothing. I have, on more than one occasion, failed a student up for promotion in my martial arts program and, to be honest, I am worried every time I do it. I worry not what the kid will think because kids are very accepting when you send a message the right way. I often worry about how the parents may react. Still, I fail a child if they do not earn what they are striving for. To date, parents get it when I do what I do because parents want what is best for their kids.
During a testing, I conducted this past fall, I had one young girl attend who did not perform. I spoke with her and her parents prior to announcing the results from the testing. I informed her that she had the potential but to bring it out, she required consistent effort. She had to work for it! I also told her that I would not be promoting her because I cared and that receiving a belt that she did not earn would hold no meaning.
When you give someone an opportunity and create an agreement with them on how they can be successful amazing things can happen. When my young student showed up for her next testing she tripled her performance. I was so proud of her but, like my son, she didn’t need my acknowledgement because she was proud of herself. She saw what was capable with hard work and the look on her face when she was promoted spoke volumes. Earning her belt, not being given it, changed how she viewed herself. To this day, the young girl no longer goes through the motions - she puts for the effort required to be successful because she has learned that nothing, at least nothing worthwhile, comes without it.
Humility is Key
"C.S. Lewis’ popular quote that states, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
A sense of entitlement is, for the most part, a learned behaviour; therefore, it can be unlearned. Learning that it is all ME4ME all the time can be exhausting and upsetting for others and can contribute to unhealthy relationships; however, shifting from ME4ME to ME4WE is possible.
An elevated sense of self can often mean that there is a lack in understanding when it comes to the needs of others. An entitled individual competes for their goals even at the expense of relationships, because the equal value of others is not seen, and instead their value, experience and capabilities are placed above that of others, and when they are not recognized can act out or act the victim.
Moving to ME4WE begins with humility, which many may often believe involves forgetting yourself or having a low opinion of oneself. The truth could not be further from that belief. The spirit of humility is summed up in C.S. Lewis’ popular quote that states, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Yes, celebrate your accomplishments as well as those of others, empathetically connect with how you feel as well as how others feel, see your inherent value and the value of those you spend time with, if you fall, get back up and extend a hand to those next to you as you do, see setbacks as a necessary step and concern yourself not with where others are because you are where you need to be but not where you need to stay. And finally, live your life seeing others as fellow travellers in this amazing adventure we call life.
~ Love Robert
Photo by Azmi Talib