Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Entitlement and Children

I've been trying to figure out how to word this post for a couple of days. Not my usual plan, you know! I usually just start typing and what comes out comes out. Since I couldn't really make sense of what I wanted to say in my head, I figured I'd try my normal approach and see what happens. I've seen a LOT of blog posts and news articles about children and entitlement in the past week or two and some of them are just ridiculous. Several have suggested that because a child might never be seriously hungry that he's spoiled. That because his clothes always fit or if he has too many toys, that he's spoiled. How stupid can people be?

If I can make sure of it, my son will never know real hunger. He will never have to sleep in his snow suit because we can't afford the heat. I enjoy buying my son toys and games. Usually I do this when he's at school and I'm wondering if he's having a good day. If I can pay for his college education, I will - because starting out his adult life debt-free would be awesome.I don't care if that makes him feel entitled. Entitled to food, shelter, clothing, heat, the love and support of his parents. This is NOT a bad thing.

That being said - his clothes do NOT magically appear, clean and folded, in his closet or dresser. He washes and folds them himself. He helps with the dishes, the laundry, and anything else I ask of him and very rarely protests, and in exchange he gets five dollars a week to spend on anything he wants. He OFTEN suggests that he'll pay for his own food and/or snacks. He's offered to buy groceries and food for the cat. Is that entitlement?

We shop at Wal-Mart and Target, there are no designer clothes or shoes in this house, and I take whatever hand-me-downs friends are giving away. We outfitted him for school this year with clothes his grandparents got at a neighborhood yard sale. I buy used books, used video games, used board games, used clothes. Just because he has hundreds of books doesn't mean I spent hundreds of dollars on them. We only have one (12-year-old) car, so when the weather is nice we WALK to the mall, to the movies, to the park. One of my professors was horrified to hear that I was walking to work. It's 1.2 miles from my apartment - what's the big deal? Mostly now Tim takes the bus to work and I have the car. Liam rides two buses to school because we can't drive him there and it's out of our school district - this means he's putting in a nine-hour day. He's in kindergarten and this is the length of an adult work day. His teacher told him that his parents are responsible for his reading folder one day when he didn't put it in his backpack. I told him that she was wrong and that it wasn't her decision. He is responsible for his own things, and to make sure that everything he needs is in his backpack in the morning. He forgot his lunchbox one day last week. Not my fault. I asked him if he had it, he said yes. Am I seriously supposed to check? Not going to happen.

I always want to laugh at people when they look at me and tell me how polite Liam is, how well-behaved, as if it's this magical thing. As if he popped out that way. I've worked very hard so that my son doesn't act like an entitled, spoiled brat. When he could ask for his bottle but wouldn't say "please", I didn't give it to him. If he didn't say "thank you", I took it back. He colored on the wall when he was three, then spent five hours scrubbing it off with Mr. Eraser. When he was acting like a brat in Wal-Mart last week, I made him put back everything he'd asked me to get him. If he speaks to me in a tone that I find unacceptable, I correct him. If he doesn't say please when he asks me for something, I make him say the entire sentence again, I don't ask what "the magic word" is and let him just blurt out "please". He needs to learn the proper way to do things, to say things, to act. Teaching him is my job. If he's having a bratty day at home, I take away privileges - his bucket of Legos, his tub of Lincoln Logs. When he was bursting into tears every morning when it was time to get up for school, I made bed time earlier and took him out of the after school activities that he loved. He's happier and less tired. Win.

In conclusion: keep your opinions about my kid to yourself. I think he's pretty dang awesome.

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