Children and Entitlement

By Pam Henderson

Over the weekend, my daughter’s summer job at an amusement park was interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. Warnings rang out from the loudspeakers, and employees and guests alike had to take cover for about 30 minutes.

When summer storms like that roll through, it sends a lot of guests running for their cars. Spending a half-hour huddled like sardines under the canopy of a burger stand while the rain comes down in sheets on a sultry day isn’t particularly comfortable. The loyal thrill-seekers know, though, that stormy weather makes for the best times at an amusement park – it scares others away which reduces ride wait times.

Generally, admission tickets state “no rain checks”.  It’s up to park guests to take a gamble on the weather.

So, when an irate guest came to my daughter in the admission booth asking for – no demanding a refund – due to the inclement weather, he became even more agitated when she politely replied, “I’m sorry, sir. I’m not authorized to give refunds”. All the while he was ranting and demanding a refund, without even listening to her recommendation to go to Public Relations, his child was observing. Interestingly, the guest was one of the lucky ones, because he already spent 6 hours in the park.   

Amidst the “glamorous” life of working at an amusement park, my daughter has experienced first-hand the unreasonable expectations of adult guests. Somehow, despite being surrounded by balloons, corn dogs, children’s giggles and exhilarating thrill rides, a fair number of adults can be  kind of grouchy at the park. They think they should be entitled to move ahead to the front of the  line, that their food order should come out before anyone else’s, that they shouldn’t have to pay for preferred parking.     

My daughter’s park is a huge conglomeration and spends millions of dollars every few years in building the tallest, fastest, newest rollercoasters. So, if the public relations team, who is the group empowered to “bend the rules,” decides that it’s appropriate to do so, it probably won’t impact the bottom line on the company’s financials.

Meanwhile, the adults’ impressionable children are witness to their sense of entitlement. They hear their parents demanding that rules be broken so they can get what they want. It’s a lesson that, if seen enough times, the children will learn to mimic.

There’s an inherent parenting gene, I believe, that pushes us to want to rush in and save the day. We want our children to be happy go-lucky and chasing butterflies without a care in the world. Some parents can’t bear to see their children disappointed, frustrated or sad.

Spoiling them, however, can lead children to believe that they deserve things, just because they want them. They come to think that they are the center of the universe, and will walk over anyone to get what they want – because they deserve it. As children, they may bully their way around the playground. As adults, they may be the people that can’t hold a friendship. They may miss out on the life lessons that come along with powering through frustration, disappointment and let-downs and learning to work for the things they want.  They don’t get to feel the joy of seeing someone else basking in the spotlight – they want it all for themselves.

Tim Elmore wrote a piece in 2014 entitled, “Seven Emotional Byproducts of Entitlement.” The article chronicles several studies by University of New Hampshire Professor Paul Harvey, who found that students who felt emotions like anger, impatience and cynicism also had a sense of entitlement.

Dr. Harvey went on to say, “Conversely, when we develop students who don’t feel and act entitled, they likely will demonstrate the opposite emotions:

Children are entitled to at least two things without question – safety (including food and shelter) and love. All of the other lessons in life require a fair amount of hands-on parenting – and yes, it can be exhausting, tiring and painful. How many times can you demand, “Put your clothes in the hamper!” before you just do it yourself?

Sometimes, it’s so much easier to do it yourself. But,what happens when you keep “doing for” your child and never say “no”? Just look at Veruca Salt.