A common complaint that conservatives have about my generation and younger is that we have the "Entitlement Mentality." We vote for candidates who promise us “free” stuff (funded by the taxpayers, of course). We get angry if a boss criticizes us (or even fires us!) for sloppy work. We appear to feel that society owes us whatever we want.
The parents of this "entitlement" generation are blinking in astonishment. After all, we "entitled" 20- and 30-somethings were raised by parents who still had a sense of personal responsibility. Our parents worked for their living, saved money, and went without if they couldn’t afford something. They didn’t dream of demanding that the government fund the solutions to their problems. So what went wrong? Somewhere between my parents’ generation and my generation, there was a disconnect.
Unfortunately, I see that disconnect continuing to happening not only in secular culture but also in conservative Christian families. We say that God requires personal responsibility for our actions, but we teach our kids a very different story. In a multitude of daily decisions, we too are raising our kids with the Entitlement Mentality. I see four areas in particular where this Entitlement Mentality is being inculcated.
You deserve to have fun – There's no problem with parents wanting their kids’ childhood to be pleasant. Kids have a large capacity for fun and enjoyment that will naturally diminish as they grow up and face the trials of adult life. But many parents seem to believe that their children deserve to have fun all the time. I see many foolish decisions made by moms and dads because they don’t want to curtail Johnny or Susie’s fun.
Chores, disappointments, working for what you want – these are all things that children will face in adulthood. Therefore they need training early in life to help teach perseverance and responsibility. None of that is much fun. But one way to avoid breeding the Entitlement Mentality is to teach your children that life is not merely about having fun. It’s not even about “following your dreams” (where is that in the Bible?). It’s about joyfully working for God’s glory on the mundane tasks He gives you each day.
If we don’t teach this, it’s easy for those fun-expecting children to grow up into adults who see nothing wrong with wasting their lives in idleness, blowing their money unwisely, engaging in sexual promiscuity, or worse things, in the name of “fun.”
You deserve to have everything paid for – I am often amazed at the expensive and unnecessary items that parents will buy for their children – even older children. Yes, it is a parent’s delight and privilege to buy wonderful gifts as well as daily necessities for his child. But when it comes to also funding your child’s car, college education, trip overseas, high-tech phone, expensive gaming system, and a closet-full of name-brand clothing, I can’t help thinking how much more they would appreciate those things if they were required to work for them themselves.
You may point out that the cost of these items – especially vehicles and college education – is prohibitively expensive these days. To which I would point out that nowhere are we entitled to a top-of-the-line car or a name-brand education. There are creative ways to take care of big-ticket items in your life without paying top dollar and expecting Mom and Dad to fund most (or all) of it.
If kids are not taught to contribute to their own needs, it is too easy to grow up into adults with the Entitlement Mentality who expect society to pick up the tab for their own fiscal irresponsibility – just like their parents did when they were children.
You deserve to have your parents pick up the pieces – It is often frustrating to watch a young person take on a project and, instead of having the chance to learn from their own mistakes, his parents jump in and smooth over all the difficulties on his behalf. Your child decides to raise money for a cause, but you wind up doing most of the grunt work in collecting donations. Your child decides to start a small business, but you are the one who constantly nags him about deadlines and fulfilling orders. Your child is assigned a project by you, a tutor, or a boss, and you are the one who sits up late the night before getting it done.
All of us need a helping hand occasionally, but a parent who never gives his child a chance to fail is breeding the Entitlement Mentality. These children grow up into adults with an Entitlement Mentality who think that government bailouts and subsidies are the norm, and free healthcare, unemployment compensation or job creation is simply owed them by society.
You deserve to be forgiven – No matter how stupid, obnoxious, or downright sinful a person is these days, the cultural mantra is “tolerance.” The Christian version of “tolerance” is “forgiveness.” We tell kids to just “come as you are,” that we won’t be “judgmental,” that we just want to “love on them.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with these ideas as long as they are balanced with the biblical idea of consequences for wrongdoing. The story of the Gospel starts with judgment before it ends with grace.
God has said some things are objectively wrong, and that He will bring judgment on those things in the form of negative consequences. When a child is instead taught that Mom and Dad will let him get away with everything and just “forgive” no matter what, he forms the Entitlement Mentality towards sin: God (and everybody else) owes me love and forgiveness. This is a form of the Entitlement Mentality that can have awful eternal consequences, not to mention negative consequences in this life.
Though Christians are certainly required to forgive those who wrong us, society as a whole is never required by God to ignore sin in the name of being “non-judgmental.” We do our children a grave disservice if we teach them that their sins and mistakes will simply be overlooked in the name of love. True love helps a sinner repent from his sin and learn to live righteously.
If you are upset at the Entitlement Mentality we see around us, you're not alone. But we need to be careful not to have a shallow perspective of the problem. It’s too easy to simply say that if “those people” would just pull their pants up and get a job, we could go back to a godly society.
The root problem is deeper than that. It’s in how we raise our own children to be citizens of both an earthly and a heavenly society. None of us are born with entitlements to have everything fun, free, and forgiven. We are all sinners who are debtors to God’s grace.