(originally appeared in Huff Post Parents in May 2016)
They seem to be sprouting all around us. Multiplying, it would appear, like rabbits. Defying age, culture, socio-economic status, demographic criteria, etc. And as we watch — often in disbelief, frustration or just plain anger — we wonder where in the world they come from and how in the world they do what they do with a straight face, without much apparent conscience and usually little respect or regard for those around them.
There is no deep thinking, forensic analysis or other investigative technique required to determine what creates, causes or contributes to an entitled individual. Rock stars, politicians and professional athletes, among others, have handlers. Entitled individuals have enablers. Period, end of story.
You can safely bet there is one common denominator. They don’t act alone. Their actions are not isolated. They move, sometimes stealthily, because they are allowed to do so. The path ahead of them is often clear or cleared by someone else. Their enablers clear it for them — whether these enablers realize that IS what they’re doing, are proactively participating or are merely reacting on the sidelines through inaction.
Entitled individuals can bob and weave their way through life deftly in large part because those of us around them allow it to happen. We enable that action. We are all guilty of enabling in one form or another — however, small or large that enablement.
It is rather gobsmacking when you see all the hallmarks of entitled creature-creation in parenting. You know the one. A lovely, normal, hardworking mother or father trying to do the right thing for their child/children. And then they’ll do completely irrational things like: debate marks with their kid’s teacher, call their child’s university professor to see about bumping up grades, corner their kid’s sports coach about more playing time (assuming the coach is irrationally not playing them) and otherwise make excuses for, dive in to save, defend without just cause — their child.
There is a difference between advocating for a child with reason and appropriate rationale, and leaping in to save them when things don’t go their way. The latter is effectively sowing the seeds of entitlement.
One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is to stand by and watch your child undergo some form of adversity. But ask yourself the zillion dollar question — how else will they ever learn? Like the old saying goes, and it is so true: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Yes it does. Likely never fun to go through, but necessary. Necessary to learn from, to appreciate the lesson learned and to understand the journey and process involved. If you want a kid to learn gratefulness and appreciation for what they have, they need to understand that journey.
The myriad of unscrupulously and even honest people, those who selfishly bent the rules, had their behaviour justified or some other such combination — others who innocently stood by and watched it happen. When the onion got peeled back on what led to the financial crisis, a whole bunch of “fraudsters” emerged. How were they allowed to operate for so long, relatively unscathed? It wasn’t magic.
As former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi became some kind of broadcast star, it would appear that he became judged by a different set of rules by his colleagues and bosses. The hushed tones, winks, nudges, sweeping-under-the-rug tactics — assuming they all existed — covered up what we’ve sadly come to learn about in sordid detail in the last several months.
He was enabled. He became entitled. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s not rocket science.
The ensuing debate about what could have and should have been done will rage on at the CBC and in other places of work where entitlement through enablement happens daily but is yet to be exposed — be that in the media or some other public forum.
The bottom line is what should have happened — red flagging from the onset and appropriate sanctions — did not happen. That did not happen for a host of reasons, not one of which will ever make a shred of sense to the victims with the red flags or future victims who may chose to keep their flags to themselves and avoid the red-face-inducing, complete public dressing-down that coming forward entails.
This type of behaviour starts with small acts of letting things slide. The little things can and often do snowball into much larger, unfortunate acts that impact lives in profound and irreversible ways.
It boils down, once again, to something all parents try to strive for, hopefully. When your kid does something wrong, there has to be appropriate discipline/punishment so they can learn right from wrong. Parenting 101. Basic. Not allowing that process of learning from mistakes, paying their dues, understanding consequences of their actions is effectively tampering with the natural order of things.
So, why in the world are we surprised when these kids grow up to be adults who behave the same way?
It’s only when they start to impede our progress that we begin to pay attention.