It’s a question that almost every American parent has asked themselves, in some fashion, at some point. Indeed, it’s the question that drove me to write my book in the first place. While you’ll likely have a hard time coming up with a simple answer to that question (I certainly did), you probably have a nagging feeling in your gut that your child is, at least in some ways, entitled. After all, entitlement is a hallmark of life in a relatively affluent society like ours. Even if you’ve managed to avoid spoiling your child with material goods, it’s hard to avoid entitling them in other ways, be they slumber parties, tennis lessons, private schools, or other advantages and amenities that not everyone gets to have. Does this mean that American parents are doomed to raise generation after generation of increasingly entitled children?
Tiger Moms like Amy Chua would have you believe that the answer is yes, unless you follow their lead and abandon every aspect of parenting that could be called “American” – namely, our belief in the value of fun, self-exploration, and self-determination in childhood. I think that not only is this view wrong, it fundamentally misunderstands what entitlement is. Yes, it describes a privileged set of circumstances, but more importantly, it describes an attitude – an attitude of being blithely self-centered, being inconsiderate of other people’s time and needs, discounting the value of hard work, and always wanting something for nothing. This attitude is what we’re really thinking of when we ask ourselves if our kids are entitled, and taking away everything that makes childhood enjoyable is a clumsy and ham-handed way to combat it. The better way to do it is simply to be a role model. Educate your children on consumerism and the family’s finances. Show them how to lead an organized and balanced life. Teach them to value overcoming challenges, and involve yourself in their social lives and interests in a way that both respects their individuality and pushes them in the right direction. Rather than trying to take over their lives, just lead by example. That’s what being an American Tiger Mom is all about.