18 July 2007

Sense of entitlement

About six years ago, a gentleman I worked with asked me if I would talk to his son who was choosing a college and a college major. Dad was a Johnnie; Grandpa a Tommie. For me, the answer to the "what college" question was a given: Tommie. As far as college major went, dad wanted his son to go into engineering, but didn't know which type his son would be interested in, if any. Dad arranged for his son to meet with a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer that I worked with, and with me, a chemical engineer.

I spent some time to gather information on the coursework that the son would need to take, types of jobs he could do once he graduated, some information on good engineering schools, and starting salary data. Dad arranged for his son to come in to where we worked and talk to us.

"Michael" was a good kid. Never gave his parents any big problems, did well in school (Benilde-St. Margaret), active in a variety of extracurricular activities, etc. He was as clean cut as they come. I presented my material to him and he listened intently and asked questions.

As I neared the end of my little pitch, I pulled out the starting salary data. I began with some caveats about how salary is important, but you should choose a major you like over what you could potentially earn in a profession you disliked. Liking your job was important, a higher priority, at least to me, than salary. Reluctantly, I handed him the salary data for a fresh-out-of-college, no-experience chemical engineer. I had a strong sense that the numbers would unduly influence his decision.

He looked at the number and his demeanor instantly changed. "That's it?" he indignantly said in an elevated voice. At that time, years ago, a new chemical engineer fresh out of college was making around $60K. I figured the salary data would be a reason to seriously consider studying engineering and his reaction was 180 degrees from what I thought it would be.

I knew immediately that he would NEVER study engineering.

Actually, my first thought was, "You little ingrate. Go to college, go find a job and let's see what you make when you graduate. If $60K isn't good enough for you, there is something wrong."

What's going on?
That narcissistic attitude is understandable in my kids, but it is very unbecoming in an adult. Today, there are those that believe that the world "owes" them and they want to everything immediately. They are never satisfied; they always want more. Nothing is never good enough for them and they frequently show no gratitude or express any thanks.

Sometime parents are to blame for giving their children everything they want and not providing an accurate view of the world, a world that isn't fair and isn't going to hand you everything right now, if ever.

Michael's reaction surprised me, but then I remembered the culture we live in. The culture Michael was raised in. The immediate gratification, the false notion that bigger is better, the more you have the happier you will be -- compromising their future to live for today.

In the book, Thirty and Broke, it discusses the mentality of this generation. The comment in red is mine:

“the first generation that came of age with the Internet, grew up marketed to at every turn… and they could be the most indebted generation in modern history.”

“When these students start out in the working world, many use their credit cards to fund a richer lifestyle (that they have grown accustomed to) than they can afford, get by between jobs, or cover emergency expenses. The average credit-card debt among 25-34-year-olds was $5,200 in 2004, 98% higher than in 1992.”

They exemplify “a generation with an unusual sense of entitlement. They were brought up as consumers, comfortable with prosperity, certain of their eventual success. For many 30-year-olds, establishing themselves takes longer and is more complicated than they thought it would be.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch
I was raised with different axioms: The world owes you nothing. Life is tough and unfair. There is always some poor SOB that has it worse than you do. Thank God for the gifts He has given you. Be thankful. Appreciate what you have and take care of it. Finally, stop your bitching (what can I say, my dad was a Navy man).

I'm trying to teach my kids to appreciate what they have. To not have a sense of entitlement. However, it seems everything is against me. Go to a grocery store or many other businesses and your kids get candy or suckers. Take your kids out to dinner and they get crayons and coloring books, balloons, toys.

Resistance is futile. We took the kids to McDonald's one morning after Mass. Didn't buy them Happy Meals, just a burger. Guess that's against the rules. The manager of the store came out with Happy Meal toys and gave them to our children. He probably thought we were mean parents and he was a generous soul to do this. What he didn't get is that we didn't buy them Happy Meals for the very fact we didn't want them to have the stupid toy! The world won't end if they don't get a toy every time they go somewhere.

My kids are not deprived. They have far more than I ever did as a child and I had a good childhood. We weren't wealthy, but we weren't poor either. My parents could've afforded to give us more "junk" than they did, but consciously chose not to.

Now that I'm a parent, I appreciate my parents' prudence and sense of what is proper. It's not easy to put your foot down because you so often want to give in, to give your child something that will put a smile on their face. However, that smile on their face will turn into a surly attitude if fed with all this consumerism and sense of entitlement.

I don't want my kid to grow up and balk at the idea of making $60K a year right out of the shoot.

Michael ended up studying accounting...at St. John's.


Ma Beck said...

I will deny my child because the thought of living with a spoiled rotten brat is unappealing.
Get used to it, Child.
No. Nyet. Not on your life. Put it back. Absolutely not.

swissmiss said...

I have cousins who forbid anyone to use the word "NO" to their kids. To me that's impossible and idiotic. I say the word NO more times a day than I can count!

Ma Beck said...

What do they say if the child asks for ice cream for dinner?
Or wants to play in traffic?

swissmiss said...

Words. That's what they say and what they consider discipline to some degree. If the kids asked for ice cream for dinner, instead of just saying, "No, we are having spaghetti." They would say something like, "We are having spaghetti. Ice cream is for dessert." Which is all fine and wonderful in an isolated and manageable incident, but when big brother is bashing little sister on the head with a truck, you kind of have to use negative words like "stop" and "don't" or "no" to nip things in the bud, IMHO. Asking to play in traffic would be calmly dealt with using soft words...haven't ever been around when the kids RUN into traffic. I suspect "don't" and "stop" just naturally come out of the parents' mouths at that point ;} I don't interact much with these cousins, but hear about their family all the time. I thought this pop psychology stuff went out in the 70s?

:o) said...

That's all a part of being friends with your kids, not parents. Parents (authorities) are bad. My little miss knew not to ask twice if I said no.

It is shocking the things kids feel entitled to.

ps: you mentioned I might have a military background. I don't.

swissmiss said...

My parents never tolerated a brat or the attitude we were entitled to something. I can't believe all the stuff kids today have. I don't even own a cell phone or iPOD or whatever electronic gizmo you want to mention!

Thought you might have some contact with military folks. A friend I used to work with many years ago was a warrant officer in Vietnam, he always used the term "the unwashed." My brother, also a warrant officer, also uses the term.

:o) said...

My parents never tolerated anything like that either. I can't even remember thinking that way.

~ yeah, I don't know where I picked that term up.

Adoro te Devote said...

I thank God Mom never shied away from the word "no".

The entire culture is completedly "entitled" and doesn't know the meaning of self denial. All they have to do is get an attorney to get what they want.


They are crushed when the attorney tells them they are full of it and he won't take their case. Then they get another attorney to sue the first attorney who insulted them.

I've thankfully never wanted one of the high-paying careers...all I've aspired to is the low range, the stuff that will just keep me comfortable. If someone had showed me a career with $60 k as the possible salary, I would have fallen out of my seat in shock at the idea of making SO MUCH!

I still think $60k is a lot and likely unattainable for me.

If I do ever have kids, I hope to raise them with the idea of service for money, not slavery TO money. If you know what I mean.

I can speak first hand about what it means to be a slave to a job one hates but stays in just to finnance the stuff one has obtained.

Even if that stuff is humble by the world's standards.

swissmiss said...

I, too, thought $60K was a lot. So many kids these days think they are going to get out of college and START out making a lot of money and be in management or something. I almost choked when this "kid" balked at $60K. Reality will hit eventually. I am fortunate to have a husband who loves what he does (robotics engineering). That is a blessing, a HUGE blessing. He looks occasionally for a different job that pays more because we are considering adoption and with me not working, we are living paycheck to paycheck. I keep telling him to stay where he is if he really loves where he works since to leave for more money is not worth it, IMHO.

Hope your job search is going well. You are still in my prayers and I am sure many others are praying for you too!

Adoro te Devote said...

swiss ~ thank you, prayers are needed! Nothing out there yet, but there is hope, and strangely I'm looking forward to being unemployed. Likely that will wear off quickly, but I hope to use the time productively and to God's glory. I hope.

There are good jobs out there, and perhaps if worst comes to worst, I can go to a temp agency...anything for the cashflow to keep me afloat.

My current position could exceed $60k (um...not what I'm making now!), but I've decided that it's better to do something worthwhile as opposed to show up somewhere for the paycheck and be so miserable. It really is worth losing everything in order to be where one is called. Wherever that is.

I'm with you...tell your husband to do what he loves. If he has any doubts about that, have him contact me...I'll be happy to explain professional misery.

My only regret is the coworkers I'm leaving behind. They are great people, God bless them. (And they hate it, too, by the way)

Ray from MN said...

Hey, I didn't know you were a Chemical Engineer?

Are you aware that Erin over at Bearing Blog has a PhD from Ohio State in that field. I don't know if she ever was employed as such.

She is a full time home schooling Mom with three young kids and has a great blog, even for a childless person such as me.

I muse as to what home schooling would have been like in my day? Not too many internet resources, for one thing.

swissmiss said...

I think you had mentioned once that she was a chem e.
Homeschooling has been around for a long time. I have friends that are in their 40s that were homeschooled, who are now homeschooling their own children. But, there are MANY more resources available to parents now. Most parents decades ago had to create their own curriculum, find their own resources and chart their own waters. Now there are HUGE homeschool conferences, lot of resources, the internet, coops, etc. I am blessed with so much stuff, but at the same time it is mind-boggling to sort through it all!