Previously published in Flourishing November 2011.
You’ve probably heard (or read) about Amy Chua, the perfection demanding “Tiger Mother”. This essay is not about her. But it is about how to get your teenager to clean her room, to take responsibility for setting her own goals, and to get her homework done well and on time.
Parents all over the world, regardless of political, economic, racial, or religious views, love their children; and they want them to become happy and successfully independent adults. The trick for most parents—perhaps especially, affluent parents—is to provide their children with everything they need, and some of the things they want, without creating a sense of entitlement; in short, without spoiling them—and without nagging or threatening them. How can today’s parents instill the critical values that will help their children stand on their own two feet as adults and become active, contributing members of society? Where can today’s parents find answers?
We all know about Dr. Spock, though I myself never read him. When my children were growing up (1968-1994), I relied on PET (Parent Effectiveness Training), as taught by Dr. Thomas Gordon. I was hardly the perfect parent—Linda was much better—but all four of our children are independent, successful adults; and I’m grateful that I had PET.
But, the world has changed. Today’s young parents have far more resources available to them than we had, but they also face more and greater challenges. I love my grandchildren, and though I can project an incredibly bright future for them, I worry about the temptations and distractions they face in today’s fast-paced world. I don’t envy my children’s parental challenges and responsibilities.
I try to mind my own business, too, but I’ve just read a wonderful little book—a twenty-first century Dr. Spock or PET—and I’m passing it along to all my kids. Some of you may want to do the same.
The book is The Entitlement Trap, by Richard and Linda Eyre, and it was just published on September 6, 2011 by Avery (Penguin). It’s subtitle is How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership. In truth, the term rescue may be an overstatement, but it effectively communicates the urgent need for solutions that many of today’s parents feel. The Entitlement Trap lays out the principles, strategies, and tactics—with suggestions for practical and tactile tools—today’s parents need to move beyond nagging to counseling and inspiring. It applies specifically to ages 4-16. It’s available at Amazon for $10.98, a discount of $7.02. I recommend it for every parent—and every grandparent, too. mh