Perhaps ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ should be rewritten, ‘As you parent, so shall you hire.’
The generations that parented the Millennials are reaping the results of confusing self-esteem with entitlement.
The kids who sang ‘I am special / I am special / Look at me / Look at me… (set to the tune of Frère Jacques) in nursery school are still thinking that way in as they move through college and into the workforce.
Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, narcissism researcher and author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable than Ever Before, thinks that parents should stop “meaningless, baseless praise,” which starts even before nursery school.
Instead of mindless compliments why not take the time to teach them that all actions have consequences (AKA cause and effect)—even doing nothing.
Praise what they accomplish and instill in them an appreciation of the real value found in the words, actions, deeds, and contributions, both large and small, that they make in the world.
If your kids are young start by not only eliminating empty praise from your home, but also teaching them how to recognize it and why they should discount it.
With older kids—teens, twenties, thirties—help them wrap their minds around the idea that life doesn’t offer entitlements to anyone and share with them the real facts of life.
They are special to
- you, because you are their parent, and to others who also love them;
- themselves because “self” is the only person they will ever truly know or actually have the ability to change.
They are not special to others, except as the result of their words, actions and deeds.
Being special to you and to themselves does not entitle them to special treatment from their teachers, friends, bosses, colleagues, the guy complaining about their loud cell phone conversation at Starbucks or the cop who tickets them for speeding.
Special isn’t related to self-esteem—self-esteem is grounded in and built from their own efforts and accomplishments.
Self-esteem entitles them to nothing, but provides the strength to not only survive, but thrive, now and in the future.
They may not appreciate your efforts now, but they will be forever grateful as they make their way though the world as adults.