Whenever we speak to an audience of parents, no matter where we are in the country, we start off by saying “Nominations are now in order for the toughest parenting challenge parents face today.”

Hands fly up, and we can always count on roughly the same nominations:

Peer Pressure
Substance Abuse and Addictions
Pornography and Sexual Acting Out
Sibling Rivalry,
Depression and lack of Motivation
Excessive technology and electronics
Entitlement attitudes

Then we put it to a vote, and “Entitlement” always gets over half.  “Excessive technology” (which is really another name for entitlement) gets another 20 or 25%.

So adding the two together, fully three fourths of all parents today name the entitlement attitudes of their kids as their biggest parenting challenge!

Then we ask parents an even tougher question:  “Who is to blame?”  Some say media, some say banks and easy credit, some say the example of government.  But most say that parents themselves are mostly to blame…..that we indulge and enable our kids, that we bail them out, that we give them too much and require too little of them, that we are failing to teach our kids responsibility.

When kids are given too much, when they don’t have to work for anything or wait for anything, they lose motivation and initiative—they even lose creativity and the ability to figure out what they really want and how to get it.

Furthermore, when they demand and are given whatever they want, they do not perceive real ownership and thus have no sense of pride or inclination to care for and protect things.

On the other hand, if they work for something, or save for it, or sacrifice or give something up for it, they feel a true, earned ownership that is the prerequisite to responsibility and the antidote to entitlement.

It is relatively easy to change your household from an “entitlement economy” to an “enterprise economy.”  Eliminate hand-out allowances and institute a new family system of earning, budgeting, saving, and choosing.  Get a big wooden box with an impressive lock and designate it as the family bank, in which kids can have accounts.  Get them checkbooks so they can put money into the bank with a deposit slip and get it out by writing a check.  Explain that a certain amount of money comes into the family and that those who share in the work deserve a part of the income.

Negotiate and assign tasks from dishes to cleaning common areas of the home and even include things like the timely finishing of homework and music practice. Have kids keep track of their completed tasks with a pegboard or chart or computer program that requires parents approval.  Make Saturday “payday” where a well-performing child can earn enough to buy “all his own stuff” rather than asking you for it.  Have him bring his checkbook to the store and write checks to you (on the family bank) for what he wants, always keeping track of his balance in his check register.  Have the bank pay interest on money saved.  Make your home and family economy into a little microcosm of the real world and the real economy.

For further details on setting up a “family economy” see Richard and Linda Eyre’s new book The Entitlement Trap or visit http://entitlementtrap.com/.