Do you remember Veruca Salt in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? She was the spoiled, little rich girl that demanded that her father buy her the goose that lays chocolate eggs. When Wonka tells him that he cannot have it, Veruca begins to whine and sing a song about her many other demands. Her father passively smiles and says, “Anything you say dear.” I remember watching this movie many times as a young child and always being repelled by Varuca’s self-centered attitude. Like other viewers, I was drawn to Charlie Bucket whose humble manner softens Mr Wonka and compels him to select him as the company’s CEO. Unlike Veruca, who perfectly portrayed entitlement, young Charlie depicted rare character traits like sincerity, humility and honesty. Unfortunately, over 40 years after this movie was released, it appears we have millions of Verucas in our midst and a severe shortage of Charlies.
Image courtesy of debspoons/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
From the toddler screaming at the big-box store to the teen storming away from mom when she said ‘no’ to another purchase to the group of kids who laugh and mock their friend for having an “old fashioned” cell phone. Entitled kids abound these days! This problem is a big one to combat. Everywhere our teens go alluring ads compete for their attention. These images whisper and sometimes even shout, “You need me, you must have me, you will be delighted by me.” Because they are more digitally connected than any other generation before them, they are constantly aware of the things that other people around the globe possess. If they so much as search for that item on the internet then almost instantly, they will see ads appear on the sidebar of their social media sites or search engine results. Even if a parent tries hard to keep their kids from being entitled by placing reasonable limits on purchases, many admit that they must deal with the guilt that rises up when they see their friend’s kids with a new cellphone, game system, laptop or latest gadget. There is pressure from all sides to cave in to this entitlement beast and buy into the delusion that we or our kids ought to have what we want when we want it.
Over the years I have come across articles and books that attempt to address this massive problem in today’s youth. There are many helpful suggestions out there that include things like delaying or denying instant gratification, practicing gratitude as a family, serving the homeless or underprivileged populations in your community together or even sending your teens on short term missions overseas. While these are all very important and helpful strategies, none of these really nips at the birthplace of entitlement. What will really determine whether our kids resemble Veruca or Charlie will depend most on what they believe about who they are and who God is. These beliefs will powerfully impact both their internal dialogue and their external focus.
Entitlement germinates from a teen’s belief that they are utterly good and worthy. This belief perpetuates the idea that they are capable and should be in control of all things. While this may seem like a great message to send our kids, it is a humanistic message and quite contrary to Scripture. God, our Maker, says we are depraved and undeserving because of our sinful nature. (Rom 3:9-18, Eph 2:1-5). This truth reminds our teens that He alone is worthy to be provident over all things. Only in Christ are we considered righteous and justified. And, only as we recognize that all things come from His hand will we humbly recognize our utter dependence on God and His provision. (I Chron. 29:11, Ps. 103:19, James 1:17)
A teen’s core beliefs impact their internal dialogue.
The voice of entitlement says,
“You deserve…” or “They owe you…” or “Go get what you want/need.”
The voice of humility and dependence upon God says,
“You don’t deserve…” or “God owes me nothing”or “God will graciously provide you with just what you need…”
A teen’s internal dialogue impacts their focus.
Teens who buy into the core beliefs of entitlement focus on their personal happiness, contentment, position and what they can receive. On the contrary, teens who believe that every good thing comes from God alone find their contentment in Him as they gratefully receive and share the blessings He lovingly chooses to bestow upon them. Because of this, they will defer praise to the only One who deserves glory.
So, what can a parent do to influence your teen to grow into an adult who demonstrates godly humility instead of earthly entitlement?
Reinforce godly principles by first examining your own beliefs. Ask God to reveal your inner thoughts and focus.
Model a life of humility by your response to blessings and in your decisions to make purchases.
Challenge your teen’s core beliefs through probing questions and regular discussions. Help them see the emptiness that comes from an entitled way of life.
Express gratitude to the One who gave it to you in the first place. Isn’t it so refreshing when you encounter a young person who acts more like Charlie than Veruca? Together, let’s commit to helping our teens move away from the lure of entitlement that ultimately robs them of knowing where true contentment lies.
Jackie E. Perry, MS, LPCS, NCC CORNERSTONE