the entitlement trap


Sometimes it’s best to let your child fail. Yes, you read that right.  There are times when it is BEST to let them feel the pain and frustration of failure.  Someone once said failure leads to success if you do not quit.  This may seem like advice out of the Twilight Zone, but hear me out.  One thing you and other parents have to keep in mind, is you are raising children to become men and women.  The lessons they learn, or don’t learn, will directly affect their ability to function and contribute positively to our society.  As an educator, I am seeing more and more students become dependent on teacher and parent coddling.  Many are not learning how to persevere through difficult academic problems or social situations.  As a parent, you need to decide how to teach your child some of the more difficult life lessons.  And believe me, you would rather be the teacher of these lessons, over the unforgiving lessons taught by the world. Here are at least three problems that can surface when you refuse to let your child fail.

1) Entitlement

Helicopter parents often cultivate a sense of entitlement in their children: they rarely (if ever) say the word “no,” they cater to their kid’s every request, and they do whatever it takes to protect them from getting disappointed. Parents may sincerely believe they’re doing it for the betterment of their child—but what often results is an entitled individual,
who expects to be handed everything they want in life. Instead, parents should allow their child to experience a little disappointment (nobody said you couldn’t comfort them) and teach them that nothing’s to be taken for granted—they must work for it.

2) No Fear of Consequences

Consequences should be the natural result of choices made. Students and children in general need to know the connection between their thoughts, actions, and the consequences that follow.  However, they also need to know consequences are not always negative. Children need understanding that positive consequences are the result of doing what’s right.  Without going overboard, positive choices are to be rewarded.  If consequences are only framed as negative, children fail to see the value and process needed to make positive choices.

The problem is when you, the parent, don’t allow the natural effects of consequences to take hold.  Remember, negative consequences present opportunities for children to learn from their mistakes. Our brains are designed to remember the negative effects and feelings of pain.  It is part of our fight or flight response. 

When we remove the negative feelings of consequences, or justify a child’s behavior, what we are doing, in their mind, is telling them that their choices don’t really matter. “No matter what I do or don’t do, I will ultimate end up with what I want.”  Even if there is a delay, they still KNOW it’s coming.  So, for them, what is the incentive of consistently doing what’s right?  In our mind, we are protectively nurturing to reduce the stress  of disappointment and loss.  But we have to remember that kids view the world through limited experience. There are some bad choices that make me cringe to this day.  But I learned so much from having to own the consequence of those choices.  

3) Lack of Perseverance

You have to really dig deep and ask yourself if you are sabotaging your child’s future success.  We often hear of the great people who accomplished amazing things.  As a culture, we reward and celebrate those among us that seem exceptional.  Wrapped up in these amazing stories, and what we often don’t hear about, are the failures leading up to their success.  Honestly, these people are only great because they refused to let failure define their future.  Sure, there are a few that were just extremely lucky, but success is the product of hard work, perseverance, and a little bit of good luck.  I share a video with my student every year entitled, “Famous Failures.” Telling the whole story gives children a realistic picture of what it really takes to be successful.

This is not an easy concept to come to grips with. Sure you want what’s best for your child.  But sometimes doing the right thing, means doing the hard thing. I’m sure we all can agree that easy doesn’t always translate into adult life.  No one says you can’t comfort your child.  But coddling can lead to bigger problems down the road.  And when that time comes, you may not always be in position to help.

Let us know some of your greatest struggles and share your story.  Share how you overcame those struggles in the comments below and lend a helping hand.

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