“I WANT” — Entitlement Monsters and the Rolling Stones (Jan Bryant)

Recently, on a BC Ferry, I came around a corner to hear a tiny mite of three-year-old fury, screaming “I WANT __________” to her parents, who were doing their best to ignore both the child and the stares of the other passengers.

I can’t tell you what she wanted. When my children were young I told them: “If you start a sentence with the words “I want”, I stop listening.” I guess I still do.

I have seen far too many children get whatever they want from their parents by whining or screaming “I want” loudly and often enough until the parent gives in. These children are “entitlement monsters” who have been rewarded for this behaviour by parents who can’t or won’t say no. Unfortunately, their wants become larger and more expensive the older they get. We all know adults who still operate on this entitlement mentality and they make poor employees, bosses, friends, spouses and parents.

In my home, “I want ….” got no response. Ever.

So where do the Rolling Stones fit into this?

When my children were out in the world, in a store or park or rec. centre and said “I want …” I immediately and enthusiastically sang:

“You can’t always get what you want,

You can’t always get what you want.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes,

You just might find, you get what you need.”

Embarrassing? Not for me, but my children grew tired of the attention it drew.

My children had their needs met: love, my interest and encouragement, food, shelter, clothing, education, play, music, a sense of security and well being. If they needed new shoes, I let them know how much money we had to spend on the shoes and helped them discern the best shoe available for them.

They might “want” a $200 status shoe but they soon learned how to make the extra money if it was that important to them, and it rarely was. They also learned that if a whining or pleading “I want …” was heard, we went straight home and would try again another day.

Uttering “I want …” was never rewarded and so it disappeared from their language.

What else did they learn?

♦ The distinction between a want and a need – essential to achieving self-control and living a debt-free and satisfied life.Delayed gratification – a useful skill when you have to work to achieve something or when pressured to be sexually active.
♦ Not to determine their self-worth on the acquisition of material goods.
♦ Compassion and perspective – they weren’t the centre of the universe. The world and everyone in it did not exist to satisfy their wants.
♦ Sometimes you can get what you want but you usually have to work for it.
♦ To ask politely and co-operate. Your child will have better success in grade 1 by asking “does anyone have a blue crayon I can use?” than by shouting “I want a blue crayon.

Do try this at home.

Our guest blogger is Jan Bryant. She is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) in private practice. You can reach her at jfbryant@shaw.ca and her website at www.janbryant.ca Just don’t shout “I want.”