Nearly every day, it seems, we’re faced with another story of a teen or young adult doing something either incredibly stupid or absolutely dangerous because they feel they have the right to act this way. When did we — as parents and as a society — get to the point where kids today are being raised with an unhealthy sense of entitlement?
Last month, a junior at Texas State went viral after she started going everywhere in a motorized Barbie Jeep, due to losing her license after refusing a breathalyzer test. Perhaps funny for a moment; but when most people know somebody who has been involved in a drunk driving accident, it just reads as sad after that initial chuckle. Yet this student felt it was appropriate to turn it all into a joke. She lost her license but felt it was her right to drive a toy car all over, getting lots of attention for the consequences of driving under the influence.
More recently, a 19-year-old UConn student aggressively and drunkenly demanded bacon-and-jalapeño mac-and-cheese from school cafeteria staff. Of course somebody took a video, and it’s no shock that it ends with the kid getting arrested (something not new for him, considering he was arrested twice before while attending UMass last year). UConn staff handled this situation way better than I would have, attempting to reason with the kid and asking that he simply leave. However, the student double downed and got physical, allegedly pushing a UConn cafeteria employee. The student felt so entitled to the stupid mac-and-cheese that even flagrantly violating the school’s alcohol policy didn’t faze him. Please do not enable the kid and blame it all on the alcohol either. Plenty of us drink, and perhaps even did so underage, and yet still somehow managed not to go into public and demand things in an abusive way.
While both the Barbie Jeep girl and the bacon-jalapeno mac-and-cheese boy (as they will forever be known thanks to the Internet, so good luck when it comes time to look for jobs, kids) are relatively mild stories of massive entitlement, this idea that “I can do whatever I want without consequences” can have potentially deadly consequences.
A teenager in Idaho allegedly threatened to “kill all the girls” after his request for nude photos was turned down by a handful of cheerleaders. The student has since been arrested, but just the fact that a teen boy felt entitled to nude pictures of fellow classmates further proves there is something significantly wrong here. Where did we go wrong that a young teenager may think nothing of threatening death and violence because girls wouldn’t give him a naked picture?!
Is this due to lax parenting? Or perhaps the special-snowflake syndrome where parents coddle their children so they come to assume that everyone will give them what they want, even as they become teenagers and young adults? Is it society’s fault? Especially in the case of the Idaho teen, you can look at the very real concepts of toxic masculinity, rape culture and all the harmful messages that promote the idea of male dominance.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m somewhat of a permissive parent. We don’t necessarily use punishment or time outs, and are big fans of natural consequences. That said, I also teach my son an “attitude of gratitude,” manners, and media literacy. Those three can help combat a lot of the selfish, clueless behavior that we see in Barbie Jeep girl, bacon-jalapeno boy, and awful Idaho teen.
Of course, there are tons of amazing kids out there doing incredible things, and I hate for stories like these to overshadow them. And I think it’s also incredibly important to take a look at these stories and wonder what the outcomes would have been had any of these young adults been people of color — would the UCONN student’s story have ended with merely an arrest?
While I unfortunately don’t have a simple solution to this rash of entitlement, I’m open to suggestions. Parents and society are going to have to work together so that the future of this country doesn’t fall to the hands of whiny, bratty kids who think they’re owed everything on a silver platter.