“Please Un-entitle Me”

Writing a letter to my parents. What should I say?

Dear Mom & Dad,

I know you want what is best for me. You want to read to me as much as possible, take me on as many cool adventures as you can, and help me become the most successful, well-rounded individual I can be.

I know you want to race against the clock to find freedom before I’m too old to want to hang out with you. Before I’m too big to think you’re cool. Or maybe that’s not an option, but you want to make sure you’re as involved as possible. I think it’s pretty cool that you want that.

I know you want to teach me to work hard, to be resourceful and creative. You want me to learn things they don’t teach at school, like entrepreneurship and investing and how to DIY anything. And I’m sure I’ll thank you later for that.

You are saving for my college because you don’t want me to be stuck with the same debt you graduated with. You’re priming my resume by funding any extracurricular I choose. Okay, you drew the line at ice hockey. But you’re doing all you can to make sure I get good grades and good test scores, in hopes of stretching the college fund a little further.

Even if you didn’t have the money to do all this, it’d still be tempting to over-praise, over-purchase, and be overly-involved for me. I can make my own lunch and do my own laundry, okay?

You love me and you’re doing all you can for me. But please, watch out. As one of the wealthiest kids on the planet, I am at high risk for entitlement. In fact, it’s already happening. Between the participation prizes, the endless affirmation, the constant access to my grades, and all the attention you’re encouraged to give me, it’s almost inevitable.

I know, you’re frugal. You’ve told me no countless times when it comes to spending. You’ve taught me that money comes from hard work, and not to fritter it away. You didn’t do the epic themed birthday parties or annual Disney vacations or buy me designer clothing.

But you’ve also shown me that money is a Big Deal. Without it we couldn’t do all the awesome trips and adventures. Without it you’d have to be at work more, rather than with me. Which I love, but…

Please un-entitle me.

Let me manage my own schoolwork, forget my gym shoes, and not make the varsity team.

Take me to serve a meal at the homeless shelter. Encourage me to volunteer at the food bank. Have me visit handicapped adults.  Show me how good I have it, and that I am not the center of the world. Nor the center of your world.

I can’t be the center of your world. That’s too much pressure. I could never live up.

Model to me that success is not what matters most in life—at least if success means promotions or net worth growth. Show me how to succeed at truly loving other people. Teach me that money should facilitate that end.

Teach me how to be a good friend. One who is loyal and sacrificial. One who can help in practical ways, but emotionally as well. Raise me in community.

Don’t just teach me frugality, or how to earn a lot of money. Teach me how to give generously.

Don’t just teach me how to sell, teach me how to care. I need to see people not as obstacles or tools, but with compassion and empathy.

Don’t just teach me how to be happy, teach me how to be content. Every problem I’ve ever encountered has been so first-world, I have little tolerance for suffering. Don’t be afraid to let me suffer a little. Let me fail.

Don’t just teach me how to be polite, teach me gratitude. Not just the pleasantries of saying please and thank you, but a deep attitude of realizing I deserve very little, and have very much.

You can read me all the books, take me to all the countries, play all the sports with me, and still miss the most important part of me: my heart.

It would be such a shame if you tried so hard to raise a productive, well-rounded human, and I still turned out self-centered and entitled. The odds are against you. The culture unwittingly supports this most dangerous outcome.

But you know how to go against the tide. You don’t like to fit the mold. You wouldn’t be where you are if you didn’t have a counter-cultural streak. I know you can do it. Please un-entitle me.


Your kid

How have you combated entitlement in your family? 


For more on fighting entitlement, please see my friend’s blog, Entitlement Monster, and the book The Me, Me, Me Epidemic.



33 Responses to ““Please Un-entitle Me””

  1. Laurie Frugal Farmer says :

    AMEN. We are working seriously hard to un-entitle our kids. I hope it works.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks, Laurie. It is hard. It seems like everywhere we go they are given treats or prizes. The library, grandma’s house, school, etc. Of course we want to give our kids good thing but overdoing won’t help in the long run!

  2. Tonya says :

    Nicely written. As a solid Gen X, I look around and see so much entitlement. In the end it only really hurts them.

    • Kalie says :

      It’s amazing how pervasive it is in our culture, and how that subconsciously impacts a whole generation of parents and children. I can see myself falling into it even though I don’t want to because it’s just everywhere, and it’s assumed and I don’t even realize it’s happening sometimes.

  3. Emily says :

    Since returning from Haiti this has been on my mind a lot! Children being the center of our worlds seems to be an American idea. I loved the laid-back parenting approaches I saw all around me in Haiti. Kids were incredibly creative and resourceful, making their own toys when they needed something to play with. While I don’t want to take for granted the fact that my kiddos have clothes, plenty of food and clean water, I want my children to be joyful and resourceful in those kind of ways.

    • Kalie says :

      Thanks for sharing the insights from your experience. After returning from India I just couldn’t believe how much our kids have–not just materially but all types of advantages. I agree–there is much to be thankful for, and much to be cautious about. Unfortunately, it feels that laid-back parenting approaches are almost illegal in our culture!

  4. Amanda says :

    It’s always a work in progress, but I try to un-entitle as much as I can. I don’t know what their grades are until I get a report card. I don’t know if they get all their homework done or if they forget their gym shoes. But I do make most of the meals and do the majority of the laundry – this is a good reminder for me to change this!

    • Kalie says :

      Of course every family has different roles and ways of doing things. That’s great you’re not micromanaging their schoolwork–I know that is going against the tide. In the book I mentioned at the end, the author described the goal of making sure your kids have practice doing everything you do to run your household before they leave the nest. I thought that was very practical and logical, yet I’d never thought of it that way before.

  5. Jack says :

    Great reminder, thank you!

    This past Christmas was a big wakeup for me. Our extended family showered presents on our toddler. We appreciate the love, but we’re definitely acting to refocus it in ways that don’t overwhelm our family or our values.

    • Kalie says :

      Christmas can be hard. Our families are reasonable but it all adds up between the different sides of the family and “Santa.” The thing that bothers me more is that they constantly get treats and prizes just about everywhere they go–whether a relative’s house, the library, school or church, etc.

  6. Heidi says :

    It is sometimes so hard. This morning I took my son in to the orthodontist because he lost his retainer. It took all $100 that he saved but he knew the deal was if he lost it he had to pay. He asked if they would take $50 if he paid with cash, they said no. He asked for $75 and they said no $100. It just hurt my heart to see his hard earned money gone and his first time negotiating a discount denied. We even practiced in the car. So sometimes it is hard to do the thing you know you need to do.

    • Kalie says :

      Wow, way to stand your ground, Heidi! I’m sure that was hard. That’s awesome that you coached him on trying to negotiate. Even if it wasn’t a success, it’s great for him to even realize it’s an option that should be tried. I don’t think a lot of adults would’ve thought to try that!

  7. Beth Janes aka theinfamousmissbeth.blogspot.com says :

    wonderful post! If only all parents and teachers would take note:)

  8. Brian says :

    We try and find the balance. We don’t want to add more pressure on them they they already deal with, but want to know they have our love and support. It’s a fine line.

    • Kalie says :

      It is a matter of balance. Of course they are kids and we shouldn’t put adult expectations on them. But we should expect what they’re capable of, and sometimes that’s hard to figure out in the moment. I love hearing about how you help and support your kids through the college prep process–I knew plenty of friends in college who hadn’t handled any of that themselves.

  9. DC YAM says :

    Very cool idea for a blog post. This is actually my greatest fear when it comes to having children. I already know I will be one of those parents that wants to be in the know and kind of guiding/driving my children, pushing them to have more and more experiences and to succeed. I think the toughest thing will be letting my kids fail at things. I hate to fail at things and it’s even worse seeing those close to me go through the disappointment of things not working out. Yet we all know that failing at things makes you SO much stronger.

    As far as me…I do think I was entitled in some ways, and not in others. I did go to private school almost every year of my life, but I did go through a very rough time that has had a huge impact on me and made me very resilient.

    • Kalie says :

      Failure–ah! I have it, too, but failing has made me not just stronger, but also more compassionate and humble. And less afraid of failing in the future.

      I think our generation was entitled more than previous ones, but are surrounded by cultural pressure to over-parent our kids way more than our parents did.

  10. Josh says :

    We are 20 months into our parenting journey and my wife & I have been discussing this since before we were expecting. We are trying to only limit gifts (from us) to Christmas and a small one at their birthday as they will receive some from the rest of the family.

    Our extended family is really generous and have tried telling them to stop buying so much. It really hasn’t worked. So we want our gifts and experiences to be practical lifelong lessons instead of buying something just because.

    • Kalie says :

      That’s great you’ve been discussing this all along. Being conscious of it is a huge help. I can’t recommend the book I mentioned at the end enough.

      In my opinion if the relatives only go over the top at Christmas, it’s manageable (though I’d certainly try to express some limits). If it’s all the time, that’s when it’s more likely to wreak havoc.

  11. FullTimeFinance says :

    I think the most important thing for me is to ensure our kids understand how to be happy and determine what makes them happy. Frugality is great, but frugality for frugality sake is not. The same with work, sports, or anything else. It’s about them finding their happiness and values. Then learning how to pursue that happiness.

  12. Dyana says :

    This really puts into perspective what it means to be a good parent. By ‘good’ I mean one that doesn’t give into the tantrums but instead prepares the children for being a responsible and giving adult. I admit that I often feel horrible that I cannot afford the Disney trips or extracurricular activities, but there are so many other important things to spend money on.

    • Kalie says :

      Raising a “responsible and giving adult” is a wonderful goal! It is hard to set limits when people around you are spending like crazy on their kids, but in the long run it’s better for everyone.

  13. MillennialPersonalFinance says :

    Kids’ entitlement is changing lots about our world. It’s so important to teach our kids how to lose, to care about others, and that they will not get everything they want in life, and that’s okay. I appreciate the message, thank you!

    • Kalie says :

      Those are great lessons you are striving to teach your kids. It’s a lot of work sometimes but I know it’ll be worth it!

  14. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    “I can’t be the center of your world. That’s too much pressure.” That is a tough one! But it’s true. I have often found myself on the wrong side of that line.

    • Kalie says :

      We all will fall to the wrong side of that line, I’m sure. I know I have already, and we have lots of years ahead of us! But I think trying to be aware of that danger is helpful.

  15. Hannah says :

    I wish I could apply this better. With a lot of prayer, we’re hopefully getting better. It’s tough.

  16. Stephen says :

    I have an idea that I am trying to instill in my young daughter. I ask her how she thinks Mommy and Daddy have all the things we have. She replies “I dont know” in a typical 8 year old manner. I then tell her that we dont whine about someone else opressing us or blame our problems on anyone but ourselves. We wake up in the morning and go to work. No one has given my wife or I anything special. We are both successful in our lives and our careers because of one thing…..HARD WORK.

    • Kalie says :

      I agree that helping kids see the connection between hard work and earning money, meeting your wants and needs, is so important. I think this is a great reason to let kids earn money and handle money themselves, giving them the opportunity to make good choices or bad choices, and learn from that.

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