I have recently become fascinated by the number of people who believe that the world revolves around them.
I’m all for encouraging others to feel good about themselves, and I don’t disagree with trying to engender positivity. I like the concept of helping everyone to build self-esteem.
Yet it seems to me that the current “accept everything” model, together with the idea that it’s not right (not acceptable in a world that accepts everything?) to tell a child that they are in the wrong, is building a world full of selfish entitlement. It’s my way, or no way.
For example, you make arrangements to catch a specific train. That requires you to leave the house by a specific time so as to get to the station on time. Yet the attitude seems to be, “Well the train will just have to wait for me!”
I’m sorry, but when did your entitlement to be late overrule everyone else’s entitlement to be punctual?
Interestingly, such people will often make a major issue over your relaxed arrangements. This is a wonderful experience to behold.
“What time are we leaving?”
“So what time is that?”
“Between 9.00 and 10.00.”
“Can’t you be more specific?”
“Not really. It depends on how long it takes everyone to get ready. But as long as we leave by 10.00 we’ll be fine.”
“So 10.00, then.”
“No. Between 9.00 and 10.00; when we are all ready. But definitely before 10.00 so that we miss the traffic.”
Then the fun starts. Breakfast over, you say:
“Is everyone ready to leave, then?”
“No. I have to get dressed”
“Go on, then. But don’t take too long. You have 15 minutes.”
Twenty minutes later, at 10.05 you go to check.
“Not dressed, yet? We’re going to be late and we’ll get caught in the traffic and miss the train.”
“Well, they’ll just have to wait for me, won’t they. You’ll just have to drive faster.”
And this person who was simply going to die unless you gave them a specific time now holds everything up, expecting everyone else’s life to revolve around him. (Or her.)
It’s one of the hazards of shielding children from the consequences of their actions, or covering for them, getting them out of trouble. They grow up feeling that they are the most important person in the world, and that leads to the same attitude as they age.
The reality is that we are not the most important persons in the world. The only way to be special is to treat everyone else as more special than you. But when we shield people, including children, from the consequences of their actions, we develop a thankless, heartless, entitled generation.
Next time you come across this attitude, whether in yourself or others, resolve, not to shield the perpetrator from the consequences, but to enforce those consequences with all your might. (As long as it’s safe to do so, of course!)
“Yes. I know you wanted to go to the park. And I know I said that we would go as soon as you’re dressed. But, look. The park gates are locked for the night because you took so long to get dressed.”
Be prepared, however, to suffer your own consequences:
“Well if you had told me to get dressed earlier we wouldn’t have been late!”
I know. It seems like you can’t win. But do this enough times and the message will start getting through.
Respect and dignity require mutual consideration, not insistence on our rights, regardless of the consequences to other people.