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The Problem With Entitlement

Kindness matters. My husband and I use the “K” word probably more than any other in our home. Sure, it’s usually to point out what one of our daughters did that wasn’t kind, but we make a point to acknowledge them on their actual acts of kindness, too. As a mom, I strongly believe it’s the most important thing I can pass onto my kids—that they need to leave the house every day thinking of others in addition to, and sometimes ahead of, themselves. Everything else will follow, I reason.

However, I’m starting to re-think that. It’s not that I’m thinking kindness matters less, but after reading about a 21-year-old named Caitlyn Ricci from New Jersey on Yahoo Parenting, I’ve changed my mind and realize teaching my kids not to be self-entitled spoiled brats might be a wee bit more important. Even if for just self-preservation (mine, not theirs).

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Caitlyn is celebrating after her parents lost a court battle again (against her!), with a judge ruling they must pay for her college tuition. Her parents, who say she could have tried applying for more loans and scholarships, are disputing the $16,000+ sum. They are divorced and remarried with younger children and claim out-of-state tuition is too pricey for them.

Adding insult to injury, Caitlyn moved in with her grandparents a few years ago after deciding the chores, curfew and summer school scheduled imposed on her by her parents were too rigid (although Caitlyn maintains she was thrown out of the house). Caitlyn knew moving out would mean her father’s child support obligations would be voided—and yet she sued them for a new car and college contributions regardless.

It’s important to note here that there is precedence in the law in New Jersey saying that “financially capable divorced parents” can be made to contribute to the cost of college (earlier this year an 18-year-old New Jersey girl sued her parents for access to a college fund after they kicked her out of the house when she wouldn’t break up with her boyfriend).

One way you could look at Caitlyn’s side is she’s just going after what she’s entitled to—despite the fact that she’s been a legal adult for four years, plenty of kids have to pay their own way toward a higher education and her parents would have willingly helped out had she acted in a kind and respectful manner. Or you could see it as she’s an entitled kid who think she’s owed everything and owes nothing in return.

It would seem as if there might be some benefit to continuing to reinforce the value of being thoughtful, compassionate and grateful beyond the first few years in life.

It’s also important to note, of course, that not all kids act so entitled. Some of them are hustlers and go-getters. Gratitude runs through the veins of plenty of children, too. While adults who are capable of paying for, or at least contributing in part, to their children’s education usually do so, compelling your parents through legal channels to fork over the cash after you’ve shown an utter disregard and disrespect for their rules? Where’s the kindness? Or how about just some decency, and maybe a “please” and “thank you” sprinkled in every now and again?

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Maybe Caitlyn’s parents are to blame for how she turned out. How Caitlyn has behaved with her four years of freedom, and other than staying focused on getting an education, is pretty appalling. You can only blame your parents up until a point, though. When you’re a grown-up, you need to take responsibility for fixing what others broke in you and move on. Hopefully Caitlyn can take advantage of how she’s had her bills paid for her and eventually pay it forward.

Historically, lessons on kindness are mostly taught to preschoolers and Kindergartners, but it would seem as if there might be some benefit to continuing to reinforce the value of being thoughtful, compassionate and grateful beyond the first few years in life. Entitlement can happen quickly, but more so when you just weren’t paying attention. There is a great power that comes with simply getting older. It’s the job of parents to best arm our kids with the tools necessary to use it responsibly—and hopefully not against us.

Image via Facebook

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