Lessons Learned – Entitled and Detached
November 7, 2014
by: Craig Peterson
What I did see was their sense of entitlement.
After being in the child welfare system, my sons knew all about entitlements. Their case manager took them shopping for clothes several times a year – often for things they didn’t entirely need. Their foster parents followed suit.. And when my sons ended up in an emergency children’s shelter, both left each time with more than what they brought in – new items that quickly held no personal value.
What the two young boys needed more than extra clothes was someone to pay attention to them, someone to bond with them, someone to understand them – maybe even listen. No one did that consistently over a period of five years – which is an eternity in the life of a child.
Instead, they received more winter coats than any child could ever use. Many good people like giving to charity. It’s easy and doesn’t require an ongoing effort to actually connect with the recipient. My sons witnessed this behavior over and over again. They understand it well – very well – and used this knowledge to their advantage.
My older son used his coats for barter at school – knowing that some compassionate soul would quickly provide him another new one. After all, every child needs a coat. Don’t they? In fact, he told his case manager on one occasion, “I don’t have no coat and you have to buy me one today.”
No doubt, the sense of entitlement fed the need to control.
When I first took my sons shopping for school supplies, they were confused. “We don’t need paper and pencils. The teacher gives that stuff to us. You can buy us these Star Wars binders instead.”
I never forgot that conversation in the Office Depot near my home – practically completing a college course in sociology while wandering aisle three.
Soon I realized the two didn’t feel compelled to take care of anything – since no one had ever truly taken care of them. And if something needed to be replaced, someone was always stepping forward to buy it – bad habits that would be incredibly hard to undo.
No wonder they saw nothing wrong with taking their classmates’ possessions or shoplifting from stores. To them, it wasn’t stealing. Everything in life was expendable.
Relationships meant little. But gaining more things drove their behavior – a misplaced sense of control that empowered them in the wrong way every time.
Thinking back, I would have provided my sons an adequate assortment of “things” upon their arrival in my home – calmly reminding them that any early replacements would come from the discount bin at the local Goodwill Store.
At the same time, I would have reinforced the importance of “relationships” – modeling the love that would allow them to connect.
Entitlements, control, attachment – they all seem to be related for many of our kids.