I hear that word constantly. My stepchildren feel entitled. Their Mom feels entitled. Everyone seems to feel entitled except us. Hmmm…I wonder if that’s true? Let’s tear it apart a bit and see if we can find a solution.
What do we mean by entitled? The word entitled means that you feel as if you deserve things that you have not ‘earned’. Most of us would associate entitlement with giving children or other family members money, objects or permission to do things. Meanwhile, that family member is exhibiting bad behavior or does not ‘deserve’ the prize. Some may use the world, “spoiled” to describe people in our lives that feel entitled.
As an aside, I am going to guess that as we call others entitled, we feel that our lives are the opposite of being entitled. We feel as if we have to earn everything: a smile, respect, money, love. So the gap is wide and it is difficult to not feel resentment towards the other family members, especially when we believe that we are being treated unfairly. So, it’s something to think about. Is it true that our stepchildren are entitled? Or, could it be true that we feel dis-entitled? And, what are the chances that your stepchildren and their Mom feel that we act as if we are entitled? (entitled to their dad’s time, money and space)
At the same time, there are many that would say: “Show me a child of divorce and I’ll show you entitlement”. As the divorced parents try to assuage their guilt, they become indulgent towards their children. Parents are just terrified that their children will not love them. So, enforcing rules becomes a scary proposition. The same goes for enforcing rules with an ex spouse. In this case, there is terror around the thought of being dragged back into court or another argument that may hurt the children. It does not take children long to figure out these weaknesses in their parents and take advantage of it.
Meanwhile, it feels as if our partners have no worries around whether or not we love them. In fact, have you ever felt as if your partner felt entitled to our love? Maybe, feeling too secure that we’ll always be there, no matter what? For those of us that may feel this way, it is truly annoying. It makes us feel as if we are being taken advantage of. It makes us feel unimportant. Unacknowledged. If we were going to be honest, maybe we are jealous of our stepchildren and their Mom. We want the attention that they seem to be getting. And, they are truly jealous of us. After all, their Dad is with us all the time and we don’t have to worry if he loves us!
So, as a reminder, every time we have a thought. We may be thinking through the eyes of a brain consumed with jealousy and resentment. Many times, when we complain about others, we are really talking about ourselves. So, are our family members truly entitled or are we starving for recognition?
That’s all not to say that the indulgence of the children and ex spouses is a fantasy. It is real, but the indulgence and view of entitlement may be exaggerated when we examine where we are coming from. It is just something to consider. Now, the big question is to ask ourselves, what can we really do about it? The truth is that there is very little we can do. We can express our feelings to our partner and give them feedback. Most of us find ourselves giving that opinion over and over and over again. It is easy to become a nag. When we do this…it deteriorates our marriages and it doesn’t work.
We may be thinking, if the children are acting entitled, but our partner did not respond positively to it, I would not be as angry. Hmmm…For those of us that tend to nag, you may want to consider nagging in a different way. Instead of saying things like, “Can’t you see how spoiled they are? They are using you! It’s not fair. We have to think about ourselves.” Try encouraging words like, “The children love you and will love you forever. Parenting is about setting boundaries and setting good examples, not about friendship. Don’t allow your fears that they will leave you to govern your parenting decisions. Just think about it.” Say it once and be done with it.
What else can we do? We can only change ourselves. As annoying as this is, it is the truth. The first step is to set the best examples that we can. Just be ourselves. It may feel as if we are doing nothing, but like the Tao says, “The master does nothing, but leaves nothing undone.” In other words, we are doing a lot by just being. While we are being, we have opportunities to show good behavior when stressed and to teach our stepchildren about what love really is. Again, we can do this without nagging.
We can retrain our brains to help dissolve some of our thinking around the situation. Let’s use Byron Katie’s, The Work, to help us here. 1. Write down what is bothering you. 2. Ask yourselves how you would be different without this thought. 3. Explore turnarounds and other ways to look at it. Here’s an example.
Thought: Those kids feel entitled to getting things.
Is it true 100% of the time? Probably not.
Give a couple of examples when the kids did not act entitled.
If I did not believe that they were entitled, how would I behave? Kinder? Less stressed? Nag less? Focus more on the love I have for my spouse?
What is the turnaround for this thought?
- The kids do not feel entitled.
- The kids do not feel/act entitled.
- My thinking makes the kids look as if they are entitled.
Is there one of these turnarounds that seem to resonate with you? Which ones seem most true? Even as I wrote this example, the notion that “I felt entitled” immediately resonated. It is a personal matter and different for each one of us. But, I wonder. Do we feel entitled as well?
At the end of the day, do we all feel entitled to love?