Insights and Healing with Patrick Moore

How Recent Generations Became Entitled (and how to reverse the trend)
May 24, 2016, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I was reading Foundations of Psychodrama by Adam Blatner M.D. and found a plausible explanation for how recent generations (including mine) came to feel exceptional, special and entitled. It turns out improv is one of the ways to reduce entitlement.

alyssa and emily skiing

Part of the list below was Blatner’s interpretation of Dr. Moreno, the founder of Sociodrama, and part is my own synthesis. Maybe you already figured this out but it seemed like a revelation to me:

  1. Prior to the World Wars and the Depression, our culture valued authority. People were “responsible” but only under the threat of punishment from authority figures. Authorities had to “make” people responsible by threatening punishment. In this period, for example, doctors recommended that crying babies should not be picked up or you would “spoil” them.
  2. After the World Wars and the Depression, there was a period of relative peace, security and prosperity. Psychology was becoming common knowledge. The new recommendation was to pick up crying babies and create “secure attachment” by letting young people know they are always loved and cared for.
  3. For a handful of generations, children who grew up with authoritative, distant parents vowed when they were parents they would be the opposite for their children. More and more, parents have defended and protected their children’s comfort and security.
  4. Parents, in their wish to be different from their parents, in the wish to protect the feelings of their children, have (accidentally) protected their children from facing normal natural challenges.
  5. In each successive generation the children raised in an atmosphere of reduced challenge, have come to feel they were special, that someone in charge “should” protect them from challenges, that they are “entitled” to comfort, safety and pleasure, and that they have the “right” or “freedom” to opt out of any responsibilities or challenges they do not feel like facing.

This pattern has happened to every generation since the 1940s. Each generation thinks the next generation is “spoiled”. Remember, when you think the newest generation is this way, that our parents’ generation also thought this about us, and theirs about them! This has been happening for three or four generations already.

It’s nobody’s fault. You can’t blame the parents who after all, only wanted for their children to feel more love than they felt from their parents. You can’t have too much love — can you? And if you can, who would, by now, give their child less love, even if experts said that was better?

A number of psychologists in the second half of the 20th Century (Adler, Blatner, Burns, Maslow, Burns, etc.) advocated a solution to this problem. Yes, children need consistent demonstrations that they are loved. However, protecting children from challenges does not show them they are loved. In fact, overprotection shows the child you don’t believe they are capable. They come to believe they are not capable of challenges, and that some protective entity (like the government, say) should always protect them from challenges, like their parent always did. In effect, their development of resiliency is arrested. They do not gain what would be natural to them, by negotiating the challenges that naturally arise daily.

The cure for entitlement is not a return to authoritarianism and punishment. Children should not be forced to do more and be more, with threats and bribes. That’s just conditioning. Instead, the next time a challenge arises (they arise daily!), resist the urge to rescue your child from the discomfort of the challenge. If you need to, remind them how much you love them, that you are available for support if they have questions. Let them know (showing works better than telling) you are increasing their challenge gradually, for their benefit, BECAUSE you love them. Yes, if you begin this late, the child may say, “You don’t love me if you make me do this.” But you DO love them. You want for them to leave home with all the resilience they could naturally have, as the biggest gift you could give them. Encouraging them to embrace challenges, though temporarily uncomfortable, will dramatically increase the quality of their lives. They will have much more fulfilling lives. That’s what a loving parent wants for their child. That is how love is demonstrated. They will enter adulthood able to negotiate challenges without feeling they need and deserve to have their comfort continually maintained and their challenges made optional. They will not be entitled.

More children who enter adulthood resilient and appreciating challenge, helps society. As parents, educators, writers and policy makers encourage people to gradually embrace challenges, society becomes less entitled. In its place the cultural gains resiliency, innovation, an increase in health, friendliness, and responsibility to act to improve the quality of all lives, now and for the future.

This is my first blogpost on the topic of psychodrama. I plan to post more about the benefits of improv, how learning to improvise helps us grow personally and spiritually.


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