As I was enjoying a much needed three-day weekend, I was reflecting on how the employment world has become so competitive. It struck me how we have to raise the bar in order just to stay even.
The question is: are we even staying even?
Two groups of people immediately came to mind when considering who could best answer this question: employers of young people and school counselors. After all, they’re the respective “consumers” of the nation’s schools and key leaders in guiding our students.
I talked to a manager of a coffee shop the other day who teaches high school “tech-ed.” He vented about the lacking social skills and work ethic of his employees and students, lamenting how they act like they’re owed something. He faces an uphill battle because their parents are routinely feeding these attitudes, enabling their child’s sense of entitlement.
This insightful insider commented that when parents do things like make last-minute absentee calls on behalf of their teen, give teachers flak when their students aren’t doing well in a class, or make nasty phone calls to employers when their child doesn’t get the promotion, raise, or extra hours he/she “deserved,” they’re doing their children a huge disservice in the long run.
Another person I spoke with, a veteran school counselor, shared how the first week of school has already had its share of student disrespect and parental entitlement issues. Regrettably, this is consistent with a survey of school counselors I conducted a few months ago. Student apathy, “entitlement mentality,” and lack of parental support were among the top five issues they cited.
Juxtapose this with a conversation I had with a determined Indonesian high school student after my talk, “Developing the Great Leaders of Tomorrow” during my book tour.
“Mr. Dennis,” he said, “I’m not as smart at academics as I’d like to be. But, can I still become a great leader?” he asked with great concern.
This kid gets it. It’s not just about “book smarts.” It’s about being smart about life, without an attitude of entitlement. It’s about having the willingness to work hard and deliver excellence in all you do.
All of us—parents, school teachers, politicians, and media/culture drivers, have a stake in reversing this trend of entitlement. This means honoring and modeling hard work, strong ethics, perseverance, and preparing young people for a life that isn’t always fair. It means teaching that failure is part of life and self-esteem is something best earned. It means that as parents, our value isn’t defined by a perfect performance from our children, but whether they are people of excellence who strive to do their best.
So, now that Labor Day is over, it’s time to get to work…on this!