As I sit here contemplating how the culture has shifted among teenagers, I keep thinking of a word that is commonly passed around, “entitlement.” Sure, teenagers are notoriously self-consumed but teenagers with the mentality of feeling entitled, to me, is far more prevalent than even 3-4 years ago. Some who know me may say well that’s because you teach high school students in Highland Park. But, really, I see it in our youth group and examples of teens globally throughout social media and the news.
Sure, there are those students who have a huge heart to serve and genuinely have that passion. But, for the most part, teenagers are looking for every opportunity to make any gains on their college resume or recognition and then move on. It is not about serving or giving, it is “what’s in it for me?”
The other thought that comes to mind is the laziness to use one’s mind and think. And maybe, this is where entitlement starts to seep in because students do not want to take the time to think through a problem or solution. Teenagers (and most humans, honestly) want instant gratification. So, taking the time to logically think through a problem is often frustrating and boring to them. If they are not being entertained in the moment, then it is often meaningless to them.
Teaching leadership, I have seen a level of weakness in the area of responsibility, which goes back to entitlement. Students are so often bailed out by their parents. Just the other day, a student of mine realized she had a quiz the next period. She asked to go to the restroom. 3 minutes a later, a note from the office shows up excusing her from class for a doctor’s appointment. She obviously called a parent and got permission to leave so she could be excused from her quiz. These kinds of things happen all the time and sadly, so much of this entitlement and unwillingness to take responsibility is caused by parents enabling their children.
As a parent myself, my first instinct is to go in, swoop up, and rescue my son. But, the better of me knows that if he “scuffs his knee” or loses or fails, he will be a stronger man through learning in those circumstances. He will have stronger character, integrity, and determination. When I was growing up, we made fun of the kid who ran to mommy to bail them out of trouble. Now, kids and parents know all the tricks to get around the rules just so their student can stay ahead, stay out of trouble, and not be held accountable for their actions.
As I am typing, I am listening to the song, “Overwhelmed”, and the lyrics definitely put this all in perspective.
I see the work of Your Hands
Galaxies spin in a Heavenly dance oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming
I hear the sound of Your Voice
All at once it’s a gentle and thundering noise oh God
All that You are is so overwhelming
I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You.
-“Overwhelmed” by Big Daddy Weave
If we take the time to elevate God in our lives, finding delight in God, truly being overwhelmed by God’s love and mercy, how could we ever be so consumed with ourselves? When I read Scripture, I can’t help but be convicted of this even more deeply.
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3
“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:12
In light of this, I am challenging us, as adult leaders and parents, to wrestle through some hard questions. Grab a piece of paper and a second to sit down and really think through these questions for you and the students that the Lord has placed in your life.
- How do we model a selfless life for our youth?
- Realistically, what does a non-entitled teenager look like and how did he/she get “trained” in such a way?
- What messages are we sending our children that they must compete at the highest level and do any and everything to get to that point?
- How can we teach our children success in the eyes of God, not this world?
- How do we help them balance life in such a way that the focus is off of them – meaning their extracurricular accomplishments, their popularity, building a massive college resume, etc. – and more about what he/she can do to serve and honor God?
This post was written by John Hinton. John is a teacher at Highland Park High School and an active disciple-maker in The Heights Student Ministry. He loves spending time with his wonderful wife Marian and son Drew.