The Age of Entitlement

I caught up with some friends recently, who have a little boy about a year younger than my little girl. We hit a popular park in North Perth, armed with our caffeine, sunscreen and snacks, and tried to keep our kids out of trouble long enough to have a decent 'adult' chat.

Behind us, a three-year- old party was setting up. Now this party was unlike anything I had seen before (and I have been to quite a few kid's parties in my time). A Moroccan-style seating arrangement with plump colour-coordinated cushions and a long table covered in decorations and goodie bags, a food cart with a huge assortment of sweets and treats, various themed performers and of course, a giant bouquet of balloons with a gold 'three' at the centre of it all. 

My friends and I joked that we should send our 'normal' kids over to the party to trash this resplendent scene and grab a couple of the delicious cupcakes on the food cart – but I was truly struck with this incredible display. And the thought kept ringing in my head – "where do they go from here?" I don't think it's a new thing – kids seem to be getting more, and doing more, at a younger and younger age.

Parents are bending over backwards to try and make the limited time they spend with their kids 'quality' time, but what of the cost of having so much scheduled time – with all of the trimmings - that our kids have no chance to really let their imaginations roam free?

The experts tell us that in fact, constantly filling up our kid's time with activities is detrimental to their development. Lyn Fry, a London-based child psychologist, poses the question that if parents are constantly providing stimulation in the form of new toys, scheduled activities and of course, screen time, then the child is never going to learn to occupy themselves. Boredom is also a critical stimulus for creative thinking – a skill that only gets more important with age.

With Christmas just around the corner, this issue of entitlement in children is something that is more and more top of mind for me. I'm quite strict when it comes to presents – a reflection of my own childhood – but I have even seen this entitlement in my own daughter at Christmas time. Probably harmless, but last Christmas I remember watching her rip the paper off of half a dozen presents from various family members without so much as a glance at the gift inside, then proclaiming "What's next?"

So this Christmas – whilst of course I still want my children to enjoy giving and receiving gifts – I am aiming to also teach my kids about how lucky we are. To try and learn to appreciate what we have, and to discover the joy in giving and receiving non-physical gifts and simply cherishing the unscheduled time we have together.

Oh, and that three-year- old party? Whilst my friends and I were relishing a child-free moment and letting them roam free in the park, our two ratbags were punching the balloon bouquet, grabbing the goodie bags off the table and trying to grab those delicious looking cupcakes off the food cart. It was a very swift exit.

Lanna Hill is a business coach, speaker and mum of two. She is the founder of One Small Step Business Coaching.

Published in WA Today, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and the Canberra Times

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