Too Much “Entitlement”, How to get your kids to do more

It’s funny how we have been living in families for so many thousands of years, but the modern family is so new that we don’t really understand the dynamics of it.  Our relationships to our partners is new where love as the basis for marriage came around less than 100 years ago.   Our relationships to children is dramatically different, with social influences and online access to information there are many outside influences that we may not agree with.

We are in the age of privilege where entitlement is a common complaint of the upcoming generation.  Kids these days hardly hear the word no, and rarely have to wait to get the toys they want.  It boggles my mind because it seems like we are making the parenting job so much more difficult.

o-TAKE-YOUR-KIDS-TO-WORK-DAY-facebookI agree with child labor laws to prevent us from working our children, but now we also seem to limit their contributions around the house.  As kids help less and less around the house, parents now have to work more to fill in that deficit.  And now that the kids are bored, without a sense of purpose, we have to create positive activities and parents rush around to get their kids to soccer practice on Monday night, Scouts meetings on Tuesday, the Math Tutor on Wednesday, a soccer fundraiser on Thursday, and Joey’s house on Friday night.

Jennifer Senior captured my thoughts exactly in her Ted Talk.  I suggest listening to the excerpt on the TED Radio Hour which interweaves an interview with Jennifer between the TED presentation.  She gets to this point: we have limited our goal of parenting to “Making them Happy.”  Now we all can debate the success of this goal for ourselves, and everyone we know.  But my question is how do we get back to wanting to teach our children “to function as an adult.” I see it in my nephews, and people all around us.  They are not learning to how to make a plan, solve problems themselves, manage finances, challenge advertising claims which may be deceiving.

Well Bruce Feiler’s Ted Talk addresses this issue and proposes a solution.  A way to get your kids to do more that helps out the family, and teaches them responsibility to be successful in life.

Well I might be biased, growing up as the oldest of 5 kids I had the responsibility burden when there were problems in the family.  Some people pity my childhood of cleaning, cooking and laundry for the whole family starting at age 9, but I wouldn’t trade my situation now.  No debt, paid for school, motivated and confident enough to pursue what I think is right for me.  People want to think that they are raising good people, and that is enough.  Well all my siblings are good people because of our family values, so yes that is important.  But one sibling did not get the responsibility role and now struggles to provide for himself and his family.  His work ethic is just a bit different and my parents still support him in various ways.

I think we need to give kids more responsibility, teach them how to get through it, and be supportive as they learn, but continue adding increased responsibility.  We see so many outreach programs for kids that have positive effects, many of them are successful due to the opportunity for responsibility given to young people.  This is the best time for them to learn, we should not rob them of that opportunity.


Steps toward a Happier Life

Here are a few take away’s from my informal happiness research, I plan to focus on one of these each day to improve my level of happiness and links to a related TED Talk video:

1. Accept that everyone struggles with being happy because of the natural human behavior effects, discussed below.  It’s not just me.OK happy face_full

2. Our memories directly effect our happiness, and focusing on happy memories or the positive aspects of an event will impact my emotions now and in the future.  Anything I can do to have an event end on a positive note will improve my emotion of that event, and taking time to reflect on the positive aspects of the event will improve the status of my memory of the event.  Dan Kahneman

3. Too much choice causes stress: choice of where to live, what job to have, who to marry and when, should we have kids and when, what to achieve…  Keep it simple.  Barry Schwartz

4. Happiness is based on comparing our current situation to some expectation.  Consider if the expectation is reasonable, and separately consider to what degree the expectation is helpful to have.  Even better is when we can tell ourselves that the things we have give us happiness.  Dan Gilbert

5. Keep a calm mind, to calm my mind I need to slow down and focus on one thing at a time.

6. Do something nice for someone.  Buy them a coffee, tell them a joke, give a sincere compliment.  Michael Norton

7. Love what I do by focusing on the good it provides.  Everyone contributes to society in some way, performing a task that we don’t have time or knowledge to perform.   Skilled labor is just as valuable as CEO’s.  Mike Rowe

8. Remind myself of my priorities, and try to avoid taking on too much.  I am too easily distracted by many different interests.

9.  Being Thankful.  Thank people for all the ways they contribute to my life and experience.  Science of Happiness webpage, this article by  Mike Robbins, or see tips and ideas about creating a gratitude journalDavid Standl-Rast, or check out the The Gratitude Experiment video.

10.  Make believe is a wonderful thing.  Play is a wonderful thing.

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Last night, while reading a book for pleasure 🙂 an important life lesson was dropped in my lap.  This morning, a powerful endorsement of that message popped up on a friends Facebook page.  This one is not going to be easy to fix for me, and it’s going to take some serious time for me to learn how to even begin.

“One of the reasons for anxiety and depression in the high attainers is that they’re not having good relationships.  They’re busy making money and attending to themselves and that means that there’s less room in their lives for love and attention and caring and empathy and the things that truly count.” ~Daniel Pink in the book Drive

The Day I stopped saying “Hurry Up” article by Rachel Macy Stafford, although she writes this to her daughters, it can be true for friends, spouse, coworkers, etc.

Being Caught Up by New Things

I’m fascinated about happiness, what makes people happy and how those things lose their ability to create additional happiness. Which makes me wonder “Are we really interested in something new?” I love change, I feel very stifled if I don’t have some sort of change in my life.

Some people say that in order for them to feel content in their relationship, they have to be “growing together.” I understand that feeling, although I have not mastered how to control or feed it. But I sometimes think I’m unsatisfied if my boyfriend and I are not actively working on a common goal together.

In the past, I have been able to achieve a lot of change. Changing grades in school, and changing schools every few years. As an adult I have moved apartments nearly every year. New groups of friends, new activities, etc. but now living in the same Metropolitan area for 9 years, keeping the same job for as long, dating my bf for 3 years, facing the idea of settling down and buying a house, I wonder “How long can I go without a major change in my life?”

I love the Boston area, I dread the idea of learning everything, and everyone, over again. I like a lot of aspects about my job, and it provides a long term career goal that I’m striving for, and few other companies have the same opportunity. Life is full of change, but I thrive on the excitement of something new.

I sometimes watch the classic movies, from the 30’s and 40’s.  It’s interesting that the simple plots, with a few song and dance routines, could were entertaining to a majority of men and women. So few of my peers find them entertaining now. Our standards have changed and we need something fresh to catch our attention. We can’t regurgitate the same fancies for each generation, we have to develop new ideas, new boy bands, new TV shows.

Is the search from something new outweighing the search to develop meaning?  Are we constantly chasing something new as meaningless entertainment without truly enriching our lives?

Unexpected Answers

I feel constantly in search of an answer for “How to Be Happy”?  Some of the ideas I thought were answers:

  • Fake it till you make it
  • Find a deeper understanding for everything, the more we know about how behavior works the more we can control our emotions
  • Happiness is relative, so keep reminding myself of how much worse my situation could be
  • Happy people had a good childhood and they are able to carry that happiness throughout life
  • It’s all in the brain, everyone’s brain is wired differently and some people are naturally more happy or more satisfied while others struggle to achieve happiness on a regular basis.  Some of these people have such dramatic brain issues that they need drugs to avoid harmful depression.
  • Focus on the little things that bring me bits of joy, avoiding the bigger issues that limit deep and true happiness
  • Keep making changes to keep life new and exciting, without finding a way to achieve happiness without those regular changes.

OK happy face_fullAs it turns out, by trying to ignore the things that cause pain and misery, I also dulled the joys of life.  At least, that’s what I’m thinking now after watching this TED Talk by Brené Brown.

I have always been sensitive.  I cry very easily, and as a kid I hated being called a crybaby.  Now as an adult, I cry when sad, happy, angry, just about every emotion comes out in tears.  Which is hard for my boyfriend because it makes it harder for him to read my emotions.  I wish I didn’t cry so easily, and I really wish I could control it in public.

That is one of the reasons I have tried to limit my vulnerabilities.  If I am vulnerable, there is more potential for me to cry.  So I tried to cut out vulnerabilities, but that has probably had a severe effect on my relationships with friends, family, and my boyfriend.  By trying to be independent, and not rely on others, it’s been hard to form stronger bonds with people.

I would love to hear from others who think they may have similar experiences.

Can we learn about Human Behavior from Robots?

Absolutely!  In the 90’s people started making computer programs that will have conversations with people.  Some of the researchers enjoyed talking for hours with these programs, even though they knew the programs aren’t real.  What is described in these stories on an episode of Radiolab suggests that these programs were successful at addressing a basic human desire.

We all desire to be understood, by friends, partners, coworkers etc.  Listening to this podcast makes me wonder if these programs shed light on a secret to happiness.  How many people are frustrated with their relationships because of communication problems?  This goes beyond the 5 Languages of Love.  Would we be satisfied with an inanimate object to talk to?  And then would that allow us to be satisfied with our relationships as they are?

I wonder how this will be developed in the future, and if this characteristic will be a major factor toward people having robots at home.  What if we could purchase a Rosie the robot like the Jetsons had?  If furbies can bring comfort to children and the elderly, how might this technology be expanded in the future?

the Secret to Happiness?

I happen to catch this speech on the radio and a few phrases resonate with some ideas in my head lately:

“The fact that we’re all connected now is a blessing, not a curse.  We can solve many, many problems in the world as a result.  Not only is it an advantage that you all have, but it’s a responsibility.

All of these connections that you forge … are also not possible without you, without a heart.  …  But you cannot let technology rule you. … Take 1 hour a day and turn that thing off.

Take your eyes off that screen and look into the eyes of the person that you love. Alright.  Have a conversation, a real conversation with the friends that make you think, with the family who makes you laugh.  … Engage in the world around you, and feel, taste, and smell and hug what’s right there, right in front of you.


Friends (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life is not about a friend count but about the friends who actually you can count on.  … Life is about who you love, how you live, it’s about who you travel with through the world, your family, you collaborators, your friends.  Life is a social experience first.  And the best aspects of that experience are not lonely ones, they’re spent in the company of others.

Now our modern landscape has changed, yes, but our humanity will always remain.  And that above all else makes us who we are.”

excerpted from Eric Schmidt, Commencement Speech for the 2012 Boston University Graduation

I have been thinking about how we treat each other and how we want to be treated by others.  Essentially, I think we’re all searching for acceptance.  We want to know that what we do matters to someone, has an impact on their lives, and makes them happy.  The best thing we can do for people is accept them for who they are (while helping them improve upon faults) and make them feel like they matter to us.

Another point of view on this topic is thinking about how we bring joy to others: TED Talk by Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work  (related book How Full is Your Bucket?)

My friend Laura is such a nice person, and so great at paying attention to people and making them feel important.  She always remembers things I say, when I give a gift, the next time I see her she talks about using the gift or shows me how she has displayed the item.  Her ability to make everyone feel important amazes and inspires me.

I think the people who need this the most are often the ones least likely to receive it.  Or maybe the ones that receive it the least are the ones who really suffer from this missing element.  I guess we all need this treatment, in a sincere and constructive way.

Do Something Good for the World – Make Yourself Happy

You know how special things happen with we are feeling good?  Some days we wake up on the right side of the bed, or hear our favorite song on the way to work, something to put us in that Happy Mood.  While in that mood we are kind to other drivers, patient with our friends and loved ones, helpful to those in need, and receptive to the occurrence of additional uplifting events.  It’s almost like our positive mindset makes good things happen to us (but really it’s our positive mindset that allows us to recognize and appreciate the good things).  And then while in that happy mood we are more likely to pay it forward spreading cheer all around.  Have you seen the Liberty Mutual commercials where someone watches a stranger perform a good dead, then they perform a good dead for someone else?

So why not do the world a favor by doing something nice for ourselves each day?  Similar to the 29 Gifts idea, but doing a little something for ourselves to start the chain reaction (as long as it does not cause harm to others).

Unfortunately, negativity is more infectious than positivity.  Even more reason to keep ourselves in a happy mood.  If we are unhappy then we are even more likely to pass it on, or rather others are more likely to have their mood soured as a reaction to our negativity, so take care of yourself and contribute a positive impact to the world around you.  You know what is even more infectious than negativity?  Laughter, I love to tell little jokes or anecdotes to strangers, like the grocery cashier, to break up their day of hundreds of empty conversations with all the customers they serve.

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