01/16/2012 10:00 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Great Expectations: Children and the Culture of Entitlement


"Is that all?"

Has your child uttered these words upon opening a mound of presents, perhaps for their birthday, Christmas or otherwise? If the answer is "yes," you're not alone.

With growing frequency, our kids are starting to expect what's coming to them -- and more. We live in a world of "stuff," whether it's toys, electronic gadgets or items of clothing. Given that we live in an extremely consumerist society, are we really surprised?

Even the youngest child cannot escape the messages that are constantly provided via the media, retailers and society at large: Have it all... and more. The mainstream nature of conspicuous consumption has surpassed a previous age threshold with the youngest of children now demanding not only toys, but gadgets as well. Who's to blame?

This video of a clearly perplexed toddler who does not understand why a magazine can't be "swiped" just like Mommy or Daddy's iPad says it all. The fact that a standard of our times, the magazine (and by extension, newspapers and similar publications), is becoming a lesser-known option amongst the youngest crowd is sadly prescient. Young children that don't even have the facility to talk yet are purveyors of the latest and greatest technology, putting stress on parents to deliver -- or else.

The promise of "the next big thing," something bigger and better than what the child already has, surrounds our children, making the acquisition of any item perceived to be inferior less appealing. As soon as an object is received, it is, in many instances, already deemed obsolete. The next iteration awaits on the horizon, after all. Whether it's a new gadget or otherwise, it had better be good. After all, what would they say at the schoolyard?

"Monkey see, monkey do," a wise person once said. Therein lies the problem, perhaps, but also the solution to this troubling trend. After all, let's face the fact that we as parents are the first point of reference when it comes to our children. We set the stage and our kids follow suit. If we ourselves are on a continual pursuit of perceived happiness in the form of an object or item, how can we expect our children to behave otherwise? If our children "do as we do," perhaps we can use this reality as an opportunity to turn the tides of rampant consumerism that is pervading our young.

As difficult as it may be in this age of want, maybe we as adults can start to practice saying the word "no" when our kids ask us for yet another item. Charity may begin at home, but then again so does materialism. A move towards a less goods-focused life can be done if we start with ourselves. When we lead, our children will follow.