Ask any teacher and, along with low pay and district politics and having to teach to the TAKS, the thing that gets their dander up most is the entitlement mentality of the kids they teach.

Entitlement shows up in the kids’ attitudes, expecting the world to recognize their rights to the life they want and think they deserve, whether they work for it or not. Even in graduate schools, professors lament the line at their doors when final grades are posted. B students argue for an A, C students for a B, and so on: They have not earned the scores, but they tried hard, went to class, didn’t talk back, and well, after all, they are special.

Mister Rogers, for all his goodness, succeeded to the point of failure. Whether today’s young adults were yesterday Buddha-ed in front his TV show or not, they certainly got the message one way or another: “You are special.”

Maybe it’s time to reclaim the obverse: “You are not special.” No one is more deserving than anyone else of special treatment based upon who their parents are, where they were born, whom they know, or how much talent they have on a field or court or stage.

Everyone is special, and no one is special. Paradoxical as it sounds, understanding the sense of that would do worlds of good for the world. Everyone is special in that each of us is born with a unique set of genes, traits, talents, looks and personality. No one is special in that each of us is part of the same human race, has the same duties and rights, and is equally loved by God.

A few thoughts then on how to rear special/not special kids:

  • “No” is an acceptable answer to a child’s want (not need), even if that “no” has less to do with right and wrong than a parent’s preference.
  • Establish a schedule for night times and keep to it – early bedtimes, routines that might include bathing, reading and prayers. Kids need to know that mommies and daddies need time together after they go to sleep.
  • Make kids try foods they think they won’t like. They might end up liking them, and they need to learn that they are not being catered to.
  • Don’t bail out your kids at school. If they forgot their homework, don’t run it up there for them. If they get in trouble, assume the authorities are right before you jump to your child’s defense.
  • Limit your kids’ extracurricular activities. Too many teams or hobbies and the family will be swirling around children’s schedules, making them think the family revolves around them.
  • Involve your kids in mission and service projects that will expose them to people who have less than they. Too many of us grow up only comparing ourselves to those who have more, and we never develop an attitude of gratitude.
  • Engage in adult conversation at meals that will push kids to learn something about politics, art, economics, history, theology and community. Allowing kids to dictate the table talk can dumb down parents and kids alike.

You might have plenty more ideas to offer, but the common theme is that our kids should have something to look forward to in becoming adults other than living to please their own kids.