Is Asia experiencing an entitlement epidemic?

Personally, I believe it is. It is so debilitating and harmful not just to the business but to the family as well. There is a proverb that says, “The rich do not stay rich, and the poor do not stay poor for three generations.” This simply highlights the weight on the shoulders of the founding generation in making sure the next generation embraces the values of hard work and humility, especially when the children are no longer going through a “survival mode” to motivate them to push the limit. I’m still in Barcelona and the proverb that says “Padre Noble, Hijo Rico, Nieto Pobre,” which, when translated into English, means, “Father founder, Son rich and Grandson poor,” still resonates.

For the new year, I want to repeat what I emphasized in my column last week: It is appropriate and timely to reinforce to one and all that raising non-entitled children (and grandchildren) is important and non-negotiable. Why? Because the stakes are high in sustaining a business under siege from all fronts. 

But what causes children to act in a privileged manner? Certain parental actions contribute to the development of an entitled child. In our research and regular collaboration with clinical psychologists, we have identified red flags that parents/owners need to know and reflect on. One apparent mistake is the tendency to over-parent. According to Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, “When children receive everything they want, we feed into their sense of entitlement and feelings of gratitude fail by the wayside. The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting, over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising and jumping through hoops to meet the kid’s endless demands. Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort, and success.” 

How can parents prevent their children from becoming entitled?                      

There are many ways to prevent children from becoming entitled. The most effective approach is through role modeling and communication. While the children are still young, parents must engage them by way of formal and informal discussions about topics related to how the business started and how they persevered and eventually made the business successful. They can also regale their children on how they struggled, even sacrificing their personal comfort zone and happiness just so they can save enough money to start a small business. 

I have a business owner friend based in Manila and he would always complain why his children cannot replicate his work ethic. He added, “My children always think highly of themselves just because they studied in the best universities but come to think of it, the kind of work they deliver is nothing compared to what I went through. I started as a laborer and rose through the ranks. I was already working at an early age of 15 years old. There was no choice; if I did not work, there would be no food on the table. We were poor then but looking at my children now, they are very comfortable!” 

The father agreed with my suggestion to engage the children in regular conversations by emphasizing the importance of hard work and highlighting how they sacrificed their dreams of cutting short their education to give way to working at an early age. I facilitated the family sessions, and after a year, the children realized the enormous sacrifice their parents went through just so they could benefit from the success they are presently enjoying. 

Parents must de-emphasize entitlement and substitute it with stories of blood, sweat and tears so it will serve as an inspiration to their children. It is also a good way for them to reflect that there is no substitute for hard work. As children become adults, parents-founders must let them indulge in formal family conversations pertaining to governance, rules of entry into the business, shareholder education, and the essence of why the business must grow. In short, the next generation must embrace a mindset that they must “take good care of the business so the business can take care of the family.”