Hey, you owe me! Or, why a teen suing her parents is owed nothing

New Jersey student Rachel Canning attends a hearing in her lawsuit against her parents in Morristown, N.J., on March 4, 2014. Reuters photo by Carlo Allegri.

New Jersey student Rachel Canning attends a hearing in her lawsuit against her parents in Morristown, N.J., on March 4, 2014. Reuters photo by Carlo Allegri.

Here’s my definition of self-entitlement: The belief of selfish egoists who think they can have whatever they want, whenever they want it without regard to rules, guidelines, conventions, laws or fairness to others.

Poster girl for this unfortunate character flaw: Rachel Canning, a New Jersey high school senior, who’s suing her parents for support and college tuition after claiming they tossed her out of the house as she turned 18. Now, apparently, Canning has relented and decided to move back in with her family.

Canning’s beleaguered parents say she left voluntarily after wanting to follow her own rules, not theirs. Her parents, retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife Elizabeth, stopped paying for her private school tuition and took away her car as she went to live with a friend’s family. As it should be.

The friend’s father, behavior-enabling John Inglesino, is paying for the lawsuit saying that he and his wife, according to the Associated Press, “fear Canning will lose opportunities for a strong education and a happy future without her parents’ contributions.”  Aww, don’t you just feel for poor, victimized Rachel?

In turning down her outrageous demands, no-nonsense Judge Peter Bogaard asked, “Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in basic fear of establishing rules of the house?”

Of course, we’d like to shout an emphatic “no!” But for too many families, the kids set the rules, and the parents abide by them.

Back in the good old days, children had respect for their parents and the burden of being responsible for their actions. Hearing, “Wait until your father gets home,” would send a shiver down the backs of a misbehaving child. No more.

From the generation that worshiped the individual, we now worship the child. Apparently, those who think self-obsession may be a tad indecorous instead feel they can take the high moral ground by obsessing over their offspring instead.

It appears kids like Canning have been trained from birth to be self-centered and narcissistic, without empathy for the needs or feelings of others. (Is anyone else as sick of hearing about their supposed “rights” as I am?) Their doting, suffocating parents swoop in to demand their offspring are given playing time, the appropriate starring roles in the school play and inflated, unearned grades.

Instead of being outraged by their little darlings’ obnoxious behavior, these parents accuse everyone else of wrongdoing or intolerance. Indeed, many parents see themselves as more important because they are being repugnantly self-righteous in the name of defense of their children.

Entitlement mentality isn’t inherent. It’s been a long time coming. As America jumped from the depredations of the Depression era followed by WWII into the prosperity of the 1950s, parents swore they would never put their children through the things which defined their own childhoods. These boomer children of burgeoning affluence moved through the swinging, permissive 60s and 70s, where excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order were the order of the day. In turn, they coddled and spoiled their own children, constantly telling them how amazing and special they were, handing out trophies not for effort but for simply showing up, and telling them what a great job they were doing, even if it wasn’t true.

The fallout from the damage one generation perpetrated on the next? Parents who stunt their children’s emotional growth, never letting them experience growth through failure, obstacles or other negative consequences. Kids with the presumption of things being handed to them without the exchange of hard work and effort, a craving for attention and the expectation of instant gratification.

Well, Rachel, here are a few hard truths:

You have a right to the pursuit of happiness, not to happiness itself.

School may have abolished winners and losers, but life hasn’t.

You don’t get a medal for simply showing up — healthy self-esteem is derived from hard work and accomplishment.

You will not earn six figures, have a corner office or the juiciest assignments right out of school.

There is a big difference between need and want.

You will find freedom in taking responsibility for your actions.

Arrogance is a singularly unattractive trait.

Failure is not fatal: It provides an opportunity to learn and grow.

Don’t expect someone to come in and clean up your messes for you.

There’s only one person who controls your destiny — and that’s you.

Your parents’ job is to make themselves obsolete.

Unless a sense of personal responsibility is instilled in every child, we will eventually witness the downfall of the greatest nation the world has ever known.

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Susan Dench

About Susan Dench

Susan Dench is the founder and president of the fast-growing non-profit, non-partisan Informed Women's Network. Recognizing that many women are tired of "politics as usual," Susan decided to take action and develop strategies that are innovating the way women and politics intersect, nurturing and encouraging women in fun, energetic gatherings where views can be expressed in a supportive environment and then translated into practical solutions that produce results.