On July 24, Raleigh author and parenting expert Amy McCready appeared on the “Today Show,” and not for the first time. For this appearance, she talked about summertime and about parents who are the opposite of relaxed during the warm months.
“We’ve come to believe that it’s our job to make sure our kids aren’t bored,” McCready said over the phone a few days after recording the “Today” segment. “During the summer, that leads to a nonstop lineup of these Pinterest-perfect activities, but it just leaves everybody feeling exhausted and it doesn’t give our kids the downtime they need for their development.”
McCready’s new book, “The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World” (Tarcher/Penguin), follows a related premise: As modern parents, she feels, many of us overextend ourselves, doing things for our kids they should be doing for themselves. The book presents strategies to minimize feelings of entitlement – a modern epidemic, as she presents it.
We spoke with McCready about her book and we asked her why she believes we are living in an over-entitled world.
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Q: For anyone who has read your first book (“If I Have to Tell You One More Time,” 2012), where do you go with the second?
A: The first book ... is filled with very actionable strategies to help parents bring out the behaviors they want to see: kids who listen, who cooperate, who are independent, and who get along well with their siblings. Also, it helps the parents deal with misbehavior in a more positive way, instead of yelling and getting angry and frustrated.
Where the second book is different is I’m really tackling that topic of entitlement. In all of the years I’ve been working with parents, I’ve found entitlement becoming a bigger and bigger issue. We parents – and I include myself in this, I have two teenage boys – we all do this in the name of love. We love our kids, we want to help them, we do things for them. Sometimes we rescue them. We over-parent, we overpraise, we overprotect. I call those the “parenting overs.” Unfortunately, that results in kids who feel entitled to have those things.
Q: How is parenting today different from any previous generation? My feeling is a lot of the arguments made toward modern entitlement – this was even on the cover of Time magazine – are anecdotal arguments and unprovable.
A: I’ll tell you what we’re seeing society-wide: Kids are feeling entitled to have parents do things for them, and they feel like they’re the center of the universe. Over and over again we hear the same things from teachers. Kids who feel like they should get an A just for showing up, or coaches will tell you kids expect a starting place in the lineup just because they’re on the team. Employers, more and more, are saying the generation of new employees expects to start their job in a high-level position without doing the low-level prep work that is required. You are right – much of this is anecdotal – but we are hearing it throughout society more and more.
To the specific question of how parenting has changed, I think parents today are over-invested in their children’s happiness, in their success, and we tend to do whatever we need to do to make sure our kids are successful and happy and so forth. We tend to overindulge. We tend to do things for our kids they can do themselves. We tend to rescue them from their mistakes. As a result, kids are not learning responsibility and resourcefulness and problem-solving.
Another piece of this is, you think a couple of generations back. Maybe your family lived on a farm or they ran a family business, and everybody was required or needed ... to keep that farm functioning or to keep that business running. Kids, at a very young age, had a meaningful role.
Q: Why don’t you talk about parenting in the age of social media?
A: Parenting was hard enough, but I think with social media we are constantly comparing ourselves to everyone else. Everyone else seems to be doing it better.
These kids now are the first generation of kids to grow up in the digital age, and we’re the first generation of parents navigating this terrain. We have to be very careful in the age of social media that our kids are grounded, they understand that just because they take selfies all day long and post pictures of themselves that they are not the center of the universe. They are there to serve others, to give back, to make a difference in this world. The other side of that is the challenge of helping kids be responsible on social media.
Q: Your sons are teenagers, and if they’re not in college now they will be soon. Do you anticipate writing a parenting book for the parents of 20-year-olds or 25-year-olds?
A: My oldest is going to be a sophomore at N.C. State, and my youngest is a rising high school senior. I have lived the ups and downs of teenage life, and so many people ask me, “What’s next? What is the next book?” So maybe it will be, but I’m so busy with this book right now I can’t even imagine writing another book. Writing a book is like having a baby – you need a couple of years in between to get over that trauma.
Meet the author
▪ Amy McCready will appear at Quail Ridge Books (3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh) at 7 p.m. Aug. 13. Details at quailridgebooks.com.
▪ McCready’s book is on sale Aug. 11, but pre-orders come with free coaching from the author. More info at amymccready.com.
Win the book
Win a free copy of “The ‘Me, Me, Me’ Epidemic: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World” by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Tuesday (Aug. 4). Please include your mailing address and put “McCready” in the subject line to be eligible. We’ll mail the books to winners on Aug. 10.