Recently, I’ve heard people complain about the self-centeredness of “the youth” these days. They say teens have a sense of entitlement. This summer, I was jolted by 2 emails that made me wonder if it’s actually the adults here that are paving the way for our teens to behave like this.
Before I share those, let me just make clear that I deeply appreciate everything that people on all levels of our mosdos are doing on a daily basis. The following is not meant to undermine their important work, but rather just a point of constructive criticism on something that can have long-lasting negative effects.
Email 1: The tip demand
Before summer overnight camp this year, we received an email notifying us about the suggested amounts to give as tips to staff members and the best way to transfer it directly to the counselors and waiters of my children (using Cashapp etc.).
Did I say suggested amount? Let me correct that. It didn’t really sound like a polite suggestion. More like a demand. Oh, and one camp (I have a few children, Baruch Hashem) wanted us to pay the tips in full before camp even started.
I am all for efficiency and direct deposits, but here is the catch. How do I know before camp how much I will want to tip? Is there a possibility that my child’s counselor will be so amazing that I would give more than asked? or maybe less?
It wasn’t something I thought about at the time until I went to Visiting Day at one of the camps. Not a single counselor, waiter, Learning Counselor, and Head Counselor made any sort of effort to introduce themself to me or any other parents.
They couldn’t tell us a little bit about how my child is doing camp? Share some nachas with me? Even the food delivery guy and hotel housekeeper know to smile and stick around to “earn” the tip they “deserve.” It dawned on me that these tips were looked as “es kumt em” (it is deserving to him), as we say.
Besides menschlichkeit, what’s lacking here is a basic work ethic. Very few people get paid in full before they do work and even fewer people can expect to be generously tipped for zero human interaction. This is probably the first job of these bochurim, and if such entitlement is already in place, where will this lead them in life?
Email #2: The Chessed pressure
The second email was from a Chessed program that sends high school girls to give a helping hand with homework etc at homes in the community. It’s a wonderful program that teaches kindness to the girls and helps families.
The email I saw announced that for this coming year, families who are part of the program need to give x number of gifts to the girl volunteering by them a few times a year, and that the end-of-year gift needs to be covered by parents.
Of course, people can (and even should) be recognized for the kindness and volunteering they do. And they should receive gifts of appreciation. However, if you make it mandatory, is it still considered gifts of “appreciation,” and is it still called volunteering?
How are we teaching our girls to do chessed but then to expect rewards for it? Until now, from the little that I know, girls were happy to help. It taught them so much about themselves, about working and doing for ‘others’. This email absolutely defies what we are trying to teach them. It tells them not to do anything for free or because they are a kind human. Always expect things in return.
I’m sure that those parents that feel indebted to their volunteers do gift them, either with a verbal appreciation or physical gifts, but showing our girls that they should expect things is absolutely contrary to our goal here. Is this something that the girls asked for? Or is this a sense of entitlement that is being taught to them through us, adults?
Friends, that’s how the cycle of entitlement just continues to grow.
We need to stick to what we know is right. We need to believe that our teens are better than this. This is a long and dangerous road that we are going down. Teaching them to expect things without having to work hard for them. Teaching them Middos that aren’t good. I believe that our teens see right through this and double down on it.
I don’t want to be dramatic here but take a peek into the workforce of young adults (around the country and the world). We are raising a generation that doesn’t know what commitment, dedication and hard work look like. This is our own undoing. How can we fix this?