Getting Beyond the Entitlement Mindset

By Edwin Colbert Communicator April 2015, Volume 38, Issue 8

By Edwin Colbert
April 2015, Volume 38, Issue 8

Every educator has probably had to deal with a student who in one way or another acts entitled. The student might not think he or she should have to do certain assignments, or may expect a better grade than is received. But this attitude represents more than just a headache for parents, teachers, and principals. In addition to creating academic difficulties, entitled students won’t have the mindset they need to succeed when presented with challenges later in life.

These students have what educational leadership expert Jim Grant calls an “entitlement mindset.” Grant, who is a 2015 NAESP Best Practices for Better Schools pre-conference speaker, explains that an entitlement mindset occurs when a child has been over nurtured and overindulged. They think of themselves as special, and feel they deserve more than is to be reasonably expected.


Fortunately, there are ways to combat this way of thinking, reversing an assumption of entitlement mindset in schools. In a recent webinar, Grant offered strategies to help children with an entitlement mindset grow into responsible, considerate, and ultimately successful students. Share these strategies from Grant’s webinar with your teachers.

Practice gratitude. Thinking about the needs of others and the greater good of families, communities, and society will help develop grateful children. These values should be modelled by teachers and emphasized to students whenever possible. Students should be taught to think in terms of “we”—not “I.”

Understand “Good Failures.” Because many students have been shielded from experiencing failure, they often feel anxious when faced with challenges. Providing opportunities for children to make mistakes can help reduce anxiety in the long run.

Be sympathetic to students. It’s easy to complain that a student is overindulged; but shaming doesn’t fix the problem. Children who have an entitled mindset act the way they do because of the way that they were raised. Sometimes they just don’t know any better, so adults should try their best to help them become responsible.

Be sympathetic to families. The sympathy you offer to students should extend to their families as well. Grant explained, “Overindulgence is well-intentioned loving parents trying to do the right thing.” Many parents work long hours, or may be overly stressed. At the end of the day, making their children happy makes them happy. To offer support, one webinar attendee suggested that schools facilitate a family support group. In such a group, parents could discuss difficulties and share their strategies on how to help their children grow.

Stay optimistic. Another attendee shared an anecdote about a student whose family just didn’t believe they could change their ways. Grant stressed that despite the challenge of overcoming an entitlement mindset, there is still hope for all students. A young person’s mind is surprisingly malleable, and it’s always possible to change it for the better. A commitment to help a child grow will eventually yield results.

You can find more strategies to fix the entitlement mindset in Jim Grant’s presentation, which is archived on NAESP’s webinar page. Grant will also host a pre-conference workshop, “Grit, Mindset, and Determination: The Key to Leading by Influence,” at the 2015 NAESP Best Conferences for Better Schools Annual Conference in Long Beach. Visit the conference website to find out more information and to register.

Edwin Colbert is NAESP’s Communications Assistant

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