Parenting and Marketing and Entitlement, Oh My!

What does parenting have to do with marketing?

More than you’d think.

Recently, I was chatting with Calgary parenting coach Lisa Kathleen (pictured right) and we got to chatting about our frustrations with the big bad world of marketing. And we struck on the ethical topic of ‘entitlement’. I see it a lot in marketing (and I think it’s dangerous) and she sees it a lot in parenting (and she thinks it’s dangerous). I asked her if she’d be willing to write something about that. And she did! It follows below.


I recently sent a question to my favourite marketing man, Tad Hargrave of Marketing for Hippies.  Marketing fascinates me, because it is such a force in our culture, because it powerfully affects our children, and because I am committed to being in integrity in everything I do in my business.  Being in integrity in marketing always felt hard to me, until I met Tad.

A little while ago, I was thinking a lot about something I hear lots of business-y marketing gurus say.  It’s the phrase “…so you can make the money that YOU DESERVE…” (which generally seems to mean gazillions, or preferably more).  Every time I hear this phrase, I feel uncomfortable.  So I popped off an email to Tad, asking if I’m just underestimating my own value (gazillions?  Little Old Moi?), or if there was truly something amiss here.  And we started a short exchange about value and entitlement.  And, lo and behold, it turns out we share the same ideas with our different audiences, marketing people and parent people.

I love to say, “we’re all doing the same work”, and here is another beautiful example.  So, here’s where the thoughts overlap…

There’s a beautiful thing happening in the world today – many parents are deeply aware of their children’s needs and are totally committed to respectfully meeting those needs.  And here’s what I see happening with so many of the parents I work with.  They are so committed to meeting those needs, and respecting their children, that they get mixed up in two areas.  First, they forget that they (the parents) have needs, too.  Second, they forget that there is a huge difference between needs and wants.

Parents come to me saying, “We want to meet their needs, but we’re starting to feel like doormats, and we don’t know what to do.”

When we consistently meet our children’s wants as if they are needs, children develop a sense of entitlement.  Instead, we can help our children to develop awareness of which requests are needs and which are wants, which develops children who are resilient.  They learn that when they DON’T get the balloon they want, they are okay.  They learn that when it’s time to go and they don’t want to go AND they go anyway, they are okay.

Now, I am not advocating that we deny our children all their wants!  Just that we weigh those wants against all the needs that are involved.  If your child wants to stay at the party, but is overtired, and you know from experience that your child will not enjoy the next day if you don’t head home right away, your child’s need to sleep may trump his want to stay.  Further, if the party hosts are yawning and heading to bed, their need to sleep may trump your child’s want to stay.  Further, if you are dreading the thought of spending a day with your overtired child, your want to enjoy the next day comes into play as well.

So that’s what’s happening in parenting.

And here’s what’s happening in our marketplace.  The idea that we DESERVE to make gazillions of dollars is a warping of the line between needs and wants.  Businesspeople and corporations don’t deserve to make millions.  Even doing wonderful, holistic, meaningful, and profound work in the world does not mean that you deserve to be a gazillionnaire.

Additionally, the “you deserve” message that a lot of marketing sends out further warps this line.  We in North America, particularly, have the idea that we deserve bigger houses than we can easily afford, a nicer car than we can pay for upfront, and every new gadget that comes onto the market.  Our sense of entitlement (coupled with systems that don’t help at all) drives us deeper into debt, and further away from our natural ability to separate needs from wants.  This culture, that meets our wants as if they are needs, breeds the same sense of entitlement that children can develop under the same circumstances.  Interesting, huh?

I think this warp is also evidenced by the fact that we in North America live in a culture of incredible abundance, are overweight, and still think we have to force our kids to eat.  Our relationship to our most basic needs is all messed up.

So, I joyously let go of the idea that I somehow deserve to be a gazillionnaire.  That’s a relief!  I realize instead that the resources needed for me to do the work I do that the world needs, will probably be available when I want them.

And here’s the beauty of all of this.  In marketing, and in parenting, the first questions are the same.  “What do I need?”  “What do you need?” and “What does the world need?”   The ultimate question is always, “Considering all these needs, what can we do that works for everyone involved?”  Rather than feeling a sense of entitlement, I am, instead, awed by the responsibility that I personally have to juggle all these needs, in my home and in my business.  That responsibility sits lightly and naturally on my shoulders, but the sense of entitlement was a heavy burden.

For more info on Lisa Kathleen’s Parenting Coaching just go to her site:

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