Raising Kids in the Heart of the Pride Cycle

Pride CycleThis is my third time working through the Old Testament as a teacher (Gospel Doctrine twice, seminary once, kinda), which means I’ve drawn a lot of pride cycles on chalk boards. There was no chalk this time though, so I just used my finger on the chalkboard to trace the familiar circle during class on Sunday, while we talked our way through first Joel and then Amos.

The faint circle was still on the board during Elder’s Quorum, as the class discussed how we can raise our kids to be faithful adults. The instructor asked what we’re most worried about as we think about our children’s futures.

My biggest fear for my kids is that they will grow up to be selfish jerks, and I said so out loud. I’m dealing with some issues at work with a couple—ahem—younger, fairly entitled employees, and it has me thinking about millennials and where the world went so wrong to have such a bratty generation. Maybe that’s just the way older people always feel about younger people. Or maybe we’re into the cursed 3rd and 4th generation after a pride-cycle reset. Either way, the entitled crap at work has affected the way I’ve been approaching my parenting lately. I don’t want to raise entitled jerks.

But as I made my anti-jerk comment in class, I was looking at the pride cycle on the chalkboard, and a few things occurred to me:

  1. As a civilization/church/family, we’re probably near the top of the prosperity part of the pride cycle, just as the Northern Kingdom was when Amos was preaching hellfire to it.
  2. I work really hard, as does my wife, to make sure we stay there, or even ascend farther into the pride cycle danger zone.
  3. That’s going to make it very hard for my kids not to be jerks.

There are blessings all around, generally speaking. My wife and I do everything we can to make sure our kids are raised in comfort, and that they have everything they need and most of what they want. Don’t we all? We push our families into the most dangerous zone in the pride cycle. It’s one of the things we care about most.

We’re literally increasing the risk that our kids will be jerks.

It’s almost inevitable, I suppose. There are parts of the pride cycle we can control (our attitude), and then there are elements that feel inevitable. The best hope for my kids is for me to teach them humility and gratitude, and hope to high heaven that it sinks in. Light and truth and all that.

Any tips on how to actually do that would be most welcome. How do I teach my kids to think and act like they’re in the “humble –> righteous” part when they’re probably actually in the “blessed –> prideful” part?


  1. Any tips on how to actually do that would be most welcome. How do I teach my kids to think and act like they’re in the “humble –> righteous” part when they’re probably actually in the “blessed –> prideful” part?

    For whatever it’s worth, you could try making some changes in your second observation–the “work really hard, as does my wife, to make sure we stay there, or even ascend farther into the pride cycle danger zone” one–since that is the only one of the three which is actually somewhat under your control. (Actually, I suppose the first is too, but to propose actually relocating to a poorer country or socio-economic arena entirely might involve far more difficulties than merely downsizing one’s own life choices.) That’s far easier said than done, of course, and almost any advocating of simplifying one’s life is invariably fraught with legitimate accusations of a (perhaps just as prideful) false consciousness: after all, how many of those who live on and make use of less do so simply because they have less, as opposed to because they consciously choose to do so? Not many, I admit. Still, it remains possible, I think, that the first and most immediate way of minimizing the effects of the pride cycle on oneself and one’s children is to simply not pursue the resources that would put one on it in the first place.

    My apologies if this comes off as cranky; I’m awake at 3:30am with a headache.

  2. flowlykeariver says:

    Great observations! Keep sufficient for your needs, literally give the rest away. If your children see you ministering and setting the example, greater chance of a less “jerk” attitude. Easier said than done. At least you will have faith enough to call down angels to set’em straight if example and persuasion is not enough…if they don’t listen then, you as a parent are absolved.

  3. Don’t we all?

    Thanks to a combination of sloth and inertia, not necessarily. But with the ostensible law of the harvest yapping at our heels, I am not optimistic that the root of the pride cycle–the conviction that one’s righteousness and prosperity have been earned–is in any danger of withering.

  4. I have reservations about the “pride cycle” and how it makes pride seem inevitable. There is an alternative cycle that might offer a better way to think about this issue: http://www.modernmormonmen.com/2013/07/updating-pride-cycle.html

  5. Same problem with one or two of my kids acting all entitled and generally like jerks. We are going to have a gratitude month in October, including a couple of days where we do as much work as children in 3rd world countries, and on other days, eat how much good those same children get. We are going to find a soup kitchen to work at and everyone will need to purge a whole box of stuff for getting rid of. We are going to have FHE the whole month about gratitude, and how it is a commandment. I think we will try to go see a farm and talk through the cycle of preparation for our food.

  6. The BOM pride cycle takes a hiatus for one to two-hundred years after Christ’s visit. The book does not give too many details as to how that was accomplished, but it does mention that there were no poor and no “ites.” So maybe focus on achieving those goals and realize that the pride cycle can be broken.

  7. Geoff - Aus says:

    The pride cycle happens in the BOM and need not apply in real life. There are usually a few people who are entitled in any generation, perhaps you have been lucky to meet a couple, this does not mean the whole generation is.
    Get rid of the pride cycle from your thinking, its a guilt trip, and not helpful.

  8. The BOM pride cycle hiatus doesn’t just involve no poor–it also involves no rich.

  9. I second the notion mentioned above to stop working to acquire wealth. There are other things to do in life that involve being a disciple that are far more beneficial to your families happiness.

    Also if the lord has blessed you with wealth you could give more of it to the poor and less of it to your kids.

    The pride cycle is of huge concern to me and I have spent many Sundays trying to teach my ward to do the above two things to try and counteract it. One of the biggest concerns I have is that our hearts are so set upon the things of this world so that we don’t have time to do the things of God. The most difficult thing is you’ll have to start doing things different then everyone else. My kids don’t have many of the things that other kids have, and that’s hard to do, especially if you do it on purpose.

  10. Wow. Thank you, Kyle. This is my biggest fear as well.

  11. I totally get where you’re coming from, Kyle, and don’t really have anything valuable to suggest. I take scripture seriously when it decries wealth and demands that we give all that we can to the poor. And yet I give less to the poor than I could and I work to provide a comfortable present and future to my kids, and I have no intention of not doing that (RAF’s crankiness notwithstanding) (hi Russell!).

    I’d like to think that just feeling this discomfort does something valuable for me—what is religion for, if not to make us uncomfortable in our otherwise-comfortable lives, right?–but I can’t shake the feeling that that idea is a cop-out.

  12. Kyle, have you considered compelling your children to be humble? Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.

  13. I think it would be helpful to remove the idea that prosperity and righteousness go together. Conflating temporal prosperity with greater righteousness is what leads to pride in my opinion. It also tells people who aren’t as prosperous that they obviously just aren’t righteous enough, which is a cruel and damaging sentiment.

  14. A few thoughts as one who is constantly thinking about this: 1) yes, all previous generations consider the current one misguided, ungrateful, and lazy, 2) there are seasons to life, and before kids have their own adult responsibilities, they truly don’t get it. Given experience their perspective will change. So did ours. 3) The millenials are the first generation in a long time that will probably earn less than their parents, so the humbling is inevitable. I’ve found that my millenials have (in some ways) more modest expectations and less materialism than I did growing up in the 80s. They want to bike everywhere, eat less, and live in smaller places in urban settings.

    An alternate model for this is the inverted U-curve. On the left, doing or having more makes things better (productive). In the middle, doing more doesn’t make much difference (diminishing returns). On the right, doing more or having more makes things worse (counterproductive). Malcolm Gladwell talked about this in his book David & Goliath. Studies show that kids who are the poorest often don’t end up well (due to lack of opportunity and parental stress), but also kids who are the richest, and the results are equally bad (more is less at a certain point). Basically, kids need to struggle some, but not too much. They need to know what delayed gratification is. The problem is, we all want to give them opportunity, but they need a few closed doors in their faces too.

    The book describes the problem in shifting from “No we can’t” (because we can’t afford it – an easier conversation) to “No we won’t” (because it doesn’t align with our values). When you as a parent have the means to buy things your kids want and you say no, that can create resentment, particularly if you are inconsistent (e.g. “no I won’t buy you a new car” when you have a very expensive car yourself). When you go from having less to having more, it’s very hard to know where to draw the line between what you will and won’t buy. Kids haven’t seen you struggle to get where you are. They just see where you are. And your own values might have shifted toward accumulation of riches in the process.

  15. I think that the pride cycle affects societies and civilizations en masse, and isn’t necessarily an individual phenomenon in all cases, although obviously all societal trends start with the actions of individuals. There’s no reason why, with proper teaching, our kids can’t be in the minority of non-jerks in a jerk culture. Things are going to Halifax in the proverbial handbasket, but the consequences we see in Scripture seem to be based more in social collapse, war, famine, and poverty than in jerkiness. At best, we can raise kids who don’t contribute to it and who will influence others not to contribute.

  16. “The BOM pride cycle hiatus doesn’t just involve no poor–it also involves no rich.”

    Define “rich”. I’d say there were many in the hiatus who were rich, but it would only be in comparison to times past, not to each other. It talks of times when there is great prosperity for all, meaning everyone was rich, sharing their talents and blessings as best they could. It’s when you use those riches to create a class of people below you that you fall into pride.

    No, it does not mean that if you’re righteous it follows you will have funds to spare and “never go hungry again”. We should remove the idea that -temporal- prosperity and righteousness go together, not that general prosperity and righteousness go together. Not all riches are temporal. Not only riches create pride that makes you feel better than others.

  17. What Angela C said, “The millennials are the first generation in a long time that will probably earn less than their parents, so the humbling is inevitable.”

    As a millennial, according to my observations, this seems a fair possibility for many of the people my age. Of course, standards of living and expectations of what constitutes a “starter home” have changed as well. But we have seen the out-of-control greed that crashed the economy and defined the job market as many of us were graduating college and looking for our first professional jobs.

    A final observation: I sense my generation is indeed less materialistic than the one prior. To the extent that this is true, it will certainly be advantageous to our happiness.

  18. I completely agree, Delina. Perhaps “blessedness” is a better descriptor for the outcome of righteousness than “wealth.” But I’m not sure that breaks the model completely.

    I disagree, Geoff, that the pride cycle is a Book of Mormon invention. It’s the story of the Old Testament too. But doesn’t it also pass the common sense test?

  19. BCC has been ragging on millennials quite a lot recently. Between this post and the ones about how the number of missionaries coming home early has increased (it’s because kids these days are lazy and don’t want to give up their video games, duh!), I’m seeing a lot of anger and dismissiveness towards my generation. Like Trevor said, the economic circumstances that millennials are coming of age in are entirely different from any of the previous generations that are still alive. I’d like to see some more compassion towards today’s teenagers and young adults.

  20. You make a good point Elle. I have a deep respect for many in your generation. It is too easy sometimes to play the “grumpy old man.” Each generation has its challenges.

    There are ways to help children learn not to feel entitled. I will give a few ideas that I think have helped my children. Children are born helpless and they genuinely need adults to look after them and care for their every need. Sometimes as parents though we continue to do for them what they can actually do for themselves. It is important to teach children to work starting with small things. They have to learn the formula that “things we need/want=work.” To many misguided parents think they are doing children a favor by giving children most (if not all) of the things they want. Let children earn money for the things they want and don’t pay them too much at first. Let them understand that the price of a desired toy is a lot of elbow grease. As they can understand, you explain how you have to work so they can have a clothes, a home and food. Have them make dinner periodically. Show them appreciation for the help they do give. Make them do their own laundry sometimes. It is very easy and natural for a child to just expect clean clothes to naturally appear. Then they can develop empathy for you as a parent. The kids will have a better understanding of the sacrifices of time you make for them. Make them clean up their own messes unless they are sick or something. Incidentally, they will be less likely to treat you as a doormat.

    Be careful about cars. I don’t plan on buying one for my children, but rather letting them use a family car. We will go over the cost of operating a car and have them contribute to that when they start driving if they can.

    Take them to do service projects at the bishops storehouse, a food bank or soup kitchen. Someone mentioned this. Have them serve others through church especially. Have them visit a nursing home. Help neighbors. Service opportunities are endless. Feelings of entitlement and selfishness can’t exist when anyone feels the joy that comes from serving others.

    Be patient with your children. The spirit of entitlement is natural and it has always existed to one extent or another. It is something all of us have to overcome.

  21. What do you mean about entitled workers? I’ve worked with people who complain about having to work hard, don’t have very good decision making skills, steal from you, expect a bonus or raise in exchange for doing a good job (because a good salary is only what you pay someone to staff a position who is supposed to do a bad job), and don’t really put any personal involvement into their employment as if their work was important.

    But if you want your kids to grow up not feeling entitled, the most important thing is teach them to work hard by having them do hard work. Honestly, I think a combination of frequent outdoor work and outdoor activities is the trick*. I’d be inclined to say this is exactly what Boy Scouts should be, except for the most part Scouting has devolved into flag fundraisers, extravagant super activities and merit badge camps.

    * I realize this might sound biased toward outdoor activities/work, but in my opinion we are creatures of the physical world and ought to experience the physical environment more often. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a correlation between less time spent working and playing outdoors and feelings of entitlement, whatever that means…

  22. I’m admittedly painting your generation with a broad brush here, Elle (and I think the Pride Cycle only makes sense when viewed from that distance).

  23. I’ve got some great stories, DQ. A public forum isn’t the place to share them, I’m afraid.

  24. Kyle – I agree switching prosperity for blessedness is a step in the right direction, and that it would not probably break the pride cycle. I think the problem may be that we are saying that because of being righteous we are entitled to blessings, prosperity, etc… Don’t we want to be righteous because it is the right thing to do, not because we think we will get rewarded for doing so?

    I ask that as a question because I am not really sure here. I know people need motivation and incentives and I guess that includes for the eternities, but it seems like the idea that we deserve blessings because we behave a certain way encourages entitled feelings. It seems like the ultimate humility is to act righteously not with the expectation of reward, but with the understanding that the good of your thoughts/words/deeds is reward enough.

  25. I was raised with parents who had money. I think they did a great job in raising me. All of us kids expected to make less money than our parents. I don’t care about fashion, decor, cars or any other kind of status thing. My parents simply didn’t get us everything we wanted because they were wise.
    My kids have everything they need, but no way do I ever try to get them everything they want. That is crazy. When I go to the grocery store, I consider it good parenting to tell them no when they want something. I praise my kids a lot but only for hard work, obedience, kindness and respect. They don’t get told how special or pretty or smart or talented they are.

    As long as you are always grateful for your blessings, it doesn’t smack as prosperity righteousness. I can be just as grateful to God during times of famine, or times of sickness, or times of trouble as I can be grateful during times of prosperity. It is the attitude of finding ways to be grateful and seeing the good in whatever your circumstances that brings the peace. And then your child will see that it isn’t the things or the money or the fluff that brings true happiness. Great way to raise children. I am less than thrilled when my husband complains about lack of money or lack of stuff, because my parents raised me that it didn’t matter so I am just as happy with an old phone as I would be with a new phone. I am just as happy eating at home as I am eating out at a nice restaurant. And I love that my older two children seem to be following in my footsteps. They don’t ask for things and they turn me down sometimes when I try to buy stuff that we clearly can afford. My third seems to be getting there. We’ll see about her and my fourth.

  26. “I praise my kids a lot but only for hard work, obedience, kindness and respect. They don’t get told how special or pretty or smart or talented they are.”

    I don’t understand the emphasis on refusing to tell children that they’re special or pretty or smart or talented (and I’ve heard that kind of thinking in several different places recently). I know my kids are going to struggle with self-worth and self-esteem. If they succeed academically or with any other talent, I’m going to tell them that they’re smart or talented. In a world that’s constantly trying to tear them down for not conforming, they need someone to affirm their strengths.

    That being said, there are kids out there who get more than enough praise for their talents (the high school football teams in small-town Mormon Corridor, I’m looking at you). I realize that too much praise can be a bad thing. But far too many of our youth don’t get enough praise for their strengths.

  27. For the sake of our children, we must go out of our way to be prideful and wicked, thus ensuring that they will at the very least start off on the destruction and suffering step of the cycle and won’t, themselves, be the prideful, wicked ones.

  28. This is something I worry about all the time. The problem is how do I deprive my children without also depriving myself…

  29. Tim, I’m definitely not an expert on this, but I think the research on this shows that a lot of the praise parents give nowadays is pretty harmful. My impression from what I’ve read is that we should be praising less in general and focusing on the demonstration of good character traits rather than successful outcomes. Apparently praise has diminishing returns relative to building self-esteem and eventually turns negative. Self-esteem need not be tied to success.

    Maybe this is part of why we automatically assume that if someone is righteous they will be successful…

  30. Owen,
    “Maybe this is part of why we automatically assume that if someone is righteous they will be successful…” That’s pretty much what the scriptures say.

    One of the major themes repeated throughout all the BoM is “If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.” It’s in there dozens of times. Prosper is synonymous with success, keeping the commandments is pretty much synonymous with being righteous.

    People can quibble over what exactly it means to prosper, but I don’t think it means be destitute, starving, or failing.

  31. DQ,
    As one of the groups noted for teaching this are the Ammonites (Mothers of the 2060 stripling warriors) and their righteousness led, in part, to their being the victim of a genocide, we should avoid easy equivalencies between “prosperity” and anything to do with temporal well-being. It just don’t mean what we might like it to, if we take the Lord’s promise there seriously.

    Also, read Job (all the way through), if you want another reason to suspect that this particular promise ain’t got nothing to do with temporal well-being.

  32. I’m not sure I agree, John C. What else might “prosper in the land” mean? From what I can tell, the pride cycle trends only function on big, macro, societal levels, whereas prosperity gospel teachings and Job’s friends try to make it work on a personal level, where it falls apart.

    I’m not sure how to account for the Ammonites, except to say it’s a trend, not a law (and a trend that is easy to see ourselves participating in as a church and a society right now).

  33. Alma chapter 1 describes how to short circuit the pride cycle when you are starting to be prosperous. Basically the two things that it mentions that they did was
    1. share their propsperity with everyone who was in need both in and out of the church.
    2. don’t wear costly apparel

    This stands in contrast to Alma 4 which was an example of the pride cycle in which there was
    1. great inequality and ignoring the poor
    2. they wore costly apparel

  34. I think if you are a jerk, your kids are less likely to be. In other words, instead of sacrificing your needs/desires so you can fulfill the kids needs/desires, explain to them that their time will come if they work hard and are grateful for what they have, just as your time has come now. It worked for my husband; our kids turned out pretty well on the jerk scale. They all rated him a 10 on the scale, though, the whole time they were growing up. (And without him, who knows how they would have turned out. I am a pushover for everything)

  35. “I know my kids are going to struggle with self-worth and self-esteem.”
    Tim, in contrast I know my kids won’t struggle with self-worth and self-esteem. I have an almost 17 year old girl, almost 15 year old boy, then 10 and 6 year olds. None of them have poor self-esteem. I almost never mention their looks or what they are wearing because that isn’t the most important thing about them. I say things like “I’m so glad you are my son” or “Thank you so much for helping. You are awesome” or “I’m proud of you for working so hard on your homework” or “I’m happy for you that the game went well” or “Other people complain about their teenagers, but I think you are respectful and try hard to do the right thing. I think you are awesome” or “I think it is so cool that you wrote a novel in a month. That is amazing!”
    My oldest child is so bright that if I overemphasize how smart she is, it would put one or two of my other children into constant comparison. I have one child that gets more attention from the opposite sex because of his looks, if I praised that, it would make him and the other children feel uncomfortable.
    I am pretty sure all of my children think they are smart and good looking.

  36. Per a few of the comments above, here’s a little something for those of you who work with (and hire) millennials. Good advice. http://qz.com/128054/how-to-hire-millennials-and-weed-out-the-bad-ones/

%d bloggers like this: