Author: Dr. Kathy Bailey
Dr. Wolfe and Dr. Bailey believe internal beliefs are a powerful influence on the choices children and youth make. The basis of the Pals Mentor training model is based on attachment theory, known as Entitlement Theory, as elaborated by Wolfe (1998), and applied to working with children and youth by Dr. Wolfe and Dr. Bailey (2003, 2008). Briefly, Dr. Wolfe’s theory explains the effects of early attachment relationships, along with broader social messages and other influences such as poverty, on the development of one’s sense of entitlement. Those who do not learn a healthy sense of entitlement cannot believe that their lives hold promise, or that they deserve “good things,” or that they are capable of creating success and happiness in their lives. Their choices and behaviors are profoundly limited by such beliefs, regardless of other tangible resources that may be available to them. Some will never value themselves (are “underentitled”), and may engage in behaviors that are harmful to themselves, such as prostitution, or relationships with abusing partners. Some may come to believe that others have little value (are “overentitled”), and may engage in activities that endanger or violate others.
Entitlement theory views those core entitlement beliefs as the “problem” and targets them in treatment. Behavioral problems are understood as symptoms that logically derive from the core beliefs about self, others, and the world. An intentional, informed, corrective relationship, such as with a mentor, can change the old belief that “I don’t matter” to “I do matter.” Behavioral changes follow from the new belief, and, most importantly, positive choices are internally motivated by self- and other-regard, as opposed to externally controlled, or influenced by, for example, the fear of punishment. Treatment and mentoring with entitlement theory instills the desire and motivation to make life-enhancing choices. Changing one’s inner sense of self-value can help to correct a host of problems. Entitlement Theory provides student mentors with a way of understanding children and youth so that they can use their relationships in deliberate ways to change behavior in profound and abiding ways.