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America’s Children: Spoiled and Entitled…Even When Wrong?

On Alex Trebek’s “Jeopardy,” rules are rules, and wrong spelling is just ‘rong.’

In a recent airing of Alex Trebek’s ‘Jeopardy’ game show, for the Final Jeopardy answer, a little boy had the right intent, but incorrectly spelled the answer. He was marked wrong by the judges, and, oh my goodness, the world is just a twitter with disgust at the show.

The young boy himself told The News-Times of Danbury, “I was pretty upset that I was cheated out of the final ‘Jeopardy’ question. It was just a spelling error.” (Did he say “cheated“…? Did he say “just a spelling error”…?) I can understand the boy feeling a bit “embarrassed,” as his mother said, but “cheated“…? I think not.

I find the ire directed toward the show to be rather curious and socially concerning. As I see it, this, once again, points to the sense of entitlement many parents have bestowed on their children, or the chidren ‘just’ feel.

In our day, in many schools, athletic programs, and homes, every child gets a star. Every player wins a trophy; no one ‘loses’ the game. Teachers can’t use a red pencil to mark wrong answers because it will traumatize the little kids. Or, in this case, [he even said it], he was ‘cheated” and it was “just” a spelling error. In other words, what’s the big deal? My answer was right, well, except for that one thing.

And therein lies the rub, and the lesson. The lesson is not only about Jeopardy’s rules, but about life.

For one, Jeopardy’s rules must be fair to all. Their rules are, for Final Jeopardy, you must spell the answer correctly, or it is wrong. Period.

Secondly, if all of society made exceptions for every little imperfection that occurs, or for every thing that is “just” slightly off, just slightly not correct. we would have imploded by now. In fact, I’m painfully reminded of the Challenger explosion; it was “just” a small matter with the O-ring, and…

This kid may be stunned by it all, but Jeopardy’s rules are clear: For Final Jeopardy, spelling must be correct. His spelling was not, so…it’s wrong. Period. (And due to the bold wager of his opponent—who spelled the word correctly—he wouldn’t have won the game anyway.)

Too many parents and others want to pat their little Johnny’s on the head to make them/him feel better, not hurt their little feelings, even when he/they don’t get something right. No. Our modern-day society has a bunch of spoiled children with a sense of entitlement, even when what they did is officially wrong. We cannot reward bad behavior, nor incorrect spelling. We need to help them grow, and that means sometimes they experience the boo-boos, and the “agony of defeat.”

This story reminds me of the time I was tutoring young pre-medical students. When tutoring a young pre-med student, he grew audibly mad at me because, while he had the numbers right in an equation, he’d put the decimal point in the wrong spot…so I marked him wrong. Completely wrong.

He wanted partial credit because he “had the right numbers!!” I told him, “No! Too bad, buddy. A misplaced decimal point in a drug dose could mean life or death for a patient.”

We still laugh about that today, as he is a big-time M.D. and doing quite well. I lovingly tell him he owes it all to me. [You see, they will survive…and are more careful with their answers and actions.]

This boy—Thomas Hurley III—wasn’t “cheated,” as he claims. He spelled the word wrong, so, it’s wrong. Period. It’s unlikely he’ll make the same mistake again.

Accuracy matters in some games—Jeopardy is one of them—and in the game of life. That goes for numbers and spelling. Lesson learned.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Feel free to share this post on your social network pages, with author credit and link to this page. Bitly: .

America’s Children: Spoiled and Entitled…Even When Wrong?

Melody T. McCloud, MD

Dr. Melody T. McCloud is a trailblazing obstetrician/gynecologist, author, public speaker and media contributor. She has received many awards including the "Health-Care Heroes ‘Physician’ Award” per the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and is also recognized as one of the “25 Most Influential Doctors in Atlanta." Dr. McCloud has been interviewed on CNN, Headline News, network affiliates, TBN, the Tom Joyner Morning Show; and her writings or comments have been printed in USA Today, Parade, Essence, Family Circle, Health, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more. She hosts a health blog at Psychology Today and, upon invitation, speaks nationwide to many organizations. She is a member of the Atlanta Press Club and many leadership organizations.

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APA Reference
McCloud, M. (2015). America’s Children: Spoiled and Entitled…Even When Wrong?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Feb 2015
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