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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kids Too Entitled? Authors Say Put Them To Work


Does your child always ask for the latest toys and gadgets? Does he or she seem to think that a weekly allowance is a right, instead of something that’s earned?

In their book “The Entitlement Trap,” Utah couple Richard and Linda Eyre say that the way to get children to feel less entitled to stuff is to make them earn the money to buy it. They advocate creating a “‘family economy’ where kids choose, earn, save, and budget, and where they begin to feel the pride of real ownership of their spending money, their toys, their clothes, their electronic gadgets.”

The Eyres say in doing so, children value their belongings more, and can practice making decisions about how their money is spent. They  say that this principle of ownership can extend to their schoolwork and their relationship with their siblings.

What do you think? Are kids today too entitled? To parents out there, have you found a way to make sure that your kids don’t become spoiled? Tell us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

Book Excerpt: The Entitlement Trap

By: Richard and Linda Eyre

One Reason Parenting Is Harder Now Than It Has Ever Been


For the last decade or so, as a result of the interest in some of our books, we have traveled the world speaking to parents about their kids, about their families, and about their parenting. We have given hundreds of lectures and seminars in virtually every state in the United States and in more than fifty other countries to parents belonging to every religion and political persuasion and every economic and social demographic you can imagine.

And in this often divided and polarized world we live in, here’s something very cool: Parents everywhere are much the same. No matter where or how they live, parents want to give their kids good values, a good education, and a chance to reach their full potential. And no matter what their philosophy or creed or politics are, they want to keep their children safe and protected from the world. One dad in Indonesia told us that his definition of a conservative was “a flaming liberal with a teenage daughter.”

So we don’t have to change our presentation very much when we are with a group of Hindu parents in India, or Buddhist families in Vietnam, or Muslim moms and dads in Saudi Arabia. Their hopes and worries for their children are essentially the same, so our message to them is pretty much the same.

Let us repeat that thought, because it is quite amazing! Whatever other differences they may have, political, economic, or religious, when it comes to how they think of their children, what they hope and dream for them, and their most basic concerns, all parents are essentially alike. They love their kids, and that one thing gives them more in common with each other, and with us, than all the differences combined.

Ironically, while parenting is perceived by the majority of parents everywhere as their most important job, it is a field in which we get very little instruction. Most parents don’t lack the desire or the commitment to be good parents, they just need a guiding philosophy and ideas about how to implement it. And they need them fast, because parenting, after all, is a fairly short- term proposition. In about eighteen years, about a fifth of our lives, a child is grown and gone, leaving too many of us wondering what we could have done better while they were here. By the time we figure parenting out, we are pretty much done doing it! Since we don’t have time to work it all out for ourselves, to learn entirely by trial and error, to come up with our own completely self-discovered set of ideas that work, one goal of this book is to do some of the discovering for you! We know you will adjust and adopt the whole ownership approach to your particular situation and to your unique and individual kids, but the basic structure will be there for you, as a start and as a proven foundation.

Since all parents everywhere basically have the same parental aspirations and face the same parenting challenges, their questions to us are always much the same:

Why won’t my kids put in the effort at school to reach their full potential?
Why won’t they pick up their clothes or put away their toys?
Why do they sometimes make such obviously bad and foolish choices?
Why do they think they need to have everything their friends have?
Why is it so hard for me to influence my kids . . . and so easy for their peers to influence them?
Why can’t I get them to set some goals and to start feeling responsible for their lives? Or to work and to follow through on their tasks?
Why can’t I get them away from games and gadgets, from cell phones and headphones?
Why is it so hard to communicate with my kids? And to teach them responsibility?

Perhaps Amy Chua and her “Tiger Mother” devotees would disagree and say that these are only the questions of indulgent Western parents who are raising spoiled and entitled kids, and that other parenting models, such as her “Chinese” one, are much more demanding and produce much more disciplined and accomplished children. But our experience suggests otherwise. These are the questions that parents everywhere are asking, including middle-class parents in China and the rest of Asia, and the vast majority of them do not want to give their children perfection-demanding discipline at the expense of love and self-esteem and a real childhood.

But the interesting thing is that these questions, shared by today’s parents all over the world, were not the prime questions of parents one or two generations ago. Yesterday’s kids had a much greater sense of personal responsibility than today’s kids do. Think how things have changed: When your grandparents were young, children often worked for their parents; now parents work for their kids. When your parents were children, it took more work to keep a household going than it does now, and kids did a lot of that work. And even when you were a child, there was some sense that kids owed a lot to their parents; now parents seem to think they owe everything to their kids.


Frankly, we were a little slow to see the picture clearly— the picture of what is happening to this generation of kids. We had been writing and speaking to parents about responsibility and values for more than a decade, and then one evening, as we heard those same questions about laziness and messiness and bad choices and lack of motivation for the umpteenth time from another large audience of parents in another large auditorium, we had a parenting epiphany: We realized that all the questions hinge on the same problem— and the problem is entitlement.

“Entitlement” is the best name we know for the attitude of children who think they can have, should have, and deserve whatever they want, whatever their friends have— and that they should have it now, and not have to earn it or give up anything for it.

And it goes beyond having to behaving. They think they should be able to do whatever they want, whatever their friends do, now, and without a price.

This sense of entitlement contributes mightily to sloppiness, to low incentive, to boredom, to bad choices, to instant gratification, to constant demands for more, and to all kinds of addictions (including the addiction to technology).

Perhaps the biggest problem with entitlement is that under its illusions, there seem to be no real consequences in life and no motivation to work for anything. Someone will always bail you out, get you off the hook, buy you a new one, make excuses for you, give you another chance, pay your debt, and hand you what you ask for.

Entitlement is a double-edged sword (or a double-jawed trap) for kids. On one edge it gives kids all that they don’t need— indulgence, dullness, conceit, and laziness; and on the backswing, it takes from them everything they do need— motivation, independence, inventiveness, pride, responsibility, and a chance to really work for things and to build their own sense of fulfillment and self-esteem.

As we worked with our own children on the problem of entitlement, and as we focused more attention on it in our lectures and seminars on teaching values and responsibility, we had a second parenting epiphany: It was simply that feelings of entitlement are always connected to a lack of work and sacrifice and ownership. When people (adults or kids) don’t work for something, or give up anything for it, they never feel the pride of owning it or the will to care for and develop it. We began to understand that a sense of ownership is the antidote to entitlement, and from that point on, we have been developing methods to help children feel the responsibility of ownership.


There is a gap between being a child and being an adult, a space, a breach, a journey . . . and how and when it is crossed will make all the difference in your own happiness and in that of your child.

In many parts of the world, particularly the third world, kids are forced to jump the gap too fast or too soon. Because of poverty or the absence of parents, they have to play the role of adults while they are still children, missing out on much of the joy and learning of childhood.

But in most of contemporary society, it is the opposite— children seem never to grow up because parents do everything for them, give everything to them, over- serve and overindulge, allowing them to avoid responsibility, to “move back in,” and to essentially continue to be children.

Modern parents in America and Europe and most other developed countries unwittingly promote the worst of both worlds by giving their children license too early and responsibility too late. They allow their kids to do many things before they are emotionally and socially ready. And yet at the same time, parents (and the society around them) give kids a sense of entitlement that allows them to avoid most of the accountability and ownership that would help them become responsible adults.

It is because of this environment of entitlement that parenting is a bigger challenge now than it has ever been.


We are going to be blunt with you in this book. We are going to answer the question of where this sense of entitlement comes from— and most of the answer is you! We are going to tell you what to stop doing. But we are also going to tell you what to start doing and how to replace your child’s sense of entitlement with a sense of ownership and responsibility. It is not an easy transition, but it can be an enormously enjoyable and worthwhile one that will affect your child’s whole life (not to mention yours!).

It’s not all bad in this modern world of parenting. Many parents work harder at the job and think about it more than any past generation. Though we paint a pretty bleak picture of the entitlement trap in chapter 1, you will be pleased to find that not all the entitlement problems mentioned in the pages ahead apply to you, and your kids may be wonderful and motivated in many ways. But we all must recognize the new paradigm of entitlement that surrounds our kids, and take steps to immunize and protect them from it.

The first two chapters present the problem and the solution in broad strokes, and the remaining nine chapters are all “how to”—how to give our children the responsible pride of ownership rather than the demanding laziness of entitlement.

The bottom line for all of us as parents is results. So this book will not waste your time with anything that does not produce them. You may have noticed that we promised some results for each chapter right in the table of contents. We will do the same thing at the start of each chapter— results for your child, and results for you!

We include stories and personal incidents extensively to explain and illustrate various points. Writing this book has taken several years, and the process of coming up with ways to help kids develop responsibility and cast off entitlement has involved working with thousands of parents around the world. We have taken the liberty of amalgamating some of their stories and combining some of their experiences for brevity. We sometimes relate our own family experiences (with our kids’ names changed— to protect the not-so-innocent) and sometimes merge what we have done with something another family has experienced. But rest assured that every idea we mention is based on real-life experience, and every method we suggest is tried and proven.

Copyright Avery Trade of Penguin.


  • Richard Eyre, author and parent

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  • Tim

    My parents were the exact opposite.  I was told that I owned nothing, that my
    parents (who purchased everything) owned everything.  And when I moved,
    they kept it all.  I didn’t even get my bed — just my clothes.  Everything they
    had purchased, they kept.  When I started working, I had to turn sign over
    my check and I’d get a portion back.  Any money I saved, they would take.
    They were quite wealthy, always had a new Cadillac or Lincoln Town Car.
    My siblings and I have no since of entitlement, we knew there was nothing
    we were entitled to.  I’m grateful they let me live in their home and shared
    their food with me, but we never bought us anything useful, tools, a car,
    an education — nothing.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

      Personally, I find this a bit extreme, and odd. I could understand having an employed teen contribute to actual household expenses, but giving back part of the paycheck and then (presumably permanently) taking the savings that could help you get a good start? I’d think it’s usually more helpful, in developing a sense of autonomy and an interest in financial prudence, for a kid to feel like they’re actually entitled to part of what they earn. But then that’s just me.

  • Nan

    My son is 5, and is accustomed to his regular tasks  (making his bed, putting away his toys etc), for which he earns a small amount (5 cents) per day.  A few months ago he demanded (lovely!) a particular item while in a store.  I told him that he since he had recently had a birthday and gotten gifts, he could certainly have the new item, but he’d have to use his own money. 

    When we returned to the store (money in hand) and he discovered that said item would use up all of his money, we spent quite some time going through the toy department to determine what would be an acceptable alternative and still leave him something to put back into the piggy bank.

    Now when he asks for X or Y or Z we talk about how much that item is worth, and whether having that item is truly important.

  • Olorcain2

    Well I have to say that my children did have a sense of entitlement because frankly I let it happen.  Now that they are over 18, however, they have to pay for most of their items that they want and I have found that they are now being more careful with things and look for sales.  I paid a good sum for a laptop that I gave my son for his graduation which he took care of very poorly.  When he was complaining about the laptop I indicated that I found a great sale on a new one he was all for it until I told him to get out his credit card.  His response was that his old laptop worked just fine lol.  My kids who had to have name brand clothes also now buy their clothes at K-Mart of TJ Maxx on sale.  Guess it is never too late for your kids to learn.  :-)

  • rich madison

    I think kids learn entitlement at a very young age. The massive birthday parties, designer clothing, and huge Christmas gifts set up an expectation that is difficult to reverse. Why does a toddler need these things? We just gave our son small stuffed animal for his birthday when he was young, and he still loves it 10 years later. When he was in first grade and every other kid in his class got a nintendo, we gave him a hermit crab and he was the envy of all. When he wanted a massive plastic “hero command center,” we made one from an old trash can turned upside down. 

    I also think that commercials foster a lot of the selfish attitudes. The kids think everyone else has it. We find ways to keep commercials to a minimum, so our boys don’t even know what is out there and they are perfectly happy. We very carefully allow certain well thought-out luxuries at certain times for certain reasons, but they are not the norm. 

    We also pay them for chores and in the store we tell them they can have whatever they want, as long as they can pay for it. We’ve never had a problem with nagging.

    It is a fight against materialism to keep kids from entitlement, but it is possible.

    • Michelle

      I agree:  How many adults now believe that everyone else is giving and getting cars for Christmas? 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Sergeant/100000365457932 Mike Sergeant

        I’m wondering IF anyone gives cars for Christmas.  It seems like one of those things that one should consult the receiver about to “get it right”

        • Michelle

          You’d think so, right?  But after enough years of seeing it happen on the commercials you begin to think, “geez, that tie I’m giving my husband seems like it doesn’t quite measure up.” And before you know it you think it’s normal to plop a car in the driveway.    It works the same with kids.  If commercials and TV shows show every child at the age of 9 with a cell phone pretty soon everyone believes that it’s the norm.  And kids demand it, and other parents look at you like you’re weird if you haven’t caved.   

    • Lucy

      Commercials are a huge part of it!  Our solution – because we live close enough to a metro area (Boston), we don’t get any cable or satellite TV. Just the antenna.  The only thing that’s really on is PBS.  Makes for great readers too!

  • Eve Sullivan

    There is a big difference between a child thinking he deserves the best and actually having it. My kids knew they deserved the best, but we certainly couldn’t afford everything they wanted. Yes to saving up for things and yes to shopping in – and donating to – second-hand stores.

    Regarding chores, no one has yet mentioned that kids like to do real things, and that means things their parents do, and that means housework.  Toddlers can help hang wash – I love the image above – wash dishes, set the table, prepare food . . . inexpertly at the start, of course. The sense of accomplishment and participation in family life has a value all its own, beside the monetary value of work.

    One of parents’ main responsibilities is to help children develop values to support thoughtful consumption and real work. We deprive them of essential life lessons if we fail to do that. Eve Sullivan, Founder, Parents Forum

    • Michelle

      I would take issue with the notion that it’s ok for kids to know “they deserved the best.”  That is precisely where the entitlement attitude starts.   For example, how many kids think they deserve a North Face jacket for no other reason than they “deserve the best.”   What a laughable concept.     Children should know they deserve the basic essentials:  parents who love them, food to nourish them, clothing to cover them and a home too protect them.  The attitude that you deserve anything beyond that is what gets us all into a lot of trouble and why we have adults buying homes and cars they can’t afford and why everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs.   It starts when you believe that you deserve “the best.”  

  • N8duke

    Every generation of adults says the same thing about every generation of kids.  “Kids today are not like I was when I was a kid.  They don’t appreciate the things that I appreciate.  They think they are owed everything.  They just turn on their iPod/MTV/record player/horse drawn carriage/new technology and won’t listen to me.”  How is this STILL news.  

  • Jan

    I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that entitlement isn’t just a problem with kids. Entitled kids grow up to be entitled adults who lead unions and job strikes. I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t a job strike for higher wages essentially grown-ups refusing to behave the way they should because they aren’t getting what they want?

    • Buktu

      You’re only right if workers do not deserve the right to collectively bargain. What kind of world would we live in if working people simply agreed to whatever wages their employers wanted to pay them, and didn’t advocate for themselves? We would be living in a wage-slavery society where a small minority controlled all of the money, and most people simply lived paycheck-to-paycheck in order to keep themselves fed, clothed, and housed.

      Unfortunately, our society already looks too much like this. So no, I don’t think that workers should just be happy with what their “betters” deign to give them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Virginia-Brame-Berthy/642350406 Virginia Brame Berthy

    I agree with the basic premise of this book, that children need to be taught the value of things, so that they will be able to survive independently and even flourish.  

    We need to be teaching our children that ahead of becoming president or CEO, basic life skills like the balancing of a checkbook, budgeting, or housekeeping are disciplines that are difficult to maintain but need to be acquired at all costs.  Family economics can be a brilliant part off that.

    However, I also believe strongly that we need to be teaching our children to avoid becoming captive to a consumer culture and the consumer impulse.  Just because you want something and you can buy it,  does not mean that you should.

    The mantra in our family is ‘Enough is Enough’ and I absolutely love it when my five year old repeats it to me spontaneously.  Moments like that give me hope in the future.

  • Coreytira

    I just listened to your program and loved it.  However, there is one issue I would need more clarifiation on.  My grandchildren are 8, 11, and 14; just the ages you were speaking about.  They do receive an allowance for chores; but that money has always been for the things they want; not the things they need!  The author said they would take care of that coat,(if they paid for it) etc., but I don’t know of any kids who pay for their own clothing.  I appreciate any response.  Thanks!
    Jean Rose, Boise

    • guest

      When I was a child my parents did not have much money, but they made sure we always had gifts at Christmas and birthdays and we did get new clothes a couple of times a year.  When I was 14, though, I started buying my own clothes with money I got as gifts from relatives.  I had a part-time job starting at 16 and paid myself for anything I wanted to have and wanted to do above and beyond basic food and shelter.  I have to say that now, at age 50, I am extremely proud that I was able to “take care of myself”.   I moved out right after college (which my parents paid for – tuition wasn’t crazy expensive like it is now) and never looked back.  That sense of self-suffiency has helped me tremendously over the years.

      • jerel642

        We also got new clothes a couple of times a year: back to school and just before summer started,with the exception being if any of our winter gear was unusable (mittens with holes, snowsuits that didn’t fit either you or the younger siblings, etc.) or lack of wearable shoes. When we were teens, my mother still bought back to school stuff–at places like TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshall’s, etc. If you wanted Gap or other brand names or just “wanted” something, you bought it. I didn’t care about brand names, but my sister got a part time job.

  • Pamlaparis

    My son is 37 years old and I’m still taking care of him financially!  My problem is he is very ADD and has  mild ashbergers.  He acts like a 12 year old, playing with electronics all day.  He is now enrolled in electronic engineerging and doing exceptionally well (online).  My problem is I never take a vacation, never spend on myself…my constant concern is to save as much as possible so he will be able to survive without me.  He now lives alone in a house I bought him but it is a disaster.  He dresses like a bum, hardly ever bathes or brushes his teeth. Yes, I DID give him chores when he was young. He received only earned allowances and never received anything unless it was for his birthday or Christmas.  He had a nice part-time job doing electronic repair for a radio station but lost it because of his body odor.  He loved that job!  So I don’t see the degree helping him.  Any advices on how to deal with this one is appreciated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

    We’ve certainly heard something like this before, and maybe to some degree everyone sees the latest generation as relatively spoiled. That is, at least when standards of living have advanced and kids also see parents prioritizing luxury “stuff” and seemingly taking things for granted. But have chores really become a thing of the past, and it’s nothing but free money? If my kids wanted something discretionary, they would have to help out around the house. And they were encouraged to save some money for the future. Kids need to understand and experience the potential rewards of good money management from an early age.

  • Jwith5

    I have a problem ‘paying’ for every day maintenance things…like setting the table, clearing the table and doing your laundry.  Some things just need to get done.  I like the idea of paying for ‘extra’ chores though…like cleaning the bathroom etc.  What do you think?

    • Rockandrollstopsthetraffic

      I think it’s an age thing….our 6 year old has a chore chart that he puts stars on when he makes his bed, clears the table, puts up his clean clothes. He can earn extra stars if he does extra things, like helping to rake leaves and helping me to clean house. Next year when he is in 1st grade we’ll make the chores more challenging but probably keep the allowance the same: $3 weekly that he has to split between spending, savings and giving.

    • Tim

      It’s not clear which things should be payed for. Payment could provide some more motivation for doing those everyday maintenance and upkeep tasks, in addition to the ‘extra’ stuff. If you’re only paying for the ‘extra’ stuff though, you’d have to pay more than you otherwise would, because the kid needs to actually be able to earn enough to be able to buy something  significant.

      For instance, if the kid wants to earn enough money to buy a $50 video game, it shouldn’t take too long or the motivation won’t be there. $10 for thoroughly cleaning the bathroom could work, but in order to be able to actually buy the game in less than five weeks, you’d need to find other things for them to do that you’d be willing to pay for.

    • Bob L.

      I have found that there are 2 schools of thought on this particular subject.  The first school has a “pay for performance” attitude that stipulates that the child should be paid for the tasks they perform, either through payment for individual chores/tasks or through an allowance.  The second school of thought is that each person in the family should contribute some level of effort to the family w/o reward or compensation

      There are benefits and drawbacks to both schools of thought.  The benefit from the first school of thought is that the child earns and learns how to manage money.  They have a small budget that they can spend on things they may want.  The drawback is that they end up not wanting to lift a finger unless they get paid for it.

      The benefit from the second school of thought is that it helps the child become part of a healthy, functioning family and realize that the family will not function as well if they don’t contribute.  The drawback is that they never learn the important task of learning how to manage a budget since their only money making options are either through gifts or outside of the home.

      We have tried both schools of thought and eventually settled on the second school.  We felt that the benefit of family unity was more important that the child learning how to manage their money on a budget.  Other families might choose another option that is best for them.  An added benefit that we didn’t realize until our children went to college is that the child that was raised under the second school of thought had learned how to essentially live on nothing because he never had anything growing up. 

  • http://twitter.com/saseitz Stephen Seitz

    Perhaps my experience was different because there were just the two of us, but I have to say I disagree about allowances. My son got a daily allowance, which he could use any way he wanted. If there was a transgression of some sort. I’d withhold it. He usually straightened right out. As a result, he learned to be careful about money, so careful that he’s paid his own way through graduate school. Allowances can be a good thing.

    • jerel642

      I think an allowance is fine, and I don’t think the Eyres are saying “don’t.” It sounds like what they’re saying (and what I believe) is that kids should do something to *earn* it. Don’t just hand out the money. Chores not complete, not working in school, uncooperative at home? No dough.

  • Jfannarbor

    My father told me a true story when I was 12 years old that I will remember for the rest of my life.  He told me that he made my brother , who is 10 years older than I, work for everything he got.  He went on to say that my brother is now the cheapest, penny pinching, person he knew.  In the same conversation, my father said, that consequently he would give me everything I felt I needed.  Although over 50 years later my brother and I are very well off, my brother is still the cheapest person I know.  While I have no problem giving money away to charity. 

    On a somewhat related note, I have raised my child as I was raised.  She wanted for nothing.  My brother has raised his children as he was raised.  His children (from a second marriage) are always complaining that they do not have what all their friends have, not a pleasant situation.  My daughter for some reason is now a  minimalist, and doesn’t feel she needs much at all to live. 

    My advise is be careful when you put a price on everything your children get.  Is this how you want to be treated in your later years?

  • Krr

    I see things so differently from the authors of this book.  To me, their parenting system teaches kids to just do things so they can earn money and “get stuff”.  We want our children to help around the house because it is a communal space and they should care about the family, not so that they will have more money!   This seems a recipe for a society of adults who are just out to improve their own personal situation and not work for the community at all! 

  • Paul

    why is it that every parent who has success raising a few kids feels that they are now an expert and can tell other parents how to do it? as the comments of other parents reveal, different things work differently for different people/children/families. and what happens to the concept of love and caring for each other when caring acts become economic transactions.
    However, I do congratulate the authors on getting paid to do this. In my own field (research) I’d get laughed out of the building if I showed up with results based on an N of 1.

  • Gitanjali

    We are a generation of entitled adults, who thinks that just earning money and paying money entitles us to abuse our environment and communities in any way we wish. While making kids work for money can help them make more calculated choices, this approach only emphasises the supremacy of money as a tool, which is dangerous. Also, within a family, we all have responsibilities to each other and money transactions can only undervalue our sense of responsibility towards each other. The problem is our economy, and we have find other ways to teach our children the value of work beyond just making money.

  • chric

    how about doing chores for the reason that this is a family and everyone has to help. I disagree that money should be an incentive for things to be done in the house. If children learn early on the you simply do the dishes because that is what the family does then they learn that they should do it for more than just money. Offer money for extra work or simply give buy them things as long s they understand the value of things. Obviously you wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t help out. My parents focused too much on money as an incentive when I was young, as I got older I just wouldn’t do things around the house because I could get money by working outside of the house. Whereas, now that I’m more mature  I realize you just do the dishes after dinner and you help out because these are my parents and they work hard all day, the least I can do is do some dishes.

  • jyladvik

    I know many kids today, by age of 21, they still have never held down any kind of paying job. I find that bizarre. When I was young, ALL teenagers 16 and over, had jobs during the summer, or at the least, they mowed lawns or babysat for extra cash.

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