In our modern world of participation trophies and me-centric parenting, entitlement is becoming a huge problem for teens today.
It is evident in their lack of work ethic and understanding of the value of a dollar, their inability to cope with the most minor obstacles and even their shortage of basic life skills. How many teens do you think make it to college without knowing how to wash a load of laundry or heat up a can of soup?
As parents, this epidemic of entitlement isn’t always intentional, but it does have to with some of the choices we are making. Sometimes we know better and sometimes its a reflection on the world we live in. But ultimately, both our kids and society will pay the price in the years to come. We are already seeing some of the disturbing results with millenials.
If you want to know how you can avoid raising entitled teens, here are a few things to think about and evaluate when it comes to your own parenting.
Encourage Your Kids to Earn Their Money
If you want your children to value the things they own and have at least some simple grasp on how to manage finances, it’s essential to teach them to work for their own money.
Many parents believe that providing an allowance for chores around the house and keeping up a certain GPA accomplishes this same goal, but while it’s a start, it isn’t the same. Allowances are really more about contribution to a family unit and we’re not always good about enforcing the rules around it when life gets busy. It also lacks the accountability aspect of having to show up on time to a job, work with others and earning the respect of a manager and co-workers along with the chance to be rewarded with raises or even promotions. You know, real world stuff. The reality is when someone else gives our kids money for a job well done, it just means more, whether we like it or not.
There are many jobs for teenagers out there that would be good options for any teenager, even if they don’t have their own car yet. And by encouraging your teens to earn the money needed for the things they want, they will learn to appreciated those items more, and take care of them better.
Let Them Fail
This one is so hard for many parents. When we know that they are struggling, it’s tempting to want to step in and help. This is especially true when it’s something that we feel is important to their future success, like grades. But we don’t realize that while we may be fixing one problem for them, we’re only creating future obstacles to their success.
If you want your teens to be less entitled, you have to let them fail! This means letting your teens face the pain and disappointment of not being as good at something as they’d like to be, or having to cope with the natural consequences that come when they don’t put their best foot forward.
Life is not always going to be kind and they won’t always reach their goals or get what they want, but learning how to deal with these failures is a critical life lesson. They have to develop the internal drive and grit to not let these set-backs permanently undermine them. When they fail, but then they dust themselves off and get back up to face their next challenge, it helps them to recognize their own strength and resilience.
Foster Responsibility and Self Sufficiency at Home
Teenagers are not always the most self-motivated individuals, we might even go so far as to call them lazy on occasion. This is why it is essential that our teens are given chores at home and we don’t constantly find ourselves doing things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves. We need to be parenting at this stage realizing that adulthood is only a few years away and they need to be prepared.
So to that end, here is the really important part. You need to make sure you hold them accountable for these chores and other expectations of personal responsibility and enforce consequences when they aren’t holding up their end of things.
You shouldn’t be walking around reminding them all the time. That’s unpleasant for everyone and usually means they’ll just push back all that much more. Or even worse, don’t get so fed up that you just do their chores for them. Both are bad outcomes for your teen and reinforce entitled attitudes.
Ultimately, its up to them to know the chores they have to complete each week and the quality standards that are required. They will inevitably procrastinate or complain they have too much homework or their schedule is too busy. But this is life, the demands on their time are only going to increase and they need to figure out how to create some balance.
Be clear about the consequences for not finishing chores or showing a lack of responsibility (wet towels always left on the floor, dirty dishes not put in the dishwasher, missing curfews, chronic lateness, returning the car with no gas, etc). These consequences could include having phone/technology privileges revoked, being grounded from going out with friends or if their old enough, it could even mean losing driving privileges. But don’t give them warnings or nag them, just be clear about expectations and consequences and when the expectations aren’t met, enforce the consequences quickly and with no negotiation.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t times to give your kids some grace and pitch in if they’ve gotten into a funk or they’re overwhelmed and feeling burnt out with school obligations. It’s okay to help them out from time to time, but you don’t want to turn into a live-in maid service for your teens.
Hold Your Ground
Teenagers live very much in the RIGHT NOW. They can feel like their life will surely be over if they don’t have a certain type of social media account or aren’t wearing the latest fashion trends or getting to go to that concert two hours away until late at night that everyone else’s parents have said is okay.
Our teenagers will nag us, plead with us and when that doesn’t work they will resort to emotional blackmail or verbal abuse (I HATE YOU!) to get you to bend to their will and give in to their demands.
If you want to say no, say no! Don’t ever feel obligated to say yes or change a no to a yes simply because you don’t want to deal with the confrontation.
Boundaries are an important part of becoming a mature, compassionate and healthy person on so many levels. First and foremost, both our girls and boys need to be clear that “no means no”, whether they are the one saying it or being told. Boundaries also teach respect, both for other people and for yourself. All of these lessons are natural antidotes to entitlement.
Your teenager really will be much better off after they’ve graduated high school and beyond by the example you set by holding your ground and showing them the value and the power of the word “no”.
We can point fingers or blame everything from the TV they choose to watch down to the social media platforms they’re on. But at the end of the day, when it comes to entitle teens, the buck stops with us.
Hopefully these insights will not only help to ensure you don’t raise entitled teens, but that you also end up with adult children that you really like, admire and respect. And the added bonus, those kinds of adult kids will recognize and be grateful that you raised them well.