Inside this post: Here are four tips to help you not raise an entitled teen.
In our modern world of participation trophies, materialism, and me-centric parenting, entitlement is becoming a huge problem for teens today.
Despite our best of intentions, we are trying to carve a perfect path for our kids as opposed to teaching our children how to navigate whatever road they find themselves on.
According to VeryWell: A sense of entitlement is a personality characteristic based on the belief that someone deserves special treatment or recognition for something they didn’t earn. In other words, people with this mindset believe that the world owes them without ever giving anything in return.
You can see this narcissistic entitlement everywhere. It’s students who want special treatment when they turn in an assignment late. It’s a teen’s bad attitude when asked to do simple chores around the house. It’s a boy who can not take any negative feedback or a young girl who is constantly seeking affirmation about her looks, status, or possessions.
Their sense of entitlement 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.
It’s not surprising our teens are known as the entitlement generation.
An entitled teen often has a sense of superiority and feels like their wants and needs come ahead of the rest of the world. They rarely acknowledge the efforts of others and think others are there to serve them. While they may look nice and exhibit responsible behavior on the outside, oftentimes they may just be trying to manipulate the situation to get their own way.
But while we may think an entitled teen may grow out of this behavior, studies have found that entitlement can be dangerous to a teen’s mental health as well. This egotistical behavior can lead to constant disappointment, loneliness and isolation because they do not know how to meet their needs (and others can’t meet their expectations), and dangerous, attention-seeking tendencies to fill a void.
The net-net is this: We are overparenting and under preparing our children to go out into a challenging world.
As parents, we justify this epidemic of entitlement on a myriad of things, but it’s producing an entitlement mentality in this generation–and we have to address it.
These aren’t bad kids, they just don’t know better.
There has to be a better way.
FIVE TIPS TO NOT RAISING ENTITLED TEENS
1. 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 in order to buy the things they want.
We shouldn’t be gifting large purchases to our kids with no strings attached.
That means that the latest gadgets or that pair of sneakers all their friends are wearing should be earned by them and not always gifted. The overabundance of material possessions we hand to our kids is the number one reason we are raising entitled adults.
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 contributing to a family unit, and parents today are 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 earn 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. Allowing our kids to manage the money they earn will teach them financial literacy and good money habits. It is one of the most important life skills they need to prepare them for when they live outside our homes.
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. If your teen really is stretched too thin, encourage them to fit a few hours of time in for work around the house each week where they receive compensation. This could include regularly mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, babysitting a younger sibling, or something substantial. If the job doesn’t get done, no payment.
And by encouraging your teens to earn the money needed for the things they want, they will learn to appreciate those items more, and take care of them as well.
2. Let Them Fail
This one is so hard for many parents, but there is no way around it. Kids need real consequences to learn how to operate in this world. Without them, it’s just not possible.
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 or behavior issues that may go on their record.
But we don’t realize is that despite our best efforts to help our children with one problem, we’re only creating future obstacles to their success.
Failure is a powerful way to teach an entitled teen how to deal with a problem and that there are ramifications to their actions.
This may mean letting your teen fail a test because they didn’t study hard enough and not blaming the teacher. It might mean having your child pay for their own phone bill after abusing privileges. It could mean not taking in their gym uniform that they always forget so they get a bad grade. It could even mean you pride-and-joy doesn’t get into the college they hoped because they missed the deadline that you reminded them about 400 times.
Learning to cope with the natural consequences that come when they don’t put their best foot forward can make a huge difference in raising kids who are functional members of society and ones that cripple when they hit a challenge.
As parents, we have to get over the underlying fear issues we have about sending our babies out into the world. Our job is to keep a loving connection to our big kids, but they have to develop the internal drive and grit to not let setbacks permanently undermine them. When they fail, but then dust themselves off and get back up to face their next challenge, it helps them to recognize their own strength and resilience.
There is no greater gift than that.
3. 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 a little lazy upon occasion.
Adolescence is a time of great change, and as parents start to feel the pressure of knowing your baby may soon fly the nest, it’s tempting to try to do more for them, when in fact we should be doing less.
This is why it is essential that our teens are given chores and responsibilities 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 our kids need to know how to take care of themselves.
So to that end, here is the really important part. You need to make sure you hold them accountable for these chores and responsibilities–enforce consequences when they aren’t holding up their end of things.
Trust us. We know they may complain, but you are actually doing them a big favor. When they go out into the real world, the consistent rules and expectations they had at home will help them succeed.
Bonus, knowing your kid can survive without you is an extremely empowering feeling as a parent!
The best way to execute this is to take the emotion out of it. You shouldn’t remind them all the time as that’s unpleasant for everyone and usually means they’ll just push back all that much more. But also 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, you need to have an honest conversation about expectations. Write it out (and even have them sign it to avoid any confusion), ensuring that you both understand the quality standards that are required.
They will inevitably procrastinate or complain they have too much homework or their schedule is too busy or they want to go hang with their friends.
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 following the rules or completing tasks (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 privileges revoked, being grounded from going out with friends, or if they’re old enough, it could even mean losing access to a car.
But don’t give them repeated warnings or nag them. Just be clear about expectations and consequences, and if they aren’t met, institute the consequences swiftly and without discussion–just like in the real world. When you get fired from a job, you normally don’t get to plead your case, and your teen needs to understand that this is the way life works.
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 raise adults who don’t know how to take care of themselves or function.
4. Set Boundaries and Hold Your Ground
Boundaries, rules, and responsibilities are natural antidotes to entitlement.
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, plead, beg, 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. An entitled teen will stop at nothing to get their way.
Remember, as the parent, you can have the most positive influence on your child. Unfortunately, your job in the teen years is not to have your child like you (although it’s a bonus), but to prepare them to launch into this world. The best way to do that is through consistent tough love combined with some layers of grace.
If you think you should 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 adult on so many levels. The boundaries you set at home can impact how your child views their place in this world and how they respect others. This can include such things as consent in a relationship, how to live within their means, and how they can overcome a health or life challenge.
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 an entitled teen, the buck stops with us.
5. Develop an attitude of gratitude
An entitled teen normally doesn’t appreciate the small things in life. They are unimpressed with such ordinary things as nature, think others are there to serve them and often seek instant gratification.
Our best bet in fighting entitlement in our children is by creating a grateful attitude at home. When you see that your teen feels sucked into a comparison trap or they think they deserved something they didn’t earn, it’s time to nip that in the bud.
Make sure your teen understands the pain and suffering that others endure by discussing world issues, watching documentaries, or better yet, by serving others. Continue to push them to get out in nature whenever possible, ride bikes, or go to a museum. Encourage them to become an integral part of their community in some way (their high school, neighborhood, team, etc.) so they can understand how their behavior has either a positive or negative impact on others.
But most of all, try to model these behaviors yourself. Show your teen what self-care looks like and how appreciative you are when they help out around the house. Talk to them about your first job and what you needed to pay for when you were their age. Put down your mobile phone and encourage them to take a walk with you on a nice day (keep asking!) Don’t get sucked into their negative attitude and instead provide incentives for positive behavior.
And if you think what you are dealing with is more than just an entitled teen, seek out professional help. Narcissism can be reduced with the right therapist, tools, and the desire to change.
An Entitled Teen Can Become a Productive Adult
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.
In the instance you feel like your teen is entitled now, it’s never too late to change the rules, set new boundaries, and show some tough love.
Trust us, when your kids are grown, they will appreciate that you raised them well.