No parent wakes up and makes a conscious decision to raise an entitled child. As parents, we don’t wish to raise children who believe the world owes them something or that anything goes as long as it makes you happy. But all too often, that is where we end up. We have a child that won’t do the simplest chore they are asked to do. They constantly rely on others to take care of everything from homework to sports equipment. They feel that the world owes them something for nothing. The hard part is that helping your child in the name of love turns into a slippery slope of hindering their development into responsible, contributing members of society. It is an unfortunate reality that I see everyday.
Here are some signs that you might be raising an entitled teenager:
- “WE Syndrome”– I was running some errands the other day and overheard the following statements from parents in the line at checkout. “WE worked so hard on that project and only got a B.” Also,”I don’t understand, WE did the study guide and still only got a C on the test.” Or perhaps my favorite, “I made a Quizlet for him, why didn’t he pass?” Everything I heard speaks to the same issue, WE Syndrome. As parents, we want our children to experience success instead of failure and often go to great lengths to “help” them succeed. When we believe that we are helping our children, we are actually setting them up to become reliant and accustomed to someone else doing the work. If “WE” put in the work instead of allowing them to do the work, then we take ownership of the steps needed to successfully accomplish a task away from our children. They don’t learn that success is met with hard work, they actually learn that someone else (in this case Mom or Dad) will do it for them. Helping young children with homework, for example is a good thing. However that can quickly spiral downhill as your child turns into a teenager and expectations are higher. Next thing you know, you are calling school with excuses for your child’s missing assignments or dropping off forgotten homework.
- “Immediate Attention Syndrome”– This starts much younger than you would actually think. This starts when as parents, we drop everything that we are doing to meet the immediate needs of our children. When their needs are constantly put before those of others, then children do not learn to wait and be patient. Children learn that things that bring immediate happiness are okay as long as it meets an immediate need. A symptom of this is often seen at restaurants when parents hand over their electronic devices to young teens in order to appease an immediate need and avoid an argument.
- “Me,Me,Me Syndrome” This is when a teenager believes that what they want/need/have to say is more important than anyone else. This is very closely linked with the need for “Immediate Attention.” When our children are little, we are programmed (correctly) to meet their needs-food,clothing,shelter, and love. However, if we continue to exclusively cater to their every whim (think extravagant parties and over-the-top vacations) in order to make them “happy” then they don’t understand that the real world doesn’t work that way. The world does not revolve around the every need of the people who live in it. This leads to sullen, “give it to me now,” pouting adults. They lack the ability to see the world from a broader view.
- “Reward Me Syndrome” In life, the choices we make usually dictate the consequences. Don’t study, fail the test. Don’t do your homework, get a zero. Work hard to earn an A, get rewarded. As parents, we don’t want our children to miss out on fun. We like seeing them enjoy special events like parties, sleepovers, or special trips. However, when a child isn’t held to standards for behavior and is rewarded anyway, they are sent a false message that special things should be expected, despite behavior that should indicate otherwise. It is no fun to tell a child they cannot attend a sleepover due to misbehavior at school, and it isn’t easy to see them miss out of fun or suffer the consequences for bad choices. Perhaps it is even easier to avoid a struggle all together and let them go. But those “easier” choices leave you with a teenager who believes that life owes them something, despite exhibiting behaviors to merit reward.
Do you see yourself, your child, or others in some of the behaviors I’ve seen as well? Do you know a teenager who balks at the simplest requests? Who constantly complains and is rarely satisfied? The good news is that it isn’t too late. There are ways to turn the situation around and raise your teenagers to be responsible, hardworking, contributing members of society. Teenagers still, of course-moody, perhaps a bit rebellious, but they all eventually grow out of that, but they will never grow out of entitlement, so work to fix it today. Here are some resources to help you find the right solutions for you and your family.
Further Reading: Books (available in eBook format as well)
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes
Entitled Kids? These Tips Can Change Behavior from the Today.com
Psychology Today offers Adolescence and Entitlement
Some final thoughts: As parents, many of these behaviors come from a place of love. We have a deep love for our children and naturally, we don’t want to see them suffer in any way. Because of this love, we can unintentionally set them up for false expectations for the world. These false expectations will ultimately cause them more pain and suffering in the long run. Love your children the way God loves us: steadfast, calm, and unyielding.