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Your 10-year-old son begs you to buy him the newest video game. He cries, “All my friends have it. Why can’t you be like all the other parents? They buy their kids the stuff they want!”

Or, your 16-year-old daughter is annoyed that she has to drive the old beat-up car to school. “I don’t want to be seen in this piece of junk! Have you seen what kind of cars the other kids drive!?”

If you’re like most parents, your pulse probably rises as you listen to your kids’ demands and witness their attitudes of entitlement. You might even be wondering what went wrong. It’s easy to get down on yourself and think, “How did I raise a child who is so self-involved? Where did they get the idea that I am on this earth just to serve their needs?!”

The truth is, self-absorption is not easy to live with. Children, particularly teens, believe that they are entitled to the things they want and need, and they feel that you should provide it for them on demand. They rarely recognize that their entitled attitude and insistence that they get what they want impacts others.

And let’s face it, teens and tweens can sometimes be arrogant with their belief that they are special. Many act defiant, demanding, and downright rude if they don’t get their way. They will plead, threaten, manipulate, and drive you crazy with the relentlessness of their demands and their righteous belief that they deserve whatever it is that they want.

Entitlement in Children Is Perfectly Normal

Believe it or not, your child is not the only one. Their sense of entitlement is a normal and necessary stage of development on their journey toward adulthood. Therefore, your job as a parent is to steer them out of their self-centeredness and toward self-control.

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Understand that kids do not yet have the power or resources to influence their world, but they believe that satisfying their desires is crucial to their survival. Their sense of entitlement helps them survive by going after what they think they need. Indeed, your child’s job is to demand things and communicate the urgency in obtaining them. There’s even something to admire about the passion that your child expresses.

As a parent, though, your task is to guide them and help them find a balance between their desires and self-restraint—not an easy thing for them or us. And while it’s frustrating and annoying to live with your adolescent’s self-absorption, knowing that it’s a normal part of their development will make it easier for you to deal with their urgent demands and attitudes without your strong feelings of anger, fear, or guilt.

Understand Why You Give In to Your Child’s Demands

Don’t beat yourself up if you give in to your child’s demands. Sometimes, they wear us down, and we say okay. Sometimes, we say yes because we feel badly for them or say yes because we feel guilty. And sometimes, we give in for reasons we don’t even understand in the moment. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your tendencies and behaviors so that you don’t inadvertently contribute to your child’s sense of entitlement.

Ask yourself these questions to help you recognize your tendencies and habits:

  • Do you ever find yourself saying yes when you would rather say no? Do you say yes because you want your child to like you? Or are you trying to avoid conflict?
  • Do you ever find yourself living through your kids? Perhaps you buy your daughter that expensive dress because she looks so good, or you get her the expensive stuff that you wished you had when you were her age. But do you then label her spoiled?
  • Are you putting too few demands on your kids?

Our own needs can slip into our parenting if we don’t keep a careful eye on ourselves. That’s why it’s important to do our own self-inventory continually. At the same time, we need to help our kids manage their desires and learn self-restraint, limits, manners, and respect for their own and others’ boundaries.

Here are some tips to help you guide them away from self-centeredness while helping kids to maintain their passions in life.

Let Your Child Express Their Feelings

Allow your kids to express their desires and demands and try to listen. Calm your inner voice down by remembering that they have a right to their feelings. Don’t be threatened; these are just feelings. Your kids wanting something doesn’t mean they have to have it. Nor does it mean that they are ungrateful, lousy kids or that you have been lousy parents.

Instead of blurting out comments like, “You only think of yourself,” or “You know we don’t have the money, so why are you asking,” or “You are so spoiled,” or “What’s wrong with you?” try comments more like:

“I understand how much you want that. I know it means a lot to you. We are willing to give you x dollars toward it – the rest you can either save up for or take from your allowance.”

Or, you can say:

“I know that you want this new video game. Perhaps we can get it for you on your birthday, but if you want it sooner, then maybe you can try to get an extra tutoring job or mow the lawn for Dad and make some extra money.”

This way, you’re putting the responsibility on your child to earn what they want, rather than saying no all the time or saying yes all the time.

Don’t Make Your Child the Center of the Universe

Notice if your conversations are overly child-centered. “Do you need anything for your science project? What would you like for dinner tonight?” Try to balance these conversations by including yourself more. Say things like:

“I had a long day at work, and I’m looking forward to some relaxation time tonight. What’s on your agenda this evening?”

Try not to make your child the center of the universe – they are not. Don’t make them believe your purpose on earth is to provide for them by jumping quickly to their every request.

Teach Your Kids To Think About Others

Here are some ideas to get your kids in the habit of thinking about others:

  • Teach your child to ask if others would like something if they’re getting up from the table.
  • Ask them for help when you have a dinner party or a project to complete.
  • Expect them to do chores around the house.
  • Remind them to say thank you.
  • Have your child call their grandparents to see how they are doing or if they need anything.
  • Teach your child to ask about your day.
  • Make sure your kids do something to help out in their school or community to show them they’re not the only ones that matter.
  • Respect yourself so that your kids learn to respect you.

Don’t Over-Empathize With Pleading

Every child, and particularly teens, wants, wants, and wants. Remember not to over-empathize with their pleading, begging, and crying. You can still empathize with your child without automatically giving in to their every wish. The danger of indulging them is that you risk resenting them, which can make them feel undermined, ungrateful, and unsatisfied.

Educate Your Child On Advertising and Media Messages

Living in a society that prizes material things above all else is a force we must counteract. Watch TV together or look through ads online and discuss ways advertisers attempt to manipulate us. Enforce the old-fashioned values of success and perseverance, which come from developing a good character, not from being the best or having the most. Make sure you live by these values, as well.

How to Manage Kids Who Use Intimidation To Get What They Want

When it comes to more difficult kids, the same applies: you have to hold on stronger and not let the intimidating and threatening behavior cause you to give in.

Let’s say your child is disrespectful and aggressive when they don’t get what they want. Their birthday or Christmas is coming up, and you are probably thinking of withholding their gifts since they’ve been treating everyone in the family poorly. This is understandable, but it’s not the most effective way to handle things in the long term.

Instead, hold them accountable for their behavior. Deal with the unacceptable way they are taking out their frustration on everyone when they’re not getting what they want. Let them know it’s unacceptable to act out that way and hand them consequences when you are both calm. Perhaps they lose cell phone privileges for a short time until you see better behavior. Perhaps they lose their social privileges and stay home so you can have a problem-solving conversation with them about better ways to handle their emotions. No matter what, make sure you teach your child successful ways to manage themselves when faced with disappointments and limits.

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If your defiant child uses threats to get what they want, be sure not to let this behavior work. Stay in charge of yourself, and don’t let the intimidation control you. If they’re a young child, remove them from the situation if they’re ruining your holiday or yelling in public.

If they’re an older child, ask them to leave the house if they’re acting out during holiday festivities. They will need to pay for any damages if they destroy property. If your child refuses, you can take the money they owe for the damaged property and deduct it from a holiday gift (let them know ahead of time if this is what you have in mind).

Conclusion

Children need to be self-centered to successfully separate from us and create their own identity. Their need to believe that they are important and amazing is not a bad thing as long as it has its limits.

Remember, this is a normal stage of development, and you shouldn’t worry too much that this phase of behavior will never change. Being an understanding parent and setting firm boundaries will help assure that your child will blossom into an adult who likes themselves and knows how to get their needs met in the world while thinking about, caring for, and giving to others.

Related content: Narcissistic Children and Teens: Does Your Child Act Entitled?

About

For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM™ program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.

Comments (6)
  • DisdainedDad

    Debbie's article is eye opening. I have always wanted my children to experience things and have opportunities I didn't have at their age. I do not live through them, however. I have tried teaching them to make choices as a way of satisfying their cravings as opposed to expecting everything. The defiance and disrespect that comes with parenting is something you hope they grow out of sooner than later. 

    It's very difficult raising children in today's social environment where instant gratification is the driving force behind every choice they make. It's a very delicate balance in teaching them to be humble and grateful, yet assertive and ambitious. I can't for some reason get them to grasp the concept of value where they appreciate what it takes to get what they want. Nothing serves this purpose like a JOB however. And until they actually start making their own money, they will never "get it".

  • DisdainedDad

    Debbie's article is on the money (pun intended) but I am on the fence with respect to the level of influence I may have shown my children. Our oldest daughter in particular is a 17 year old high school junior with ASD. We live in a prominent area of town where she attends a public school with over 2,600 students from grades 9-12. We're on the lower end of the financial spectrum in terms of household income within this district. We chose this district 5 years ago because it's one of the better school districts in our city and we can't afford private school for her. As she has aged, she has become more "independent" but yet more codependent at the same time. She has become more defiant, disrespectful, self absorbed, all of the attributes that make up an adolescent child. Yet deep down she is completely innocent, honest (sometimes too honest), immature, influential, and naive all in one. She's a few years behind in terms of social maturity compared to her peers. She wants to be "like all the cool kids" but doesn't know how to be that in a natural way. With all this being said, she turns to materialistic things to serve her cool factor. She has to have name brand everything. She wants either a $1200 MacBook computer or a car for Christmas this year or nothing at all. You get the point. 

    My point in all this is, it's very difficult raising children in today's social environment where instant gratification is the driving force behind every choice they make. It's a very delicate balance in teaching them to be humble and grateful, yet assertive and ambitious. I can't for some reason get them to grasp the concept of value where they appreciate what it takes to get what they want. Nothing serves this purpose like a JOB however. And until they actually start making their own money, they will never "get it".

  • Brault

    Regarding point 3: Remember to teach your kids to think about you and others

    I do that. I think all parents do. I also think that ADHD kids (at least mine, anyway) are unable to empathize. Or empathy misfires for them. In the end, we do our best and hope that by the time they reach adulthood the lessons somehow take.

  • RoseBel58
    My problem is complicated because my daughter turned 18 as a senior. Everyone seems to be telling her that she's an adult now and she keeps saying, "I'm 18, I'll do what I want.". She doesn't think she should have clean her room or do anything and she should comeMore and go as she pleases. She has become disrespectful to the point of calling me horrible names. Her grades are good but she thinks she should do or not do whatever she feels like. I feel sick because we were so close. I told her as long as she is living here she has to follow the rules which are not onerous at all. She says she is going to move in with a friend. I am broken hearted but try not to let on. She gets angry and tells me to shut up if I ask her to pick up her things, etc. Her father died last year. He always emphasized showing respect but he's gone now and she is very strong willed.
  • UKJules
    Hi, my 15 year old daughter has saved up money to get an iPhone 6plus at $950, I feel that this is an excessive amount of money to be spending on just a phone, she  also has an IPad.  I am trying to persuade her to get the iPhone 5SMore which is still expensive but half the price, however, she is adamant that she has saved the money therefore she can get what she wants.  How can I explain to her that it is too expensive for a 15 year old to own (even though she's saved the money)!!  I'm trying to explain to her that we don't always have to have the best thing out there!  It is causing so many arguments!
    • Darlene EP

      UKJules 

      This is a difficult situation to

      be in. It really comes down to how strongly you feel about her getting this

      phone or not, because ultimately, you are the parent and it is your decision to

      make. With that being said, we would recommend letting your daughter spend the

      money she made how she wants to, within reason, of course. If she earned the

      money and that is what she wants to spend it on, then it is probably not a

      battle to pick and not worth all of the arguments. I hope this helps with your

      decision. Thank you for writing in.

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