Editor’s note: This week we are honored to welcome social psychologist, parenting expert and best-selling author Susan Newman, Ph.D., as our guest blogger. Dr. Newman is the author of 15 books in the relationship and parenting fields, including Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day.
Her research and books examine such areas as building strong family bonds, raising only children, grandparenting and interactions between adult children and their parents and in-laws, as well as the difficulties of raising a family and working. You can learn more about her work at SusanNewmanPhD.com.
The scene: A child’s birthday party.
Most of us have watched as the youngster—your child or a friend or relative’s child—tears into her gifts. She sees what is in one package and quickly moves on to the next. A parent stands by reminding her to say “thank you,” often fruitlessly. Feeling somewhat helpless, the parent herself comments on how special the gift is, just what her son or daughter wanted.
The birthday party, particularly the “over the top” extravaganza, is only one way parents indulge their children and cultivate their sense of entitlement. We delight in seeing our children’s faces light up when they receive exactly what they want, when we drop whatever we are doing to drive to someplace they have to be “right now!” or when we agree to finish their school project so they can get a good night’s sleep.
Yet, when children receive everything they want, we feed into their sense of entitlement — and feelings of gratitude fall by the wayside. It’s what Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, believes is a “Me, Me, Me” epidemic brought on by parents doing everything they can to insure their children’s happiness.
“The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting—over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids endless demands,” she says. “Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort and success.
“Overly involved parents helicopter their kids’ every move and mow down the potential obstacles in their path,” McCready adds. “In our attempt to shelter our kids from adversity, we rob them of the opportunity to make decisions, learn from their mistakes, and develop the resilience needed to thrive through the ups and downs of life. This is all done in the name of love — but too much of a good thing can result in kids who always expect to get what they want when they want it.”
9 Signs Your Child Has Entitlement Issues
Does your child have an entitlement issue? Here are 9 signs that help indicate the extent of an offspring’s “me, me, me” problem:
- Expects bribes or rewards for good behavior.
- Rarely lifts a finger to help.
- Is more concerned about himself than others.
- Passes blame when things go wrong.
- Can’t handle disappointment.
- Needs a treat to get through the store.
- Expects to be rescued from his mistakes.
- Feels like the rules don’t apply.
- Constantly wants more…and more.
Turning the Tide of Entitlement
Whatever the depth of your child’s sense of entitlement, it can be lessened. Good places to start: Restrain your overprotective instincts and stop doing things for your children that they can do themselves.
For instance, if you are worried about your child, preteen, or teen riding in the car with a new driver, say no and then stand firm. Sure, your child will be disappointed, but don’t change your position. Children tend to recover fairly quickly from most disappointments.
If your child wants a smartphone, agree to pay for a basic phone and explain that he or she will have to earn the money for a “fancier” phone and pay the data charges.
Remember, you are the parent. Parenting comes with the privilege of making and altering the rules.
Stay calm and stand firm if, for example, a child or teen asks why you are changing “the rules” now. An effective reply is: “When you are a parent, you can make the rules.”
Have you been able to turn the entitlement tide around in your family? If so, how did you do it?