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?
Très important pour la génération de parents actuels car il me semble que nous héritons de cette generation d’enfants dont Albert Einstein redoutait. Les appareils ont pris la place des cerveaux humains. Personnellement, j’ai eu du mal à décider pour ce comportement excessif de mon fils dont je peux même dire que j’ai contribué et avec ces conseils, je vais apprendre à l’aider à surmonter progressivement les obstacles. Merci
And for our friends who don’t speak French, this is the translation (roughly):
Very important for the generation of current parents because it seems to me that we inherit this generation of children that Albert Einstein dreaded. Devices have taken the place of human brains. Personally, I had trouble deciding for this excessive behavior of my son which I can even say that I contributed and with these tips, I will learn to help him gradually overcome the obstacles. Thank you
Saying thank you and sending a thank you card, note, email, phone call or text would be a great start. It seems as though gifts are simple….EXPECTED?
Thirst is a challenge for our family. We have a 15yr old boy & thou he is a wonderful kid he is very much entitled. These are good tips! Thank you!
What about rudeness, insolence, disrespect, bossing, bullying, demanding rather than asking, refusal to participate in whatever is supposed to be happening… there are so many indications of entitlement!! The little girl in your photo is a great entitlement model. I appreciated your linking this to our inappropriate behavior as parents, even with good intentions. Entitled children are actually unhappy children and make everyone else unhappy… we are NOT doing them any favors when they don’t know how to get along with siblings, parents, other adults, or even their own friends!
Be it wanting the latest gadget or what a friend has or showing disrespect or similar annoying behaviors, if parents understood the developmental pluses to saying NO, they might use the word more often. If you need help–whether you have a toddler or teen–check out my most recent book, The Book of NO–http://amzn.to/2rXmqs2
When babies are playing with electronic devices under a year old and put in front of tv for hours, my goodness, what does anyone expect. It’s a sad world when we can’t just spend quality time with our children or actually work harder to interact with them. It starts there.
My father didn’t spend much time with us as children but, as an adult, he gave sound advice on parenthood. He said “don’t be afraid to say NO and, when you do, stick to it!” Even if you want to change your mind – stick to it. My children are adults now but they learn’t from the start the meaning of that little 2-letter word and they rarely challenged it. As they grew older this basic understanding helped a lot of other things fall into place and added to their sense of security. They had a boundary and they even sometimes used a fabricated “parents said “NO” to get out of something that they were being peer-pressured to do.
Under turning the tide of entitlement section there was: “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.”
WHOA! That sent all kinds of red flags up my spine.
A normal healthy child does not need a phone to survive. If a child is whining about getting a phone because ‘everyone’ has one, simply tell the child that yes, they may have a phone as soon as they have a job to pay for it. Period – and do not give in! By age sixteen they should be more responsible, and that they will take better care of something they had to pay their own money for. You could even set up an account at the bank for them to put their savings in so when they get that job, they can get a phone – they will need one at that point to call for job interviews, etc.
A phone should be seen as a privilege – not a right. Generations survived without all the tech for centuries. Let them prove they know how to handle money and responsibility.
Absolutely love this article in every way
May I suggest ways to avoid entitled kids?
1. Teach them they are surrounded by a world around them – at the grocery store they need to keep their voices down to not annoying other shoppers. At McDonald’s they need to run around in the playground and not up and down and around the tables. Continually keep in mindful of other people
2. Back their teachers. If a child comes home crying and acting heartbroken and like a victim because the teacher told them off, asked them to stop and reflect what might’ve annoyed the teacher. Even if the teacher might have overreacted, ask them to be mindful of how kind the teacher is and how difficult their job is. Tell them to write the teacher at a letter of thanks or apology. Yes it will frustrate child. But they will grow with a sense of respect for hierarchy.
3. Teach them the difference between constructive and non-constructive criticism. They are not allowed to act sulky and sullen when they receive feedback or constructive criticism. Stop telling them everything they do and say is special and brilliant. In the workplace when they are being asked to lift their performance with specific feedback, the sullen “mm hmm” and the offended silence and the back chat is only going to make life hell for their seniors. Regularly constructively criticise them.
4. Stop over identifying with them. Help them rather how to identify with others and empathise with them. Even those who are strangers
5. Stop telling them they are special. I was never ever told I was special. I was loved unconditionally even though I wasn’t particularly special – unconditional love does not require them to be special. They are no more special than anyone else. However, DO identify their particular gifts and strengths and comment on them – and help them take pride in using them to serve God and Man
Rashmi, these are fantastic, and I am super grateful to you for sharing them with our community!