Taming the Entitled Teen & Tween

Entitled TeenDo you ever feel that no matter how much you buy or do for your tween or teen that it is never enough? Do you ever feel taken for granted and unappreciated by your kid? Do you ever worry that your tween or teen feels entitled to things that she hasn’t earned?

Most parents can answer yes to this at some point in their kid’s life. Our consumer driven culture encourages feelings of entitlement by convincing us that there are things we absolutely must have because our self-worth depends on it. Tweens and teens are especially susceptible to this. Not only is this sense of “the world owes me” highly irritating, it also causes parents to worry about how their child will fare in the “real world” when they must earn their way.

Here are some tips on how to curb your tween or teen’s sense of entitlement:

Know the difference between needs and wants. At the most basic level, needs are food, shelter, clothing that fits, health care, education and loving relationships. Wants would include such things as junk food, your own bathroom, designer jeans, good grades but no homework, unlimited cell phone data and constant and continual access to friends. Many tweens and teens will easily get needs and wants confused because their emotions blur the difference. Look for ways to teach your child how to recognize needs from wants and use this distinction as a guidepost when deciding which requests you will grant.

Calm your feelings of guilt. A tween or teen’s sense of entitlement can lead to a bucketload of sassy attitude and obnoxious whining when she doesn’t get her way. By now, your kids know your buttons and how to push them to win you to their side. Remember that it’s OK to say “no”, even if you get accused of ruining her life because of it. If her basic needs are being met, you can dismiss any guilt about not being a good parent. Saying “no” or “not now” may even be one of the best things you could do for her as a parent.

Don’t reward undesirable behavior: Some tweens and teens are doggedly persistent in advocating for what they want. They wear their parents down to the point of exhaustion and with no fight left, the parents give in to their kid’s demands. Though it is incredibly difficult, try to stand your ground and resist the pleas, tantrums and sob stories. If you surrender after these antics, tweens and teens learn that this behavior will get them what they want and you’ll be sure to see it more often. Instead, look for ways to let your teen earn what she wants. Click here for more communication tips, including how to say “no” to persistent tweens and teens.

Let him wait. Even if you decide to give your tween or teen something he wants, remember that it’s ok to not give it to him immediately. Instant gratification is rare in the real world, and it’s your job to help him learn to be patient with the process involved in obtaining the things we desire.

Encourage volunteering. Tweens and teens often have some pretty thick blinders on and may believe that everyone has the newest gadget or wears the current fad. Volunteering to help those who are less fortunate helps them widen their perspective and appreciate what they have.

For more guidance on disciplining tweens and teens, check out our book Don’t Look at Me in That Tone of Voice: Tween Discipline for Busy Parents.

CAR THOUGHT: (something to ponder as you shuttle your kids about): What is one thing you could do today to help your tween or teen learn the value of earning through effort?