Me. Me. Me. Is that all you hear from your teenager lately?
While you want them to have self-confidence and healthy self-esteem, maybe the incessant self-focus your child is displaying is becoming troublesome. And it seems you’re not the only one who has noticed it.
Remarks about how spoiled your teen is are not rare. More than that, even their teacher has brought up specific concerns with you during your last conference.
As much as it may hurt to consider, could your teenager have an entitlement issue? And what can you do about it if it’s so?
How to Tell If Your Teen Has an Entitlement Complex
Children can typically be more demanding when they hit adolescence. They want to stretch themselves, be more independent, and are keener about keeping up with their peers.
Does that necessarily mean they have entitlement issues? No.
So, before you come unglued thinking that your child may become a narcissist, consider some questions to help you determine if they indeed have an entitlement complex:
- Does your teen always want more… and more… no matter how much you give them?
- Is s/he more concerned about themself and their personal advantage than about other people?
- Does s/he have a hard time dealing with disappointment, throwing a fit of sulking in their room for days?
- Can you not take your teen shopping with you without them expecting that you buy them something?
- Does s/he rarely help around the house, always making excuses for why they can’t chip in or simply ignoring their responsibilities?
- Is s/he expecting that you (or someone else) always come to their rescue when they made mistakes instead of facing up to the consequences?
- Has your child made it clear in actions or words that they feel rules don’t apply to them?
- Does s/he presume they should receive a bribe or reward for good behavior or special achievements?
- When things go wrong, is s/he always quick to blame someone else?
If you have to answer “yes” to several of these questions, your teen may genuinely have an issue with feeling entitled.
But don’t panic. What can be learned can also be unlearned.
What You Can Do to “Cure” Your Teen from Their Entitlement Complex
Maybe “cure” is too harsh a word. But you know you have to do something to affect a change in your child’s attitude. Otherwise, who knows where this may lead in the future.
(Yes, I saw you shudder.)
No worries. There are several steps you can take to deal with this matter. The only thing you need is a willingness to implement, stay committed, and be consistent.
Here are the steps you can take to help your teen change their attitude:
1. Establish and enforce boundaries
For your teen to operate within acceptable limits, you must establish and enforce clear boundaries. Also, be sure to lay out the consequences for overstepping these boundaries up front.
Avoid giving in out of sympathy or because you fear an angry fit. Every time you let your teen’s bad attitude or a transgression of boundaries slide, it lowers the standard of what is alright in their mind. And the more their entitlement complex becomes entrenched.
2. Allow for natural consequences to teach the lesson
When your teen makes a mistake or experiences disappointment, allow them to deal with it. While it’s hard for any parent to see their child upset or feel hurt, natural consequences are a marvelous teaching tool.
Instead of rescuing your child, offer them comfort and your support. Make time to have a friendly talk with them about what they could do to remedy the situation or how they could move forward positively. Of course, if the issue is too big for them to handle by themself (bullying, discrimination, etc.), you can certainly step in and lend a helping hand.
3. Stay calm, no matter what
When your teen behaves inappropriately or oversteps boundaries, it’s essential that you stay as cool and collected as you can. Responding with hurt and anger will only embolden then as they see the power they hold over you.
Always reply with a calm, measured, but serious tone. State why you do not appreciate their behavior or restate the instruction they did not follow and what the consequences will be if they do not comply. Never let yourself be drawn into arguments or shouting matches.
4. Freely offer encouragement
While setting boundaries, sticking with them, and reinforcing them when your teen disregards these limits is essential, it’s also vital that you not only respond to the negative but also encourage positive change.
That calls for you to pay attention to what your child does well and to offer specific and meaningful encouragement. Pointing out the positive behavior will help them learn quicker than pointing out the bad. You can even provide opportunities for them to demonstrate learning and gain confidence by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities.
5. Be consistent (as a team)
Consistency is a given after establishing boundaries. Without it, you won’t get far. However, it’s also crucial that you’re consistent as a team—if there are two parents in the family.
You have to work as a team, be on the same page. If only one of you applies the five above mentioned steps, your teen will soon begin following the path of least resistance. At the same time, not agreeing on how to handle parenting, your child can start dividing you as parents. And that only increases your teen’s power in the family and worsen their entitlement complex.
If you would like more tips about how to parent a teenager, I invite you to contact me or visit my page on parenting counseling. I would be happy to share my expertise.