Narcissistic Children and Teens: Does Your Child Act Entitled?

 

Why do so many kids act entitled? No matter what they get—clothes,  sneakers,  toys, gadgets—they seem to want more, and they don’t  understand why they can’t  have it immediately. It can be incredibly  frustrating when your child reacts  with a bad attitude or acting-out  behavior when you say “no” to a request. You  think to yourself, “I  wasn’t this way when I was a kid. What happened?”

Parenting  is not a popularity contest. There will often be some anger and disappointment  when children aren’t able to get what they want, but acting out behavior  shouldn’t determine your response.

 

Related:  Is your child or teen acting spoiled? How to turn it around.

There  are a few reasons why kids are behaving in a more entitled way these  days: parents  are working harder and longer than before, and are generally more stressed out.   When you are exhausted and overwhelmed, it can be easier to give in than to   fight with your kids. Along with that, it’s natural to want our kids to have   what we didn’t have when we were growing up, and it feels good to give them   things when we can. On top of all of that, modern technology has changed the   pace of our expectations. Texting, email, and the Internet have made everything   move at warp speed. Everything happens with the tap of a finger. Let’s face it,   we’re not accustomed to waiting for things anymore—and neither are our kids.  It’s  a very different world with a different set of expectations about the pace  of  gratification, and parents don’t always know how to cope.

If you find your child isn’t  appreciating what you’re giving him or doing  for him and is acting increasingly  spoiled, it’s important to realize that you  can change this pattern at any  time. You can learn how to pause and say no when  your child asks for something.  You can also learn  how to walk away from an argument and not get pulled into  your child’s  negative behavior. At first this is really hard to do, but over  time you will  get more comfortable with it—it just takes practice. (More on  this coming  up.)

Related:  How to disconnect from power struggles and fights with your  child.

Sometimes we look at our kids  and see their behavior and realize we don’t  really like it very much. You love  your children as people, but you might not  like how they’re acting. But  remember, nobody wakes up saying, “I’m going to  spoil my child today.” We  really want to raise grateful children. If you’ve  played a part in your child’s  sense of entitlement, it’s not the end of the world—don’t beat yourself up.  You  can start changing right now, even if you have a demanding teen in the  house. Here  are 8 things you can do to change the climate of  entitlement in  your home:

Be clear with expectations: Make the  statement that things  will be different. Let your child know that things will  need to change and that  he can expect a different response from mom and dad.  This is a commitment that  you’re making to change your behavior, too. By saying  that you’re going to  behave differently, you really begin to make that change  as a parent. Tell your child that they’re  going to hear “no” more often.

Sometimes these changes are due  to the family situation changing—there’s  been a divorce or  someone’s lost a job  and the financial realities are different. Or maybe you’re  simply realizing  that you can’t or shouldn’t give your child all that he asks  for—that you’re  creating a monster. Be clear with your kids about what’s going  to change, and  let them know that everyone’s expectations will have to change  because of that.  In the moment, you can start by saying to your child, “I don’t  like how you responded  when I said no to you just now.” Then walk away, and do  not engage in a fight.  Understand that things may get worse before they get  better—your child might  not accept hearing you set those limits at first, which  is really what you’re  doing. But over time if you stand firm, they will see  that you mean business.

 

Don’t get pulled into a fight: The most  important thing is  not to get pulled into the drama and the emotionalism of  your child’s response  to hearing the word “no.” Be specific about how you’re  going to handle the  situation with your child. Depending on the age of your kid,  you might say, “If  you scream, yell or curse at me, there’s going to be a  consequence for your  behavior.” The bottom line is that if your child acts out  when denied what she  wants, whether her behavior is mild, moderate or severe,  you need to  acknowledge the problem and change the way you, as a parent,  respond. Nothing  changes if nothing changes. Make no mistake, it’s critical that  you not give in  when your child acts out. Above all, you don’t want her to  receive some goody  for her misbehavior. That definitely sends the wrong message—that  she should  yell and scream to get what she wants.

Prepare your child when the situation arises again. Let your  kids know that they can’t threaten and misbehave to get things. “Last time I   said no, you threw a tantrum and couldn’t stay at your friend’s house that   night because of your behavior. So the next time I say no, what are you going   to do? Are you going to act out again or are you going to handle it better so   that you’ll have a better weekend?”

Parenting is not a popularity contest. Your  child  is not your friend—and parenting is not a popularity contest. There  will often  be some anger and disappointment when children aren’t able to get  what they  want, but acting out behavior shouldn’t determine your response. You  need to  hold fast. Try not to get caught up in the moment when your child is  begging,  pleading and yelling, because you will lose your perspective. You may  want to  just step away from the situation and take some time to consider your  response.  Don’t get drawn into a debate with your child. You need to stay firm,  say no  and not engage in a heavy duty discussion about it.

Practice, practice, practice. It will  feel weird at first  to say “no” or not give in like you have in the past. But  trust me, it gets  easier over time and starts to feel good and right to hold  firm. The more you  are able to do it, the more clearly you see the situation. What’s  more, it  helps you gain self-respect, regain your parental authority and begin  to  recognize how you’re being a responsible parent. It’s hard to deny your child  something she  “really, really has to have” at first, but it gets easier over  time.

Know that your child will try  to pull you back into the old behavior. But  believe it or not, kids actually  feel safer and better about themselves when  you put these limits in place. When  it comes right down to it, your child  doesn’t really want to be demanding and throw  tantrums all the time—that’s not  behavior that she’s really proud of. Eventually  when she can tolerate hearing  no, she’s actually going to feel better about herself.

 

Use hypodermic affection. Catch your  child being good. When  you see your child starting to take the word “no”  better, say something. Give  him some credit or reinforce it when he’s thanked  you for something or handled  a disappointment well. And use that as a teaching  moment, too. “Hey, I saw you  deal with it really well when we couldn’t go to the  movies the other day. Good  job.” In the Total Transformation, we refer to this  as “hypodermic affection,” because you’re picking something specific to  compliment your child about. It’s  also important to realize that empathy is  something that develops over time in  children. They are not born with the  “thankful” or “grateful” gene. We have to  teach them and reinforce a sense of  gratitude whenever we see it.

Teach your child to earn what he wants: With older  kids,  you can talk with them about other options for getting what they want. They  can  babysit, pet sit, mow lawns, or get a part-time job. You might decide to  give  your younger kids a small allowance if that works for your family. When children  are able to earn things for themselves, it gives them a dose of reality and it   helps with their own feelings of self-respect. And part of your role as a   parent is to teach your child how to work to earn things. In this way, you’re   teaching responsibility and preparing your kids for real life.

Reinforce your decision: Look at it  this way, if you’re  giving in all the time, you’re really not teaching your  kids how to be  self-sufficient or responsible. It’s worth imagining what a  child who grows up  this way will be like as an adult. How will they be as a  worker or a partner?  Will they be able  to take care of themselves? Thinking about what you want your  child to learn as  he grows up—the big picture—will reinforce your decision to  do things  differently.

 

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