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Just exactly what is Entitlement? Entitlement is when a child assumes that he or she is deserving of something that they have not earned. In other words, they assume they should receive something for the mere fact of being who they are. Within this paradigm, there is not a relationship, or connection, between good effort and reward. The unfortunate outcome of a child who feels entitled is that he or she does not follow the same rules as everyone else and frequently ends up lonely and disappointed when interacting with the outside world. Entitled children also give off a flare of superiority that often makes others uncomfortable and their attitude is often very self-serving and lacks the sense of reciprocity expected in normal interpersonal relationships. Worst of all, an entitled child or teenager does not operate by Conventional Wisdom, but instead, by their own interpretation of what constitutes “normal” or not. Obviously, following this logic, the entitled child often fails to transition to their next level of normal human development for their particular age and instead either remains “stuck” at that developmental stage ( for example, toddlerhood) or may choose to follow some other sort of journey based on their perception of the world. This can complicate everything from home life to school.
Like with any other personality characteristic, the building blocks of entitlement began in childhood and societal trends often guide the current parenting trends. For example, we have been experiencing the “me” generation for the past 20 years now. Here, the focus has been on making children feel important and special more than ever. On the one hand, this is a vital part of parenting. On the other hand, taken too far can lead a child to feel “too important” giving rise to entitled tendencies. Balance is always best. Any loving parent will also tell you that it pains them to bring dismay or pain to their child which is almost always guaranteed each time you say “no” to your child which goes back to the time when they began walking and talking. If we don’t say “No” to a toddler when they are acting poorly towards something important ( wanting candy in the grocery store) or allow a teenager to continually act poorly and then subsequently fail to hold them responsible for something they can functionally do, we as parents are then feeding their sense of entitlement and not helping them properly develop into a healthy person. We are also making the parenting process for ourselves increasing difficult and frustrating.
The two most common parental traits which contribute to the development of entitled children are guilt and fear. Guilt ridden parents are prone to overindulge their children. They seem to feel as though they owe their child something. You don’t. They need to accept things sometime. The child’s ability to tolerate frustration is a vital learning lesson and builds a solid character. The other group are the fearful parents who worry that their kids won’t like them anymore if they say no. Your kids love you but also like and dislike lots of things about you. This is fine. They aren’t going anywhere if you say no when you need to. They need you too much at this stage in their lives.
Getting out of an entitled condition involves changing things. The parent needs to learn how to say “no” and demand compliance and it involves the child or teenager accepting that they can tolerate not always getting what they want and everyone survives just fine. This is a process however, with bumps along the way especially if there has been a history of giving in too much ( the longer one has a habit, the longer it takes to break it ) As a parent, you may not only need to say no but also set some sort of a limit or take something away to help your child realize that you are serious , this time. But, the good news is that children and adolescents are still in a state of personality formation so saying “No” & making changes during the years children and teenagers are still at home can make a world of difference to their developing personality as well as the parent’s mental health as well.
Dr. Kanner is a C.C.F. Certified and USPTA Personal Coach. He works with children, teenagers, adults, and entire families. With over two decades of working as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychoanalyst, as well as playing and coaching competitive sports, he incorporates his knowledge in his coaching of others. In addition, Dr. Kanner is married and the father of five and has overcome his own personal challenges which helps him better relate to his clients. Dr. Kanner additionally spent over 10 years in the media hosting both television and radio shows about parenting and coaching and served as a Mental Health Expert for NBC, Fox, KUSI, UTTV, and Extra TV. He is also the author of the award-winning book, Your Family Matters: Solutions to Common Parental Dilemmas, which helps guide parents through the most difficult phases of parenting.