“My daughter acts like the world revolves around her!”
“My teenage son only cares about sports, video games, and himself.”
Parents, if you have ever spoken these words, this article is for you.
It feels like an epidemic—So many modern children and teens act as Mean, Spoiled, Entitled Kids.
While no parent dreams of raising a child that would be described with these negative words, we have to wonder, what is fueling this epidemic? What is happening to our kids?
There are a number of contributing factors to this entitlement syndrome: youth culture, cell phone use, media influence, money, housekeepers, lack of chores, sports focus, grade obsession.
But there is one contributing factor that matters more than all the others: Parents.
Parents, if you feel you have a Mean, Spoiled, Entitled Kid in your home, then you may need a parenting wake up call.
You are probably part of the problem. And yes, research supports this. (NOTE: It doesn’t help to call kids names like “mean,” “entitled,” etc.)
Question: As a Family Coach, how often do you think I hear parents say the following phrases to me?
“Sean, I don’t allow my kid to hurt or to fail. I always bail them out so they do not have to face the consequences of their actions.”
“Sean, I don’t care how my kid treats me or the family. It’s easier to give them what they want.”
“Sean, I am a helicopter parent.”
Answer: Rarely. Parents will rarely say this because it’s difficult (and embarrassing) to see ourselves as part of the problem.
Enablers often don’t understand that they enable.
Spoilers don’t want to see how they are contributing to their child’s “entitled” attitude.
Helicopter parents don’t want to believe that they are helicopter parents.
Attention: Enablers, spoilers and helicopters—STOP.
Your intentions are good. You are doing your best to love your child and to raise him or her to become a loving, responsible adult.
But something is wrong. You are getting in your own way.
Allow me to show you another way to parent: A way to stop enabling, spoiling and helicoptering.
It’s a “positive parenting” approach that I teach called, “Natural Consequences: Reaping and Sowing.”
Reaping and sowing are farming terms. A farmer “sows” a seed when he plants it in the ground and waters it. The farmer “reaps” when he collects the harvest.
ALLOWING OUR CHILDREN TO REAP WHAT THEY SOW IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS A PARENT CAN DO FOR THEIR CHILD.
In this intentional approach, we as parents set the bar high for behavior. We also set the bar high for an emotional connection between children and parents.
As parents, WE reap what WE sow.
We expect our kids to be kids, and to act like kids.
This means that we expect them to make poor choices, act immaturely or irresponsibly, and be overly emotional. We should not be surprised. This is how all young, not fully mature human beings feel and behave.
We expect adults to act like adults.
We expect ourselves to make good choices, to act wisely when emotional, and to behave maturely and responsibly. When we make mistakes, we say, “I was wrong,” in front of our kids. We apologize. We do better next time. We expect ourselves to be consistent. This is how fully grown human beings should act and behave.
Our children can expect that we will not ignore or enable their poor choices. Instead, we will respond to them with emotional connection, empathy, gentleness, and education.
If you want help with this aspect of your parenting, please look at my website and get some new parenting tools, and tools for your emotions. I can support you.
We expect our children to treat us, other family members, people of all kinds, and all living things with love and respect.
We expect our kids to need some time to calm down; then they can admit their mistakes with humility, kindness and sensitivity.
We expect that our children will reap the “Natural Consequences” and "Emotional Consequences" of their personal behavior, both good and bad.
We expect that our children will learn from us adults, as we parent them in these expectations. We are their teachers.
Our children will learn how to show love and empathy towards others; learn how to have self-control over temptations and their emotions; learn how to be part of a family team, contribute to it, and learn the value of sowing good things.
Then they can reap good things. That is how the world works.
Below is the story of Johnny, the a real-life example of a child/teen demonstrating the actions and attitude of a Mean, Spoiled, Entitled Kid.
(The live Zoom experiences with me at ParentingModernTeens.com can help you solve this and any problem.)
In my 20+ years of coaching families, I have found that many parents don’t realize that they are hindering natural consequences from taking place in their home.
In the scripts below, I will illustrate a common parent response to a child/teen’s poor behavior.
Next, I will help you to see how that parent’s response is not helping their child to mature but is instead contributing to the Mean, Spoiled, Entitled Kid syndrome. Finally, I will suggest a better parenting response, a response that will help parents create a caring, mature, responsible young adult.
To make it to sports practice on time, Johnny and his mom need to leave in five minutes, but Johnny has not suited up. Nor has he done the small chore his mother reminded him to do one hour ago, “Don’t forget your chore to empty the dishwasher.”
Johnny knows this task should be done before practice and before his mother cooks dinner.
Johnny responds, “I KNOW, Mom!” but he goes back to playing on his Xbox. It’s now time to leave for practice.
He races to his room, changes quickly, then heads towards the door.
His mother realizes he didn’t empty the dishwasher and says, “Why didn’t you do that?” He says rudely, “Stop mom! I just forgot! I’ll do it when I get back. Stop being so dramatic!”
Parental Reaction: As they are getting into the car, Johnny’s mother says, “I’m not happy about what just happened.”
Johnny responds sharply, “I get it mom, I’m sorry,” but it doesn’t sound like he’s sorry.
Mom takes Johnny to practice. No one speaks during the car ride. Johnny gets to practice on time. When he sees his friends, he tells them, “My mom is being a such a bitch.” This makes his friends laugh.
Mom returns home and starts to prepare dinner. She sighs as she empties the dishwasher.
An hour and a half later, she drives to pick Johnny up from practice. No one speaks. Back home, Johnny silently eats the dinner his mom cooked, says thanks, and heads up to his room to do his homework. Mom kisses him goodnight.
Johnny’s hobbies (Xbox), his sports and his homework are more important than respecting his mother. He doesn't need to care for mom's feelings. In this relationship, he is allowed is act this way. It's a-ok with mom.
Mom doesn’t really have feelings. She is not human. He has no feelings to care for. She is a robot. Good for driving kids and reminding kids. taht's it.
It’s OK if Johnny prefers Xbox over doing his chores or caring for his family. Mom will do all the chores if her child doesn’t do them. The only feelings that matter in this home are little Johnny's feelings.
Johnny is acting like a Mean, Spoiled, Entitled Kid.
Background: Even before this event has taken place, Mom has written out the family’s “House Rules and Expectations.”
(Click the picture to the right to get my free pdf: House Rules for Teens.)
Everyone is familiar with their expectations. There are no surprises. These expectations include caring for each other and contributing to the household by doing their assigned chores on time.
Mom: Can we talk?
Johnny: What? Why? About what?
Mom: Johnny, I know that practice starts in a few minutes, but I have something important to tell you. My feelings are hurt. I feel sad and uncared for. Now, as we talked about in the past,so there are no surprises here, I really don’t feel like taking you to your sports practice when you treat me like this. This is a natural consequence for your choices.
Johnny: What! Why!? Mom that’s not fair!
Mom: Yes, it’s fair, Johnny. In this family we are expected to be kind and responsible. We can talk about this if you’d like. I'd love to work it out if you'd like.
Johnny: You are horrible, Mom! I hate you sometimes! Why are you being so dramatic? Fine, I will empty the dishwasher.
Mom: Ouch. That hurt. I don't like being name called.
Johnny: Fine, I am sorry but be quiet. I will empty them and then we are going.
Mom: Pleas do. But I am not going to take you to practice today.
Johnny! What?! Why!?
Mom: I think I need to take a time out. I don’t feel safe talking with you if you are going to call me names. I feel hurt because you just said I was “horrible” and “dramatic.” That is name-calling. I feel more hurt now. I’m going to take a time-out and go to my room to cool down.
Johnny doesn’t handle this well.
He might 1) erupt into a temper tantrum with more verbal abuse, yelling, manipulating, and/or begging, or 2) angrily empty the dishwasher hoping his mom relents.
Mom goes to her room by herself for self care.
She DOES NOT take him to this practice. She follows through with the natural and emotional consequences. (If she took him to practice right now, what message(s) would she be sending?) Mom does not back down. In her family, teamwork and mutual care are more about than youth sports.
The conversation only continues when, and ONLY WHEN, Johnny has calmed down. When Mom feels better, and sees Johnny calm (which might take some time), she can approach him or she wait for him to approach her.
She wisely waits until he approaches her. (This may be 1-72 hours.) He is now ready to talk.
Johnny: Mom, can you make me a sandwich?
Mom: Hmmm. Maybe. I am not sure I want to. There is food in there for you to make yourself one. I'd prefer to talk about what happened. Is this a good time for you?
Johnny respondly calmly, but rudely: I get it. I didn’t empty the dishwasher. What else is there to talk about?
Mom: Johnny, it’s so much more than that. There are reasons why I decided to not drive you to practice. I'd like to feel heard. I like for to understand me, so this doesn’t happen again. This was really hard on me...hard on both of us.
Johnny: Ok, yeah...
Mom: I love you and care about you. I like taking you to practice.
Johnny: Yeah... I know.
Mom: I am your mother. The only mother you will ever have. I love you more than words can say. But I have feelings too, Johnny. I am a person with emotions. Sometimes I feel happy. I told you that I felt hurt, sad and uncared for. And you didn’t respond to me with care.
Mom: I wish you would say to me, “I love you, too, Mom. I care about you. I really don’t want to speak to you like that.”
Johnny: I did that! I DID say I was sorry!
Mom: Johnny, although you said those words, "I'm sorry" is not a sort of magic phrase. I didn’t feel you were sincere. I felt uncared for. It felt like you were just saying it to brush me off so I would shut up and take you to practice.
Johnny: I just didn't want to talk.
Mom: I understand. Yet, you wanted me to show care for your feelings, and take you to your sports practice. It doesn’t make sense to me. It's like you wanted me to care for your feelings but you didn't want to care for me. Is that it?
Mom: Teah, that's our real issue here I think. In this family, I want us need to care about each other’s feelings, and that includes mine. Parents have feelings too.
Johnny: I get it. You are punishing me.
Mom: No. That’s not it. I am not punishing you. I am allowing you to see the emotional consequences of your actions. I didn’t hide my pain or emotions from you. If you treat people well, their feelings will be hurt, and there will be a issues in the relationship.
Mom: This leads me to the second reason why I didn’t take you.
I didn’t take you because your actions communicated a message to me that you might care more about yourself and your sports practice than you do about me and this family. As I have told you before, this family being emotionally close is more important than any game, any sport, any activity any of us have.
Johnny: Mom, that’s not true. I care about this family more. I do.
Mom: I believe you do. But Johnny, sometimes your words and actions say differently.
Johnny: They do All I did was - not empty the dishwasher. What’s the big deal? How is that even connected?
Mom: It’s very connected. It is because your actions communicated to me that you believe that you don’t have to contribute to the system of this family.
Mom: Johnny, you ignored my request to empty the dishwasher for over an hour and instead you chose to play Xbox. I need you to know that you emptying the dishwasher is much more than a boring chore that you have to do. Emptying the dishwasher, doing the other things we ask you to do, including your schoolwork, are important ways that you contribute to this family.
Do you now understand why I didn’t take you to sports practice, Johnny?
Johnny: Yes, mom. I get it. I’ll do better at showing you that I care. I do care.
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Three Important Reminders For Parents
1. There was no punishment here, just natural, emotional consequences. And because she had already told Johnny she would do this, they were predictable. The consequences were wisely chosen to encourage an emotional connection between family members and to prioritize caring and household expectations.
2. Mom regulated her own emotions. She did not react with surprising consequences, malice, threats, or abuse. No Cabing, No people-pleasing. No yelling. No pep talks.
3. Mom was not being dramatic. She made this a teaching moment. She taught Johnny EQ: emotional intelligence.
She understands that emotional connection and empathy is the bloodline that keeps families healthy, and she thrived in this teaching moment.
Parent Action Steps:
1. Create a written “Rules of the House.” We have a free one on our website to help you!
Without yelling, stress or grounding, allow your teen to experience the natural consequence of their action and breaking a House Rule.
2. Create a simple Chore Chart for all of your children, based on the developmental stages of each child. Review every few months. Let your children have input.
3. Teach emotional intelligence. Consider getting your teen a PMT Coach to teach them. See yourself as an "Emotion Coach". Allow yourself to feel emotions in front of your children.
Regulate your emotions so that in your anger, you still act like an adult! Communicate your emotions with words and body language. Allow your family members to clearly see and hear each other’s pain. Teach them to "make things right."
The ParentingModernTeens.com can help you with this.
4. Allow your children to reap what they sow. Help your children understand that there are consequences to all actions.
5. Follow through. Be consistent.
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