This post was originally published on Raising Teens Today
Everywhere you turn there’s article after article about how “entitled” teenagers are these days. Just walk into a room of parents and casually bring up the word “entitled” and the floodgates open. Heads nodding with stories about how frustrated they are that their kids are so unmotivated, how they won’t help around the house, that they’re totally self-absorbed and, despite everything they’ve been given, they still want more.
I can’t say I totally disagree with some of the things these parents and experts are saying. After all, I’m a parent of teenagers. I get it.
Sometimes my kids are totally ungrateful, and there has been plenty of times they’ve stood there and watched me take groceries out of the car with a clueless look on their face as if somehow I’m in charge of all things that require work in the house. The cooking, laundry, cleaning, shopping… all “mom jobs” never to cross paths with my kids’ responsibilities.
Wait, did someone say responsibility? In the average teenagers’ eyes, the word responsibility encompasses only what’s absolutely required, like sleeping, getting dressed and going to school. In fact, I find it quite fascinating how my kids have, at times, brought new meaning to the words, “bare minimum.”
Are they self-absorbed? You bet they are. Their lives and everything in it is always front and center. Shoot, if my kids had it their way, they’d choose their friends over family nearly any day of the week, except when I’m making their favorite dinner, that is, when they’re happy to sit at the kitchen table for 20 minutes before they dart out the door again.
Just the other day when I was reading yet another article outlining “surefire ways to tell if your child is entitled,” I realized that according to the article, my kids joined the ranks with all the other teenagers who are apparently entitled. I started thinking about all the parents out there who probably walked away from that article in total parental panic feeling as though they were raising bratty, spoiled monsters who could never function in modern society.
I had this vision of every parent scrambling to take back all the Christmas presents they bought their kids, creating a detailed chore list to teach their kids the value of hard work and taking the car keys away – “that’ll show ‘em. Maybe if they have to walk to school they’ll realize just how good they have it.”
I couldn’t help but think… how sad. How sad that, as parents, we’ve forgotten. We’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young, carefree, self-absorbed, silly, irresponsible, crazy, lazy, rebellious, immature, and yes, perhaps even stupid at times.
It seems our society has spent so much time micro-analyzing, scrutinizing and criticizing teenagers to such a degree that we’ve convinced ourselves, and our kids, that they lack what it takes, that they’re not as smart as previous generations, and because of their upbringing and the societal environment in which they’re being raised, they simply don’t have any fortitude and even worse, no moral virtue. They are, most notably, the “me generation.” Wow… it’s no wonder so many teens today lack confidence.
For all the parents out there who fear their teenager may be “entitled,” (and we shouldn’t discount the fact that there may be teenagers who, in fact, are), this is for you. Let’s take a step back in time and remember what it felt like to be young. Looking over those eight surefire ways to tell if your child is entitled… here’s a slightly different perspective through the eyes of someone who remembers:
They Expect Rewards for Good Behavior
Things haven’t changed much around my house. When my kids were toddlers and they helped me clean the playroom they wanted a cookie. When they were in elementary school and they helped me clean out the garage they wanted an ice cream cone. Now that they’re older and they got an “A” in math they want an iPhone. They’re kids. It doesn’t matter how old they are, they love rewards, they love encouragement (not only verbal, but tangible), and they love knowing that I’m proud of them. Do they always get what they want? Heck no, but it doesn’t stop them from asking. Plus, these rewards are teaching my kids that hard work pays off. It helps them strive for what they want and set goals to achieve them.
They Rarely Lift a Finger to Help
Rare is the teenager who jumps up to help his mom when she walks in the door with groceries, who starts cutting up vegetables to help his mom out when she’s cooking dinner or jumps out of bed at 8 am on a Saturday morning because he hears the lawn mower in the distance and wants to help his dad. They’re teenagers and yes, they can be lazy at times. But, so were we when we were their age. I’m not saying we shouldn’t require our kids to help around the house. Of course, we should. But we should also remember that it’s not a priority for them and there’s always going to be five million other things they’d rather be doing (sleeping being the most important) than chores around the house. So, if you’re expecting enthusiasm when you ask your child to clean the bathroom, forget it.
They’re Totally Self-Absorbed
Well, of course they are. They’re teenagers. Nearly every teenager out there finds their own life far more interesting and important than their parents or siblings lives. By the time kids reach the teenage years, their friends take center stage. Are they horrible people who lack compassion? No, they’re learning to live in a world filled with complicated relationships and expectations and, let’s not forget that life as a teenager today is far different than life was for teenagers of generations past. The pressure on teens today is immense. Let’s cut them a little slack and praise them for doing the best they can to manage the relationships in their life rather than criticizing their temporary shortcomings as they learn.
They Blame Others When Things Go Wrong
Think back… think real hard. When you were young and your Dad wanted to know who broke the vase in the living room, did you fess up? Teenagers are still learning and growing, and part of that growth means they’re still maturing. Given the chance, they’ll gladly blame something on their sister or blame their low grade on the “crummy teacher” who has no idea how to teach. It’s up to us as parents to teach them to fess up when they mess up – a lesson that takes a few years to sink in. I’ve lost count how many times my kids blamed someone or something for their shortcomings. Does this mean they’re entitled? No, they’re just normal teenagers learning how to accept responsibility for their actions.
They Feel the Rules Don’t Apply to Them
Yup… just another normal part of growing up. Does this mean we should give our kids the green light to be rude, disrespectful or disregard our authority as parents? Of course not, what it does mean is that we should keep their behavior in perspective. Rebellion, the itch to spread their wings and fly, and the idea that “the rules don’t apply to me” is a normal part of teen growth and development. It means they’re beginning to develop their independence, they don’t need us quite as much and they’re ready to break free from the confines of our control. When I began to see this change in my kids, I opened up the lines of communication, laid down the rules and expectations and loosened my grip to give them the much-needed (age appropriate) freedom they were craving.
They Can’t Handle Disappointment
I’m not certain I know exactly what this means. By “can’t handle” does it mean they cry? Throw temper tantrums? Throw things? Or, does it simply mean that they’re learning to accept rejection from a girl they like, accepting the fact that perhaps math just isn’t their thing or dealing with the disappointment that they simply weren’t good enough to make the team. Learning to accept and handle disappointment is a process. I have years of training and I still have difficulty with it. As opposed to criticizing our kids because they lack the fortitude to handle disappointment, why not wrap our arms around them, reassure them and remind them that failure is part of life; that it’s okay and despite this setback, they’ll be plenty of “wins” in the future.
They Expect Us To Rescue Them When They Make Mistakes
Considering the fact that since they were babies we always rescued them before they actually made any mistakes, we should be proud of the fact that they’re taking risks and making any mistakes at all. Plus, because so many teenagers have been micromanaged by their parents for so long, they lack the confidence to take risks. When they finally do take risks and fail, it only stands to reason that they would seek protection from the “ultimate fixers,” their parents. Growing up and becoming an adult doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an evolution that requires our guidance, love and support. It’s not unusual or terrible that our kids are looking for us to rescue them. It means they still need us, that they’re looking to us for guidance and insight and they’re learning how to face their own mistakes. Don’t criticize them for their efforts, use these situations as an opportunity to teach your kids valuable lessons.
They Always Want More
All kids, regardless of their age, have very little regard for the effort parents put into things or how much an item costs. Although I’m a strong advocate for teaching kids the value of a dollar early in life, it doesn’t really sink in until they have a job and begin to see first-hand how quickly money can slip through their fingers. I wasn’t much different growing up. I can recall asking for very expensive gifts for Christmas when I was 16 years of age with little thought to what impact it might have on my family’s finances. I just didn’t get it and, neither do our kids. But, with a little effort and hands-on experience in money management, it will eventually sink in… maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually.
Through my many years raising my own kids and engaging with all their friends with countless candid conversations that I hold dear, I’ve come to realize that teenagers are the most undervalued, unappreciated, and most misunderstood segment of our population. A quick Google search will enlighten you to the bad rap our kids are receiving today. Isn’t it time we cut them some slack, embrace them for who they are with all their faults and idiosyncrasies, and spend more time building them up rather than dragging them down? From my perspective, the vast majority of teens in society are hard-working, diligent, responsible (and funny) kids who are most definitely not entitled… they’re simply normal teenagers.
In my world there are no bad kids, just impressionable conflicted young people wrestling with emotions & impulses trying to communicate their feelings & needs the only way they know how. ~ Janet Lansbury