Many parents in today’s world feel that teenagers’ values have slipped and that they take aspects of their lives for granted.
Want to know how to deal with an entitled teenager?
Growing up, I was part of a family that had values and beliefs about how to treat others, our possessions and material things and with a knowledge that we had to work for and earn the things that we wanted in life.
I remember being told things like, ‘it won’t be handed to you on a plate’ and ‘no-one’s going to do it for you’. My parents never needed to consider how to deal with an entitled teenager, because our society’s values were different.
Today, we often hear sweeping statements about teenagers and their attitude to life in society including that they have a ‘sense of entitlement’.
But what does this actually mean in reality and is it a problem that can be addressed and if so, how?
The teenage years are a time of immense change and discovery when young people start to understand what it takes to be a self-sufficient and responsible adult.
What is an Entitled Teenager?
An entitled teenager tends to act as though the world ‘owes them’.
They believe that they deserve privileges or special treatment.
It is the sense of deservingness or being owed something despite putting in little or no personal effort.
Phrases that you might hear from an entitled teenager:
- “It’s not my fault.”
- “I don’t deserve this.”
- “Only if you pay me.”
- “It’s not my job.”
- “It’s not fair.”
- “What’s in it for me?”
- “Why should I?”
Entitled Teenagers: What’s the Problem?
Whilst a positive sense of worth is good for your child’s mental health, they need a balance between thinking about their needs and the needs of others.
Empathy and reciprocity are essential parts of life whether in family relationships, friendships, romantic relationships or work life.
Have you noticed a that you feel sense of resentment or bitterness towards your child at times?
If your child thinks they deserve treatment that is better than someone else, this quickly leads to resentment in others.
You might think: Why should I slave away at work then come home to cook and clean, when my child does nothing?
An entitled adult will be less unsuccessful in relationships and in the workplace. Others will resent them and may actively dislike or avoid them.
If your child is entitled, it’s certainly not too late. They can develop that essential empathy and reciprocity in the teen years before they become entitled adults.
Your child can learn to consider the needs of others and act accordingly.
But it’s time to take action!
Signs of An Entitled Teenager
Act now if you see these signs of an entitled teenager:
- Entitled teenagers expect preferential and special treatment. For example, bending the rules to suit them, asking for regular extensions on homework.
- They expect rewards or bribes for extra chores they are asked to do in the household (or just expect someone else to do it).
- The entitled teenager gets easily frustrated if things don’t go their own way. It can lead to conflict with other family members.
- Entitled teens constantly want more than they’re given. Or, they become quickly dissatisfied with what they do have. Perhaps they feel entitled to have the latest mobile phone or video games.
- Entitled teenagers believe their personal needs come ahead of everyone else’s.
- Protesting and causing conflict is commonplace if an entitled teen’s demands aren’t met.
How to Deal With an Entitled Teenager: Key Principles
Understand Your Entitled Teenager’s Level of Development
The prefrontal cortex of the brain is one of the last parts to fully develop and it’s this area which manages skills such as controlling impulses, organisation, planning and sequencing.
Teenage brains do not mature until a person reaches at least their mid 20’s. Some neuroscientists think it’s even later than this.
You can read more about the brain in our article on Understanding Brain Development In Children.
So, if your child doesn’t help much and doesn’t seem to be a team player, it may not completely be their fault.
They may be struggling to organise and plan enough to allow time for this.
Get Alongside Your Entitled Teen
You want to grow a responsible and caring young adult. This means that if they are acting in an entitled manner, they need some support and coaching from you to adapt.
By far the most effective way to do this is to get alongside them.
Of course, we all criticise our children and get upset or angry with them at times.
But getting alongside them is a better route to success, I promise.
What does it involve?
I like to use the phrase “connection before correction“.
In other words, spend positive time truly connecting with your child. Chatting to them, having fun together, understanding them and their brains.
When you understand your child’s motivations you will be better placed to develop an effective plan of action. Here’s a fictional example:
How to Deal With Entitled Young Adults: Jake (Case Study)
Seventeen year-old Jake seemed very lazy.
When he was asked to help unload the dishwasher or even just spend time playing with the dog, he always responded with “I’ll do it later” and then conveniently forgot.
His mum Leanne was fed up with reminding him. It always escalated and ended up in a shouting match.
Leanne worried that Jake was turning into an entitled young adult, even a bad person.
Then, Leanne spent a week on holiday with Jake.
She realised that he struggles to get started with tasks. He struggles with motivation.
He also finds it hard to stop doing something he is enjoying (like gaming) to help out.
She found that if she did a simple task alongside him, he was happy to help and did a great job.
Leanne discovered that Jake was a talented chef, and he would take the lead when they cooked meals together in their self-catering chalet, adding different flavours and spices.
Leanne realised that she needed to:
- Give Jake some say in the tasks he helped with.
- Simplify the tasks e.g. “make your bed” rather than “tidy your whole room”.
- Get alongside him for more complex tasks and get them done together.
Leanne used these strategies and a few months later she realised Jake was developing into a helpful and mature young man, not an entitled teen.
Why Values Are So Important in Dealing With an Entitled Teenager or Young Adult
Where do entitled attitudes come from?
As parents, we are not only carers, but role models.
Values are really important for children and young adults because they are a crucial element in developing a coherent, positive sense of self. A sense that we know exactly what is important to us.
Our children look to us as a compass, to help them navigate the world.
So, when it comes to understanding how to deal with an entitled teenager, knowing what your own values are and how you live by them is key.
My colleague, Dr Lucy Russell, Founder of They Are The Future has written a brilliant article about values. Take a look to discover the role values play in children’s mental health and sense of self.
Values Cards and Entitled Teens
Dr Russell and her team have created sets of “values cards” at our clinic, Everlief, which young people can sort through and create a shortlist of their values.
Once the young person has their shortlist, we talk through which ones the young person is already “living”.
Then we talk about how they can live each one a bit more each day.
For example, if “Living life to its fullest” is an important value, the young person might decide to try something new each day, like a new food or a new activity.
You can do this too!
Make a list of all your values, short-list the top 3 or 4, and start making plans to move towards them.
You can find a free copy of the Values Cards to Download Here.
Just as important when considering how to deal with an entitled teenager is to be a role model and live by your own values.
Is kindness one of your main values?
Talk about kindness as a family, and think about ways you can “live it” each day, such as checking on an elderly neighbour or contacting a friend who is feeling down.
This new focus on living your values can make a huge difference not only for your teen, but for you too!
How to Deal With an Entitled Teenager:12 Positive Strategies
We’ve put together 12 healthy and positive ways that you, as a parent, can help your entitled teenager.
These strategies will help shift your child’s behaviour the next time you witness their attitude of entitlement.
Many parents aren’t sure how to deal with an entitled teenager for fear that it will lead to conflict, resistance and disengagement. The first step is to connect with your teenager in a way that they will listen and engage with you.
How to Deal With an Entitled Teenager: Your 12 Step Roadmap
1. Become a Strong Role Model to Shift Your Entitled Teen’s Morals
Talk about things that you are grateful for, what you value and why.
For example: do you value being able to work part-time and develop yourself, but also be present for your children?
Do you believe that being kind and non judgmental towards others is an important characteristic?
Why is it important for you to show respect towards others?
Do you value your fitness and wellbeing to enable you to live life to your fullest potential?
Your previously ungrateful teenager will see these values in you, hear you talk about them and see that you live by them.
Values can change over time and be positively and negatively impacted by external factors, culture and social norms.
Try to teach and explore who your teenager is underneath and keep them grounded. Talk to them about how someone else’s values might differ and how they can be respectfully considerate to others’ views.
2. Encourage Responsibility in Your Teenager
As teenagers develop and mature, they will typically seek out and thrive with being giving a little more responsibility.
However, carefully help them to manage this in a way that is safe and developmentally appropriate. For example, allow a sixteen year-old to go to a party with friends but talk about responsible drinking and behaviour. Have an agreement about when and how they will get home.
The truth is that if you don’t expect anything of your children, you won’t get much in return. As they mature, give them the reigns to take responsibility for themselves, their choices and actions.
If they need you to take them somewhere, don’t drop everything to meet their needs immediately. Let them know they need to plan and ask if you’re able/available to take them, and not automatically expect it.
But, remember their brain is still very much in the development stage so you need to get alongside them and meet them where they are.
For example, if you know they are going out, help them plan what time they need to leave and get back, what they need to take, and what help (e.g. transport) they may need from you.
3. Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations for All the Family
Consistency is important, particularly when you have an entitled teen in your household.
In your family unit, have house-rules that everyone understands, can contribute towards and meet.
House-rules can meet practical needs but also help your teenager to understand that other peoples needs should also be considered, not just their own.
You might have a pocket money or allowance system in place for your teenager. Be clear about what they must do to earn this (wash-up, put out the bins, walk the dog each day).
What would an allowance be for? Perhaps they would need to pay for their cell phone rental or music subscription out of this allowance. Effectively, you are paying this bill, but in return you receive commitment and accountability from your teenager whilst teaching them the value of money and what it buys them.
Chores and responsibilities -within your child’s current capabilities – will help prevent your child from becoming entitled. They can help your child to feel accomplished and competent, building their self-worth.
Natural consequences for entitled teens
What happens if your child doesn’t respect your boundaries? What happens if they don’t meet your expectations?
One of the best ways to teach your teenager that their actions have consequences is to let them experience these first hand.
A great way to help an entitled teenager discover the consequences of their actions for themselves is to avoid rescuing them wherever possible.
4. Connection Before Correction
You don’t feel your child is pulling their weight, but maybe they have a completely different perspective.
“Connection before correction” means you both need to understand one another’s perspective before positive change can happen.
Help your child to see how it feels from your perspective when they don’t help you.
Work out a plan (ideally a written plan) which creates a mutual understanding between you.
6. Praise & Acknowledge Your Teen’s Efforts to Change
Praise your teenager and acknowledge their good behaviour or efforts.
Let them know when they’ve done a good job.
Even small things can be celebrated. Aim to give more positive feedback to your child than negative, to maintain that all-important connection with your teenager.
7. Let An Entitled Teen Earn Their Own Money
During their high school years, encourage your teenager to earn their own money by doing a part-time job, perhaps at the weekend or during the school holiday.
This will help them to learn the value of hard work and the personal satisfaction and monetary benefits this brings them.
It can be difficult to get a “foot in the door” of employment as a young teen, but maybe they could get started by doing odd jobs such as car washing for friends or family.
One of the good things about working is that your teenager will learn the importance of responsibility (taking ownership). For example; turning up on time, completing tasks, working with others and taking responsibility and learning from any mistakes they might make.
I started working a weekend job at the age of 14 and can still remember the excitement of receiving my very first pay packet! I saved up and within 6 months had earned enough to buy my very own TV.
8. Help Your Entitled Teen Understand Wants vs Needs
Explore the difference between wants and needs with your teenager.
A need is something necessary to live and function. A want is something that can improve your quality of life.
Many young people seek instant gratification. The need or want the have something straight away. Teenagers live in a fast-moving world that gives easy access to information, social expectations and peer pressure.
The best way to divide wants from needs is to let time pass before fulfilling the desire for an item… Also known as delayed gratification.
It’s good to have dreams and goals.
Having desires to have or buy something is fine.
However, teaching your teenager to evaluate, assess and prioritise their wants and desires will ultimately lead them to appreciate what they have by making a considered choice.
9. Talk to Your Teen About Money
Talk to your teenager about money and what things cost.
You don’t have to go into all your finances, but encourage your teen to ask money-related questions when they arise.
If your teenager has an awareness of the value of money, they are more likely to commit and learn to ask themselves:
Can I afford it?
Do I need it?
10. Empower Your Teen With Independence
Teenagers can often feel entitled yet powerless, relying on parents and others to meet their needs.
Continuing to do everything for them is not how to deal with entitled teenagers.
So encourage them to be more independent both practically and emotionally allowing them to learn from mistakes and take responsibility for themselves.
If your teenager finds independent living skills hard – perhaps because they are neurodivergent or they have a specific learning difficulty – meet them where they are at.
They may not be able to cook a meal, but perhaps they can follow each step of a recipe with prompts from you.
11. Keep Communication With Your Teen Open and Calm
Sometimes, the right thing to do is to let your teenager know that you’re not happy with how they are behaving or that their attitude is worrying, even if little things are bothering you.
If your teenager displays disrespectful behaviour, tell them what you see and why it’s not acceptable.
This can be an effective way of helping them understand the impact of their behaviour on others and how others might respond to them.
However, don’t confront them in the heat of the moment. This will only lead to escalating conflict.
Wait until you are both calm.
12. Increase Your Positive Feedback
Try to give more positive feedback than negative feedback to your teenager.
Negative feedback is sometimes important. Your teen needs to know how their behaviour makes others feel.
But it may put them on a defensive footing.
Giving positive feedback is the best way to instil confidence in your teenager and foster a healthy self-view.
How to Deal With an Entitled Teenager: Summary
When you’re thinking about how to deal with an entitled teenager, the important thing to remember is that you can work together.
It doesn’t have to be you and the rest of the world against them and vice versa.
Entitlement issues are bound to come up at one time or another so try and talk about it when you see it.
Hayley Vaughan Smith is a Person Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and Counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.
Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and has worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care since 2019. Being a mum to 3 girls is hard work and rewarding in equal measure and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy. Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.
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