How Do I Stop Self-Entitlement in Kids and Teens?

by Ashley Eneriz · 4 comments

mowing the lawn
I asked a friend of mine who works with high school students if he knew anyone who would be interested in some yard work. We agreed that three boys would come over to my dad’s house one Saturday for $15 an hour, for three hours’ worth of work (so basically, each boy would make almost $50). We just wanted some yard maintenance that had been neglected due to my dad’s busy work and school schedule.

Only one boy showed up when that Saturday came. I’m not sure of the reasons the other two didn’t show, but I am going to guess they just downright flaked judging by how embarrassed my friend was for recommending these guys.

Funny enough, I keep hearing similar stories of teenagers and 20-somethings that would rather not work. How do you kick this bug of entitlement out of your own kids’ lives? Here are three solutions.

Stop Being the Milk Cow

It’s hard to just switch off being our children’s main providers. This is why it should start at an early age. Obviously, I am not telling you to make your three-year-old pitch in for the mortgage payment. However, you can show discipline and not buy your children too much at an early age. Kids are so much fun to shop for, and it’s a delight to see the joy in their eyes over a gift. As parents, we need to exercise discipline in how much non-essentials we buy our children and how often so that they too can learn discipline.

This then gradually grows into children earning an allowance and paying for their own wants. You can keep paying for everything so your child never truly learns that money just shows up whenever they need them. A better way though is to expect your child to pay for some of their own expenses once they become a teen. A good example is to have them pay for their own cell phone and nonessential extras. Finally, as a young adult, your adult child should be responsible for paying the majority of their own bills and encouraged to move out on their own even if it means they have to learn how to stretch a dollar. Having your kids in their 20s, 30s, or even 40s live with you because they can’t launch on their own is not just an embarrassment but you could be setting them up for failure for the rest of their life. The lesson is hard, but essential for all young adults to learn.

Don’t Bail Them Out

There comes a time in your parenting where you need to step away from protecting your child from everything. They need to experience the weight of responsibility and the natural consequences that come with being irresponsible. As a child, these lessons might be minor. If they spill their milk, then they should be the ones cleaning up. Once they reach the teenage years, then the consequences are a bit more serious. If they constantly forget important school books or sports bags at home, then you need to stop bringing them to school. Yes, they will get in trouble, and they will get mad at you. But it will also help them exercise better caution in the future.

Kids need to realize that mommy and daddy are not going to bail them out every time they need money or messed up. If parents let their kids get hurt when they make mistakes, then they will eventually learn not to make as many mistakes in the future. That is how real life works. The earlier they learn this reality, the better. After all, the consequences of mistakes only get bigger as they grow older.

Make Them Keep Their Word

Essentially, the parents of those boys who committed to the yard work should have forced them to go except under very extreme circumstances. I am not saying this for my sake, but for the boys’ sake. They needed their discipline muscles to be strengthened. Most people, especially young people, lack self-discipline, and I truly believe it’s because their parents don’t make them follow through. I can say this because it’s the exact reason why I lack discipline in many areas. It’s done out of love, but I was given a free pass too many times when I was younger.

As I get older, I wish I had more disciplined, and I continue to train myself to become a disciplined person. Now as a parent, I am determined to help my daughters learn how to be disciplined and productive, while still enjoy life. Isn’t this what we really want for our children? Don’t you want your kids to have the discipline and drive to make their dreams and passions in life a reality?

It’s hard to fight the norm of a self-entitled culture, but the extra effort is so worth it. Parents, share how you help your kids fight the entitlement bug.

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  • Christine says:

    Most likely the friend didn’t ask the parents if their kids could go and help, he probably asked the kids themselves.

    If the parents know that the teens signed up for something, then the parents should not force the teens to go but only to inform the teens that the right thing to do if canceling is to call and cancel properly. After that it’s up to the teens. Those kids have to face the friend to explain why they failed to show. Those kids have to learn that because of their actions they are not reliable anymore.

    You cannot tell teens they should pay for their extras and phone and then force them to go work, or go do something they signed up to do. Pick one.
    1. Continue to pay for and control their every day.
    2. Put responsibility on them for all that they do, including canceling inappropriately.

    It is my responsibility to raise an independent child. I’m doing just that. Both of my kids know that if they sign up for something, then it’s on them to handle that something. They both know that the polite thing to do is inform people if you cannot make it. They don’t put this back on me, because they know that I control parenting, but I do not control their independence.

    • David Ning says:

      Good level headed advice Christine. I agree with you that we, as parents, should let the kids know the consequences instead of forcing them to do what’s ultimately their responsibility. As a father of two young kids, helping my children develop independence at an early age is of utmost importance.

      Thanks for the tips!

  • Ryan G says:

    My wife’s cousin is in high school, and she doesn’t want to work or do anything to earn money. My brother in law offered her $60 to wash his truck and she turned it down… when I was in high school I would have been embarrassed if someone offered me $60 to wash their vehicle, but I would have jumped at the chance to do the work. We have offered to pay her to babysit for us, but she isn’t interested in babysitting or the money. I don’t know what to do with someone who can’t be motivated with money.

    • David Ning says:

      Eventually most people are motivated by money because they need it. And if they don’t, maybe not needing to work isn’t such a bad thing either. What’s really important is to have a sense of purpose. Instill that in the kids and they will do well in life.

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