5 danger signs you're raising an entitled child

Is junior ruling the roost? Here’s how to turn the tide around…

Childhood is certainly the time when kids love testing limits and unleashing their most annoying behaviour. Much as we love our little ones, there’ll be days when their constant demands and need for instant gratification drive us up the wall.

As we concede to yet another demand just to get them off our backs, we’ve all at some point ― as first-world parents ― wondered in exasperation: Is this just a phase, or is my child a spoiled, entitled brat?

Entitlement happens in every family, but it happens more when parents over-indulge, over-protect, over-pamper, over-praise, and jump through fiery hoops to meets their child’s endless demands.

This especially rings true is our selfie-obsessed and YOLO (you only live once)-themed culture where we are expected to keep our child happy and ensure they’re having a ball ― every minute of every day.

How does a child grow up feeling entitled?

In her book The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, author and mum-to-two boys Amy McCready notes that entitlement doesn’t happen out of the blue, it actually becomes a problem when it’s a way of life for a child.

McCready writes, “Mom and Dad rush around trying to meet endless demands…and while parents attempt to give their kids every advantage in life, kids learn that they shouldn’t have to do anything they don’t want to, they can have everything that catches their eye and they can quit whenever they want.”

Oh and by the way, when they don’t get their way, these entitled kids resort to demanding, whining, and downright bullying their parents ― who are already run rugged from trying to meet their needs round the clock.

Entitlement happens in every family, but it happens more when parents over-indulge, over-protect, over-pamper, over-praise, and jump through fiery hoops to meets their child’s endless demands.

Are entitled kids at a disadvantage?

Simply put, an entitled child will not be liked by others, plus, they will also miss out on some of the best things in life. “They are more likely to waste things, less likely to value hard work,” notes family coach and parenting expert Cornelia Dahinten, who adds that these children will also find any means to acquire material things.

If they are not attempting to make others bend to their will, they are blaming a third party for their mistakes. Since they consider themselves pretty much perfect, these entitled individuals feel that they have accomplished something major simply by showing up. They lack the ability to sacrifice or empathise, they won’t know what hard work is nor feel the pride that comes with slogging for a reward.

The worst part is that they will also carry this feeling of entitlement into adulthood. According to McCready, these are the people who will have trouble holding down a steady job, cultivating long-term relationships and completing tasks.

If you worry that you are guilty of raising an entitled little person, the good news is that you still have time to steer them away from staying that way permanently. How? A good place to start is to stop doing these five things, stat.

MISTAKE #1: You never say “No” to your child

WHAT YOU’RE DOING Yes, it’s always easier to say “Yes” to your child, especially when you are in public, so that you will avoid unleashing tantrums galore. The downside, however, is that your child won’t get used to managing her feelings of disappointment when she doesn’t get something she wants. Also, as she gets older, saying “yes” is your way of saying that you love her, so when you deny her, she’s going to think you don’t.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD Don’t let your fears rule you. More importantly, don’t parent without boundaries, Dahinten warns. Deny your child when you see fit and reclaim your power as the parent. Your child will not only respect you more because she knows she can’t get away with murder, it will also teach her how to control her impulses.

When you do everything in your power to make your child happy…you are teaching junior that it’s okay to hurt or overlook other people’s feelings in order for her be happy.

MISTAKE #2: You are obsessed with making them happy

WHAT YOU’RE DOING “This is absolutely the worst goal in parenting,” Dahinten says. Yet, it seems all too easy to give in at the slightest hint that your child is unhappy and do something to take their pain away. And why not, you may well ask? Possibly, because when you do everything in your power to make your child happy ― even if it means stepping on other people’s toes or neglecting your other kids ―you are teaching junior that it’s okay to hurt or overlook other people’s feelings in order for her be happy.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD Want your kids to be happy? Teach them how to tolerate being unhappy. Allow them to feel failure, rejection, anger, frustration and disappointment ― because they will encounter it throughout their lives, even when you are not around. Then help them to work through these feelings, find essential tools to self soothe and emerge happier and stronger.

Read on for three more things to stop doing right now to avoid raising a spoiled brat.

MISTAKE #3: You don’t encourage gratitude

WHAT YOU’RE DOING Even the most entitled child will be able to say “please” and “thank you” for the big things in life, but the real test comes for the small everyday ones. You might ask junior to thank the stranger at the store for giving him a balloon, but do you prompt him to do the same when mummy makes dinner?

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD Teach your child to find gratitude in everything ― the big and little things in life. But don’t demand it, adds Dahinten. “Children think everything they have is normal, as it is their only benchmark. I see many children being accused of being ungrateful when really they just never had the experience that anyone would not have this,” points out Dahinten. So, in order for junior to understand how to be more grateful, show her what other people’s reality is. This could be in the form of visiting a children’s hospital, helping out with a charity, or travelling as these experiences will open their eyes to other types of living situations, instilling empathy and compassion in them for others.

“Stop giving things and start giving time, maybe your child actually does not want any of those things and needs more connection instead.”

MISTAKE #4: You praise them for everything they do

WHAT YOU’RE DOING “When my son was an infant and just learning how to eat solids, we would clap every time he took a spoonful of food,” recalls Josephine Ratnam, 38. “It was meant to encourage him to eat more, but over time I felt like we were giving him too much credit for doing the smallest things.” In this social media era, it’s common to see parents plastering their Facebook wall with pictures of their kids’ test results or just because little Jeff ate all of his broccoli. By all means, praise your child’s effort at a job well done to boost his confidence and self-esteem. But don’t go overboard ― you’ll send the message that every small thing she does deserves the spotlight and a party thrown in her honour. This could derail resilience and perseverance, affecting her confidence when things don’t work out her way.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD Praise the effort. When junior comes home with the painting she did in class, instead of proclaiming she’s the next Picasso, show interest in what she has done. Ask her questions about the painting ― what colours she used, what the shapes represent etc. Your engagement and interest in what she’s doing can also be a form of praise, even during the times when she fails. This works worlds better than empty praises like “awesome” or “you are brilliant”, which she might become immune to after a while. Hear it often enough and she might even use those words to define her and expect the rest of the world to do so as well.

MISTAKE #5: You overindulge them with material goods

WHAT YOU’RE DOING Parenting is not a popularity contest. You don’t have to keep showering your child with expensive toys and the latest gadgets, so that she will keep loving you. Many parents also do this because they don’t spend enough time with their kids and think material goods can make up for it ― or make them feel less guilty. Through this, not only will your child not understand the value of things because she gets them so easily, but she will also connect material things with affection. If someday you say no to buying her something, junior might accuse you of withholding your affections for her.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD “Stop giving things and start giving time, maybe your child actually does not want any of those things and needs more connection instead,” points out Dahinten. Also, the next time junior requests that you buy her something, say no and teach her a very valuable life lesson. That she’s okay if she doesn’t get everything she wants, nor will throwing tantrums speed up the process either. She will just have to learn to deal with the pain of not having her wants fulfilled, then realising that she’s survived it and things are actually fine.

Cornelia Dahinten is a family coach and director of The Parent You Want To Be ― Conscious Parenting Training and Playgroups, which organises regular parenting workshops and talks.

Photos: iStock

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