Why a Sense of Entitlement Is Dangerous

sense of entitlement scaled
Why a Sense of Entitlement Is Dangerous

What Does an Entitled Child Look Like?

For me, an entitled child thinks that everything should come easy to them. Whether it be material possessions, position in society, or success. Entitlement should not be confused with confidence or arrogance. It is easy to see how it can happen, and often it is out of love. We have all been guilty of indulgent parenting (or permissive parenting) without meaning to. Katie Lear, a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and child therapist based in North Carolina, defines permissive parenting as “a parenting style that tends to be very gentle and affectionate, with few rules or expectations for how a child should behave. These parents tend to be great at all of the warm, fuzzy interactions that build strong attachments. But may allow children to behave in ways that are younger than their developmental age. Rules may not be clearly stated, or they may be easy to negotiate, and punishments are often mild or inconsistent.”

We do this as it makes getting out the door quicker, or we don’t want them to be told off for forgetting their homework. Whereas building a morning routine they are part of would have longer-term gains. This can lead them to think that someone should pack their bag for them. We don’t like them to be so upset for not being on the soccer team that we tell them that they should be and email the coach. We might be unrealistic in our expectations of them, telling them they can be anything they want. Or we just want them to love us, so we will do everything we can to make them happy. It is important for your child to be unhappy sometimes to be truly happy.

These days, much parenting advice attaches a great deal of importance to children’s feelings and emotional development – and rightly so. But along the line, the scale can tip, creating a hardly noticeable imbalance where parents put their children’s short-term happiness above all else. The result is children who want everything and can’t understand why they can’t have it now. We might be setting up for more significant upset when they are older in the short term.

Below are some signs that your child might be entitled.

  • They always want it now because everyone else has it.
  • They don’t take the blame for anything when things go wrong. They simply pass it to others.
  • They expect you to fix all their problems.
  • They put their concerns above every other thing.
  • They always want you to reward their good behavior.
  • They hardly help with anything around the house.
  • They believe the rules don’t apply to them.
  • They never want to clean up their mess.
  • Nothing is ever enough. They always want more.
  • They can’t handle disappointment.
  • They don’t respect what they have.
  • They lash out when they don’t have their way.
  • They don’t care if their behavior inconveniences others.
  • They don’t express genuine gratitude when appropriate.

How Do I Know I’m an Indulgent Parent?

As previously stated, a positive parenting style can easily veer into overindulgent parenting. Dr. Leonard Sax, a parenting expert and author of Girls on the Edge and Boys Adrift, believes that many parents today misunderstand their role. “They often see their role as making sure the son or daughter gets into a top college and protecting the son or daughter from disappointment,” says Sax. “They are there, providing the safety net in situations where it might be wiser to let the kid experience the consequences.” This can happen to the best of parents, who are just looking to raise comfortable and happy adults.

You might accidentally be modeling entitlement to your child. You may have a certain authority in situations, or the ability to buy things, due to your status that you have earned by hard work. By watching you and not being aware of why people might be deferential to you, your children may think that that is the norm. What you are doing is getting the rewards of delayed gratification but this is not evident from the outside.

An excellent way to check this unintended change, of course, is to watch out for the signs of permissive indulgent parenting. Below are signs you may be an indulgent parent.

  • You respond to their every need.
  • You never say no to them.
  • You use food or toys to coerce good behavior out of them.
  • You don’t like showing control or authority over them.
  • You have very few rules and standards of behavior.
  • You rarely monitor their behavior.
  • You don’t enforce rules with consistency.
  • You treat them as your friend.
  • You favor freedom over responsibility.

Effects of Permissive Parenting

Below are some effects of permissive parenting.

  • Rebellious tendencies. One of the traits of indulgent parents is letting their child make their choices without supervision. Because they’re given free rein at home, they take the behavior outside the home. This results in difficulty working with teachers and others outside.
  • Disregard for rules and a lack of respect. Very few rules and behavioral expectations exist in a home with permissive parenting. According to Jeff Nalin, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Paradigm Treatment Centers, “Rules and respect are intimately connected. One cannot exist without the other. Parents who fail to implement certain restrictions also fail to teach their children to respect themselves and others, which can negatively impact the way they interact with teachers, peers, and authoritative figures.”
  • Increased risk-taking. Under permissive parenting, children are usually left to deal with things themselves. They tend to approach situations however they like and without fear. This encourages them to engage more in risky behavior. Some examples of risky behavior include aggression and substance abuse.
  • Prone to anxiety and depression. Children raised by permissive parents are more prone to anxiety and depression. This is because they get used to dealing with things independently, leaving their parents out of it. Consequently, this causes them to withdraw. If you are concerned about anxiety in your children we have some more guidance here.

What Can I Do to Rid My Child of Their Sense of Entitlement?

Discovering signs of entitlement in your child at some point in their development does not make them a lost cause. Through deliberate and consistent action, you can get them to drop their sense of entitlement. Find out a few things you can do below.

  • Say no when appropriate. Suppress that instinct to say yes just to keep your child happy. Giving them what they want at that moment may save you their outburst or tantrum, but it doesn’t contribute to their emotional development. Saying no to your child teaches them how to deal with disappointment and the lesson that you can’t always have what you want in life. We talk more about why discipline is important here.
  • Make them work for some benefits. Make your child work for certain benefits before they get them. It could be a new video game or their allowance. What this teaches your child is that they’re not going to get things for merely existing. They have to work for what they have like everybody else. And family is where you can start fostering this mentality. Let your child contribute through daily or weekly chores.
  • Talk to them about the value of money. Your child needs to understand the value of money, so you should make it an ongoing conversation. Your child might just be seeing essentials appear in the home without understanding how they all come to be. Children need to know that things cost money, and money is made from working. They also need to know that money can’t just be spent on whatever catches their fancy. Some things take priority over others, which is why even you as a parent can’t have everything you want. Here we article for talking to children about money.
  • Model empathy and teach them to give back. Entitled children only think about themselves. All they can see is what concerns them and their wellbeing. Empathy can get them to consider other people more, so you should try to model it through your behavior or role play. You can also expose them to charities and get them to donate. This would not only help your child cultivate a sense of gratitude but make them feel good about themself. A study quoted in The New York Times found that the brain region that’s activated when we win money is also activated when we give to charity.
  • Let them take responsibility for their actions without you always stepping in. Children don’t always get the credit they deserve. Children are smart and hard-working. Your child needs your empowerment, expectation, and guidance, and they can get things done. When they do something wrong, let them take responsibility instead of shielding or belittling them. Then you can follow that up with a discussion so that they can know to take a different path the next time the same situation presents itself.

Final thoughts on Children With a Sense of Entitlement

Parents always have good intentions for their children, but sometimes their actions can do the opposite of what was intended. Parents are human, after all. In the case of unknowingly encouraging a child’s sense of entitlement, thankfully, parents can retrace their steps. Better late than never.