Does your kid want everything delivered to her on a silver platter? Learn how to identify entitled behavior from our panel of experts: Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World; Michael Grosso, M.D., Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, and Chief Medical Officer at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York; and Ruth Milanaik, D.O., Director of the Neonatal Neurodevelopmental Follow-Up Program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York.
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You don’t have to give in to your kids’ every whim and demand just because they feel they’re worthy. But you might be surprised to learn who and what is to blame when your kids have a mega-sense of their own importance.
Tell us: What, exactly, is an entitled child—and how can you tell if you have one?
“Typically, entitled kids believe the world revolves around them, that things should be done for them, and that paths should be cleared for them without them putting in much effort. Signs of entitlement include not taking ‘no’ for an answer and acting helpless when they’re not. When an entitled kid messes up, he expects to be rescued. He tends to not be grateful for what he has, and he finds it difficult to be content. Also, he requires constant entertainment. Any child on the planet will exhibit these characteristics from time to time, but if you’re seeing them as a regular pattern, you should ask, ‘Is this an entitlement issue?’”—Ms. McCready
“The entitled child feels that she deserves what she wants at all times—financially and/or emotionally. This is very common and normal for very young children. Toddler entitlement is a natural part of growing, but there are limits.”—Dr. Milanaik
Well, who or what is to blame for an entitled attitude? The media? Society? The family?
“It helps to think of entitlement and the behaviors that go with it as learned responses; it is not a matter of biology. Parents and other caregivers are the source of the problem. We see this when parents work too hard to make sure their preschooler eats ‘Just something.’ A better approach is to treat your child, from toddlerhood onward, as though he’s one in a family of ten children. Meals get done once with no multiple choice, or your children will learn to expect the world to conform to their needs and they become convinced of their own invincibility.—Dr. Grosso
“Our perception of our job as parents has shifted over the last couple of generations, leading to overparenting—by overprotecting, overpraising, and generally jumping through hoops to make sure our kids’ path to success is paved for them. On the positive side, parents today are so much more attentive. The flip side of that is that we place our kids’ activities and accomplishments ahead of everything else, so from our children’s perspective, it is all about them. Everything we do as parents reinforces that. We spend less time with our partners because we’re so busy with the kids’ activities, or we go into debt for our children. When parents sacrifice everything for the benefit of their kids, kids can come to believe that everything does revolve around them.—Ms. McCready
So, is there anything in particular that kids do that suggests they feel entitled? Do parents do anything specific that gives kids that impression?
“Kids’ behaviors might include whining, throwing temper tantrums, not saying ‘thank you,’ looking to see what others got before reacting to their own gifts, expecting to get items they want on all shopping excursions, showing negative behaviors if these items are not offered, and wanting larger items on each trip. Older children may brag or belittle others.”—Dr. Milanaik
“Some red flags for parents are: frequently taking responsibility for our kids, rescuing them, resorting to bribes and rewards to get cooperation, doing everything around the house because the kids don’t have any responsibilities, and noticing that your children are quick to blame others.”—Ms. McCready
Entitled kids can make family life challenging, but does that same “it’s-all-about-me” attitude also impact a child’s development?
“It may take longer for the child with a sense of entitlement to develop personal responsibility, accountability, and resilience. If parents are constantly stepping in to make things easier, kids don’t develop the resiliency that comes from dealing with hard times and getting back on track. Working through difficult circumstances teaches kids that they can thrive and survive in the face of adversity. If we pave the way and make everything easy for them, then they don’t know what they have inside themselves to reach their greatest potential.”—Ms. McCready
“Unfortunately, the consequences are generally negative. Happiness means different things to different people, but psychologists, clergy, and philosophers all tend to see it as having something to do with empathy, gratefulness, generosity, the capacity for loving relationships, and a sense of pride in contributing to the well-being of others. All of these attributes sit at the opposite pole from the characteristics of the entitled individual.”—Dr. Grosso