Realizing that you may have a spoiled child is not easy. As a parent, you feel like a failure, and you wonder where you went wrong. However, there are a variety of reasons teenagers become spoiled.
According to Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, the husman brain does not stop developing until around 25 years of age. In teenagers, the “logic center” of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is still under development leading them to rely on the “emotions center” of the brain, called the amygdala, to make decisions and solve problems.
Since the connection between the two centers is still under development, with the “logic center” developing at a slower rate, teenagers end up making impulsive, fear-based, aggressive decisions centered on their emotions instead of logic.
Compound this developmental fact with a variety of situational, environmental, and physiological (hormones) factors, and you might end up with a spoiled, aggressive, self-centered teenager.
If such behavior remains unchecked, it could have far-reaching effects well into their adult life. Luckily, recognizing the signs of an entitled adolescent early on can be an important first step in rectifying their behavior.
Ten Signs of a Spoiled Teenager
1. They Cannot Handle Being Told “No”
A teenager that cannot handle rejection or that has a meltdown when they don’t get an immediate “yes” may be showing signs of entitlement.
Oftentimes, to overcompensate for what parents may consider shortcomings in their family life, such as divorce, loss of a job, death in the family, etc., they aim to keep their children happy by providing them anything they ask.
Additionally, in their desire to be considered their friend or confidant, parents give in to every one of their teenager’s desires, which ultimately harms everyone involved as such ungratefulness can be difficult to handle.
2. They Lack Gratitude
Another sign of an entitled teenager is a lack of gratitude which goes hand-in-hand with spoiled behavior. The entitled teenager believes they are owed things and demand their every wish be met. They are so self-involved they fail to see the effort involved by the giver.
Ungrateful teenagers do not understand the difference between what is owed, earned, or given as kindness. As a result, they are incapable of showing genuine gratitude for what they are given or for what they already have.
3. They Give Up When Things Get Difficult
Entitled teenagers do not show grit or perseverance and give up at the first sign of hard work. Because of their lack of effort, they are deprived of basic life skills and independence. They believe and expect things will be done and given to them simply because they deserve it.
This lack of trying could also be the result of low self-esteem and fear of making mistakes as it is easier not to try than to face failure.
4. They Focus on Material Possessions
Spoiled adolescents focus on material possessions to feel happy, and they typically complain about not having enough.
Instead of being grateful for what they have and for the relationships in their lives, self-involved individuals place value on what they own, how they look, and how expensive their possessions are.
Their self-worth is directly related to material goods. Therefore, unnecessary things become essential to them.
5. They Are Always Comparing Themselves to Others
Entitled teenagers feel jealous of what others have, do, or are recognized for. They have an “it’s not fair” attitude and believe their value lies in how they compare to others and what they have.
Spoiled teenagers become obsessed with social media as they compare their lives to others and as they seek constant praise and attention. Such a need for validation can be dangerous since it can lead to narcissism in adulthood.
6. They Avoid Responsibility
Entitled teenagers do not show any signs of ownership or personal responsibility. They tend to neglect chores, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities.
They seem detached and lack a sense of community and are usually unaware of what is needed to keep a home running or their grades in good standing.
7. They Are Disrespectful
Spoiled teenagers typically engage in temper tantrums, power struggles, and eye-rolling, and can sometimes become verbally abusive when they do not get what they want or when they feel unfairly singled out.
Additionally, entitled teenagers disrespect authority figures as they feel they know more than they do. This pattern of behavior can follow them into adulthood, leading to a poor work ethic and workplace misconduct, eventually leaving them unable to function in society.
8. They Have Bad Manners
Basic manners are non-existent in spoiled teenagers. Because they feel entitled to have all their needs fulfilled, they do not feel the need to say “please” or “thank you.”
Additionally, they take their parents’ unconditional love for granted and talk to them just as they would to one of their friends.
9. They Avoid Spending Quality Time with Family
Although research has shown that teenagers tend to “move increasingly away from parents and increasingly toward peers,” spoiled adolescents tend to show no connection or interest in their families.
Additionally, self-absorbed teenagers seem to prefer screen time over family connection and bonding.
10. They Exhibit Poor Performance at School, Activities, and Home
Because spoiled teenagers expect to have things done for them and to be essentially saved from hard work, they show low performance in their tasks in a variety of settings.
Lack of clear boundaries and expectations compounds the issue, leading teenagers to feel confused and detached from their activities and communities.
How to Help Your Teenager Break the Entitlement Cycle
Self-absorbed teenagers fail to show gratitude for what they have and what they are given. Help your child notice when a gift is given out of kindness and to acknowledge the effort, time, and value it took by the giver to gift them the item.
Start a daily gratitude practice by acknowledging what you have either by sharing it during mealtime or by encouraging your child to start a gratitude journal.
Remind yourself it is ok to say “no” to them. Not getting everything they want when they want it will allow your teenager to start appreciating things when they do come their way. You may get some push-back at first but stick with it and it will be worth it.
Encourage your child to contribute to household duties. Learning the hard work it takes to keep things running smoothly in your home will allow them to value the effort it takes.
Get involved in volunteer work. Seeing the hardships others endure will allow them to see life from a different perspective and help them further value what they have.
Remind your teenager of their inner value and beauty. Nurture their uniqueness so they do not resort to comparisons to others and external validation.
Additionally, remind them that what they see on social media is not real life. Adolescents need to understand that social media is only a snip-it of someone’s life and that it is usually an altered version of reality.
Moreover, never compare your child or yourself to anyone else. Be a good role model and show them you are content with who you are and what you have.
Empower Them to Work Hard
Teach your teenager the power of hard work. Help them set goals to achieve what they want and help them stay accountable. Encourage them to take on new hobbies or activities and reward them for reaching their milestones.
Express your pride in them for them sticking with difficult tasks as well as when they overcome an obstacle. Remind them that mistakes are how we learn and evolve.
Teach them essential life skills. They will feel empowered to be able to do things on their own and become independent. If they can do it themselves, let them!
Establish Expectations and Boundaries
Explain to your teenager what you expect and set boundaries accordingly. Have a discussion with them on what you expect from them at home, at school, etc. Tell them what type of behavior is unacceptable, what good behavior looks like, and inform them of the consequences of bad conduct.
Establishing clear communication with your teenager will avoid misunderstandings and power struggles.
Communicate specific consequences for each broken rule or crossed boundary. Ensure each consequence is fair and directly related to the behavior.
Enforce consequences and remove privileges as necessary. Be gentle, but firm. Do not offer empty threats. Make sure you follow through with their punishment, otherwise, you run the risk of your child losing respect for your boundaries and expectations.
For guidance on establishing consequences, take a look at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Additionally, allow for natural consequences. If they overslept and are late to school or miss the bus because they stayed up late playing video games, then they must suffer the consequences of their decision. Do not rescue them. Allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes.
Learning that there are consequences for their actions will allow your teenager to become a responsible adult.
Praise Good Behavior and Spend Quality Time with Them
Do not underestimate the power of praise. Express your appreciation for their help and let them know you are proud of their progress and accomplishments.
Be sure to point out the impact of their positive actions and encourage them to continue with their hard work.
Get involved in the things they enjoy. Join your teenager in their world without judgment and get to know them again to earn their trust.
Find an activity or hobby you can both enjoy and spend some one-on-one time with each other. Enjoying each other’s company will be the ultimate reward.
Although there may be a variety of reasons why your teenager may feel entitled to get what they want, it is important to know there are things you can do to correct their conduct. Dealing with spoiled behavior is never easy but catching it early and committing to helping your child is of utmost importance. Rectifying spoiled behavior in your teenager will save them from a lifetime of heartache and broken relationships.