entitled teenager - how to deal with

Entitled Teenagers – How to Deal with Them Effectively

Are you frustrated with your teenager’s attitude? Is it all demands and no appreciation? If you’re wondering how to deal with an entitled teenager, you’re not alone!

Despite the years of teaching them how to say thank you, you can still end up battling entitlement. Even so, don’t give up hope! It’s not too late to turn around an ungrateful teenager. 

Signs Of An Entitled Teenager

An entitled teenager is confused about what’s deserved, what’s earned, and what’s a gift. They are unwilling to help others or accept personal responsibility for themselves. Entitled teens have high demands of everyone but themselves.

Entitlement is a feeling your child may have but is very unlikely to express directly. Therefore, it’s up to you to determine if you think your teen has a sense of entitlement.  Here are five signs that may indicate you have an entitled child.

  • They can’t handle being told “no.” They melt down, pout, or put a battle every time you turn down a request. An immediate “yes” is the only way to avoid a battle.
  • They show no signs of sincere gratitude. Why should they be grateful for what they believe they are “owed”? You’re lucky to hear a forced “thanks.” An ungrateful teen is a sign of an entitled teen.
  • They have a long list of never-ending demands. If you don’t expect to walk through a store without getting barraged with demands for nearly everything you walk by, you probably have an entitled teenager.
  • They’ve got a “no can do” attitude. Make their own sandwich themselves? Pick up their room? It’s asking too much.
  • They’re constantly comparing.  And it’s nearly always “not fair.” They’re not afraid to ask for the best and the first.

If three or more of these sound like your kid, you are dealing an entitled teenager. Being entitled will not serve them or you well, so it’s important to help your child grow out of this attitude.

How To Fix Entitled Behavior

The very first step towards successfully fighting entitlement is looking into what may be driving the behavior. Usually, there is some misinformation or false beliefs driving the feelings that are feeding the entitled attitudes and behaviors. In addition, teenagers are developmentally inclined to be more wrapped up in themselves.

As far as false beliefs, it could be that they have bought into the message that their value is based on what they own and how they look. If your sense of personal worth is on the line, non-essentials can start to look like essentials. Those $100 jeans aren’t just expensive stuff, getting them becomes tied to how loved and lovable you believe you are.

Feeling unequipped or unable to get what you want or need can drive entitled behavior. If you think that the only way you can get those jeans is to demand them, that’s what you’re going to do.

Developmentally, the science shows that teenage brains begin to revolve more intensely around self as they begin preparing for independence.

Consequently, teens need extra help during this time to think about others and empathize. Chances are that they are not thinking about how much work or money someone else spent to give them something.

3 Tools For Battling Entitlement

It seems like entitlement is all around us, especially among teenagers. You can’t be complacent if you want your teen to break free from entitlement. It requires effort and intention.

image of entitled teenager

1. Teach Your Teen Gratitude

The number one enemy of entitlement is gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just being thankful or appreciative, but also recognizing the effort of the giver. Explicitly teaching your self-focused teen how to be grateful will help them develop gratitude more quickly and fully.

  1. Identify a gift when it comes. This means being able to tell the difference between what’s owed, what’s earned, and what’s given as an act of kindness. If you didn’t earn it and no one owes you, it’s a gift.
  2. Appreciate what you have. This means considering the worth & value of what was given. When I was in High School, I worked an entire summer 40 hours a week to buy boom box. Unfortunately, I was underpaid and that boom box was overpriced, but I knew full well what that boom box cost.
  3. Recognize the kindness of the giver. Someone had to work and pay and be thoughtful of the recipient – when giving the gift.

2. Fight Comparison

Pay the extra $2 a month for commercial-free Hulu.
Get rid of magazines.
Set time limits or ditch social media altogether.

Help them interpret what they’re seeing. Remind them that all of these things are meant to sell, even their friend on social media is selling something – “I’ve got it all together” or “You should admire me.” These are all half-stories at best, but more often outright lies.

Never compare your teen to others. Conversely, do remind your teen that their value is in who they are and not in what they have or how they compare to someone else.

3. Empower Them to Get Things for Themselves

Does your teen struggle with understanding that getting things requires effort? Let them work for it and find out for themselves. One of the best things I ever read about parenting is to “Never do for a child what they can do for themselves.” Personally, I wouldn’t recommend “never”, but do it rarely enough that they appreciate it when you do.

Entitlement: A Biblical Perspective

God doesn’t give because we demand or deserve any good gift. God gives because He is generous (James 1:17) and loving. Remind your teenager of the goodness, kindness, and generosity of God and demonstrate your own gratitude towards Him.

One of my favorite scriptures about gratitude is Psalm 103. Verses 2-5 say (ERV)

My soul, praise the Lord
    and never forget how kind he is!
He forgives all our sins
    and heals all our sicknesses.
He saves us from the grave,
    and he gives us love and compassion.
He gives us plenty of good things.

Remind your teen that their value is in who God says they are – not in what they have or how they compare to someone else. Build up their identity in God’s word.

Encourage your teen and tell them that they are:

designed with creativity and wonder (Psalm 139:14)
loved deeply and profoundly (Romans 8:38-39)
made uniquely and have a special purpose (I Corinthians 12)

Final Thoughts on How to Deal with An Entitled Teeanger

Entitlement can be a tough attitude to turn around. Until their brains develop more fully (sometime in their twenties). expect to continue battling entitlement. Nevertheless, try to be patient with your teenager.

If you are working with foster youth or alumni, keep in mind they’re often feeling an extraordinary amount of dis-empowerment and devaluation. In addition, whatever trauma they’ve faced impacts their attitude as well. Be extra patient and careful not to tie any kindness to a demand.

Finally, be patient and kind with yourself. Entitlement is difficult to stomach and it takes time to steer that ugly ship back in the right direction. You are bound to make mistakes and you navigate how to deal with an entitled teenager. If you make mistakes, apologize, and keep working at it. It’s worth the effort.

​One purpose of this blog is to help parents of teens navigate the challenges of preparing their children to be successful independent adults. The mission of Finally Family Homes is to provide the same kind of support for those teens who don’t have a family or home to help them transition into adulthood.

If you’d like to know more about helping your teen succeed in life, check out:

5 Tips for Dealing with a Lying Teenager

How to Deal With Pressure in Life

Help your Teen to Move Out on Their Own Successfully

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  1. Great article. It saddens me that we have to deal with entitlement so much and how our kids and teens are learning it. “Back in the day”…our grandparents era, entitlement was unheard of. In culture today, I fear we have let the good and wholesome parts of our pedigree fall from our family trees. Like work ethics, social manners…common courtesy.

    1. Entitlement really does center around what someone comes to believe is a reasonable expectation. I think as a culture we’ve begun to do a dance around making sure no one feels any uncomfortable emotions, even if it costs them the opportunity to build character or learn from mistakes. I think if we work to raise this next generation to understand that having things takes hard work, that they can learn from failure, they can handle disappointment and get through difficult feelings – we could have a hardier, more resilient, and actually happier culture.

      And it shouldn’t go without being said, that the Christian community needs to break away from following the mainstream in choosing money over people, judgement over grace, and selfishness over love. Then we can more powerfully influence those around us with kindness, self-control, and goodness.

    2. I was talking to a woman working at Walmart who was telling me that her 17 year old daughter was demanding that she buy her a new laptop and she wanted it immediately, not two months away at her birthday. I asked her if her daughter could get a part-time job to earn her own money like I did at her age (and I didn’t tell her this but my mother worked at a much higher paying job so it wasn’t necessary. I was just expected to work.) She replied, “Oh no, she won’t do that.” So this teenage girl is too good to work but she has to have a new laptop right now. And her mother didn’t see a problem with that! My sister raised her daughters similarly. Any time they wanted anything (travel to Europe, cars, shopping, parties), just ask their grandfather for money. Teenagers are being raised to be so entitled and lazy, I fear for the future of this country.

  2. This is so good! I’ve been talking a lot about the comparison issue with my daughter, including taking away her social media so she can STOP thinking everyone’s life is better than hers.

    1. Thanks Jessica. 🙂
      Comparison really is a thief! And nearly everyone on social media is selling something – even if it’s just the illusion that their life is better than it actually is. I think for youth on social media it takes a lot of discussion and help interpreting these things bc they can come across as authentic. I hope things get better with the comparison… it’s a life long struggle for me.

  3. I would have preferred to have average parents that did their job as parents to meet the needs of their family. Some of the ethnic groups from various countries have a problem in being less responsible for providing adequate food, shelter, and clothing for their children. How do I know this because I belong to that particular group and never felt entitled except to have what every normal child wants to be brought up with enough food, shelter, and continue their education instead of being manipulated to quit high school to help support the parents?

    1. Hi Angela,

      Thank you for sharing so authentically. I wish you had been better provided for, too. I hope you are able to continue your education now!

      Blessings to you.

  4. When I was growing up, I was raised in a middle class family and by the time my siblings and I were 15 or so, we were expected to start working after school and during the summers. It taught us responsibility. We were expected to pay for some of our own expenses. That taught us financial management. We were also always responsible for all of the household chores because our parents worked and paid the bills. When I was 8 years old I learned how to scrub the bathroom. We all knew how how to mop, dust, vacuum, etc. These days, teenagers aren’t even given chores. Kids are overindulged with multiple expensive extracurricular sports activities so their parents are expected to be their constant chauffeurs and children never learn social interaction through basic play, teenagers demand expensive electronics but are above working and expect their wants to be met throughout the year rather than at birthdays and Christmas like we used to, and parents regularly live on credit and above their means to keep up with what all the other families are getting. I watched my sister raise 3 girls to be spoiled, entitled narcissists constantly asking a relative for money instead of working so that they could indulge themselves. They are all in their 20’s and have never worked. That says it all.

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