How Entitlement Thinking is Destroying Your Kids and Their Future Success in Life

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC

There is a disease affecting almost every child in America, and it can’t be treated at any hospital. The disease is Entitlement Thinking and it crosses into every corner of our country with the attitude of being served and being given more and more to create happiness. Entitlement is the belief that someone automatically deserves special privileges and special treatment and can be identified by one or all of the following symptoms -

Signs of Entitlement Thinking: 
·         I want Everything now.
·         I don’t want to Work for it. 
·         I don’t have to clean up my Mistakes.
·         I want things because Everyone else has it. 
·         I expect someone else to Fix all my problems. 
Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer wrote this description of the disease in Psychology Today: “Those ‘afflicted’ with a sense of entitlement demonstrate the attitude that whatever they want, they deserve- and automatically at that, simply because they are who they are. So anything they desire, whether material or relational, should be theirs. It’s inherently justified; there’s no need to actually earn it.” We all want what we want-and we want to have it now, please. In our culture of plenty, immediate gratification is very much a reality. We can make our dreams come true on multiple levels.”
Are you beginning to see the picture? Children who are given too much, or who are protected from responsibility are actually blocked from experiencing the confidence that can only come from effort. No effort – no internal strength, so when a parent feels pity for a tired child and sends them to bed while they stay up and complete the child’s science project it actually hurts the child because they don’t learn anything; (except that their mom will rescue them if they don’t plan out their time for school projects properly).

While it is important to remember that Entitlement Thinking can affect any age, it is most visible in those under the age of twenty. Author Jon Krakauer describes it this way, “It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.”

No one wants to parent an Entitled Child, especially when they are at great risk of growing into an Entitled Adult living off of their parents for financial support. It’s embarrassing and difficult to break this pattern, that’s why it’s important to seriously address issues as young as possible, and to set and enforce boundaries that bring emotional strength instead of weakness.

Remember, it is not a sign of bad parenting to confront issues, set boundaries and use the word “no”. In fact it may save your child’s life at some point because they have learned the strength of having internal standards against the pressure of their peer group. Parents sometimes cave in because they want to become a friend to their child, instead of an authority source. Lisa Earle McLead, wrote about this process in her book “The Triangle of Truth” where she observes that, Childhood happiness has become the scorecard by which adults measure their success or failure as parents… Constantly striving to please your kids turns them into your boss. Their happiness becomes your performance review.” You are required to be the parent, and often that means setting the standard to bring strength, instead of being the buddy or pal.

Parent Coach Amy McCready from Raleigh, North Carolina is a national expert on the issues of breaking Entitlement Thinking. Here is her list as a reference point of what not to do if you want to see your children succeed in avoiding the entitlement trap. 
11 Ways to Raise a Child Who is Entitled and Rude
1.      Make sure your kids have access to all the latest iDevice’s anytime they want
2.      Do everything within your power to prevent your kids from feeling pain
3.      When things aren’t going your way, point to the shortcomings of other people
4.      Give them money whenever they ask for it
5.      Pay for as many enrichment activities, tutors, and the best sports teams you can afford
6.      Give your kids a break any time they ask to be excused from a task
7.      Refuse to consistently enforce bedtimes
8.      Confide in your kids as though they are your close friends
9.      Don’t insist kids write thank you notes
10.  Make sure they never have to do an entry-level or minimum wage job
11.  Above all, let them get out of doing any chores around the house

Do you see the absurdity of this type of parenting? While it sounds silly, there are millions of homes that operate under the mindset of protecting children from growing up by shielding them from taking on any type of adult responsibility. This doesn’t help a child – it only makes them weaker. Amy goes into this danger in her excellent book, “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic” where she says, “Entitlement isn’t just a problem in our homes; it’s a societal problem as well. Teachers and coaches report that students expect to get A’s for C effort and a starting position on the team just for showing up. When the test doesn’t go well, the “teacher doesn’t like me” or the “test was unfair.” Friendships and relationships suffer as kids with a “me, me, me” mentality lack empathy and a willingness to put others first. Employers struggle to hire teens and young adults with the people skills and work ethic to be successful. The bottom line is that entitled kids will one day grow into narcissistic adults, demanding spouses and high-maintenance employees. That’s certainly not what we want for our kids!”
She coaches and challenges parents to take bold action to break the pattern of entitlement thinking before it becomes epidemic. In traditional marriages, and especially blended families entitlement thinking shows up in a multitude of behaviors. Do any of these situations sound like what life in your home is like?

· You find yourself exasperated at your children’s demands but caving anyway.
· You’re exhausted keeping up with the house, but everyone’s too busy watching TV to help.
· You can’t make it through the grocery store without buying a treat.
· You’re frequently supplementing your kids’ allowance.
· You take responsibility for your kids by doing things for them that you know they should be able to do for themselves.
· You resort to bribes or rewards to get cooperation from your kids.
· You frequently rescue your kids by driving forgotten items to school or reminding them about their deadlines.
· Your child frequently takes issue with rules and expectations at school or in activities.
· Your child is quick to blame others for anything that goes wrong.
· Your child tries to manipulate others to get his way.
· Your child commonly sulks or pitches a fit when she doesn’t get her way.
· Your child often complains of being bored and wants to be entertained by you.

To learn more from Amy McCready and get free parenting tools, visit:

“Never do for a child what he can do for himself. A “dependent” child is a demanding child…Children become irresponsible only when we fail to give them opportunities to take on responsibility.” – Rudolf Dreikurs and Margaret Goldman
A significant part of success in the adult world is learning how to earn income based on effort, instead of on continual gifting where no effort or work on the part of the child is involved. Here are some essential truths to begin teaching your children to break this negative pattern and protect them from economic or financial hardship from not knowing how to earn and manage their finances wisely.

·         Money doesn’t come easily.
·         You need to have Compassion for others (developing world problems)
·         People work hard to earn money; it’s a necessary part of life for adults
·         If you want something, you need to work to earn it.
·         You are not entitled to things you haven’t earned.
·         Happiness does not come in having more money.
·         Responsibility for Actions: there are consequences and rewards for our financial behavior that can go on and create hardship for many years.

The disease of Entitlement Thinking is common in our culture, but devastating to relationships and even can block our spiritual connection to God. Listen to these words from Pastor Charles R. Swindoll, “I'm here today to warn you: I want you to watch out for the adversary. Guard yourself from any spirit of entitlement.” Or listen to this even more direct confrontation from Psychologist John Townsend, author of “The Entitlement Cure” who wrote; “While your child may be better in ability, she is no better intrinsically. In the eyes of God, she is no better than anyone else, as the Lord is no respecter of persons, (see Acts 10:34).  
So, what can a parent or grandparent do to break this dangerous process of Entitlement Thinking? There are five areas to develop and reinforce to move your child toward success instead of continually dependency on their parents. They are:

1. Attention – praise instead of compliment
“Instead of communicating "I love you, so let me make life easy for you," I decided that my message needed to be something more along these lines: "I love you. I believe in you. I know what you're capable of. So I'm going to make you work.” - Kay Wills Wyma

2. Affection, Gratitude and Affirmation

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”  - Brené Brown

3. Acceptance – you matter to God and you matter to me
“Humility is simply accepting the reality of who God is and who you are.” – John Townsend
4. Authority – in God instead of setting yourself up as a “god”

“Legalism breeds a sense of entitlement that turns us into complainers.” - Tullian Tchividjian, in “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”

5. Accountability – responsible to authority and rules, especially those of Scripture
God expects us to spend time and energy carrying our loads of responsibility for family, finances and other challenges. That’s how life works. - John Townsend

When you are able to build on these 5 “A’s” in the life of your son or daughter, you will be completely on track to guide a child into becoming an adult, which will give them success in life, while making you one of the unusual parents who cared enough to guide their child on a different path than others, but one that guarantees greater success and happiness because it is built on effort and hard work. John Townsend described it this way on the television show “FOX and Friends” last week, where he said, “The Hard Way is the entitlement cure. It is a path of behaviors and attitudes that undo the negative effects of entitlement, whether in ourselves or in others.”
You have more power to change than you realize and when you begin to read, think and perhaps even reach out for some counseling or coaching you can see tremendous change as you watch an entitled child become an empowered child on the path toward adulthood. They may not thank you now as you implement boundaries to build strength, but as King Solomon wrote so long ago in Proverbs 31:28, “They will rise up and call you blessed.” You know you need to make some changes, so step up - because it’s time to get started.

About the Author –

Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Author who founded the Lifeworks Group 32 years ago. This group is one of the oldest Christian counseling centers in Florida and has helped over 15,000 families find hope, help and healing. Access over 850 free Blogs and YouTube training videos designed to solve stress now by giving you and those you love to find greater strength at  

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