Entitled and spoiled are two adjectives thrown around a lot about this generation of teenagers and young adults. This often comes from smothering your children with love and kindness, without setting boundaries. We often hear about this when parents think they can be best friends with their children and fail to set any boundaries or enforce any consequences.
In his book 21 Days to a Happier Family, Dr Justin Coulson interviews a mother who admits to being permissive and indulgent. The biggest challenge she describes is when her children don’t recognise the boundaries and she snaps, going to the other extreme and turning into a hard-core, authoritarian parent.
Some say there is a need for “tough love” in parenting these days. At the extreme, parents who give their children everything they want can end up almost under siege as a result of that sense of entitlement. In the Sydney Morning Herald story ‘She terrorises us’: How entitled children are making their parents’ lives hell, parents speak about sons smashing windows in anger when they’re asked to stop playing computer games. There are even incidents of teenagers holding knives to their mother’s throats, or threatening to kill themselves.
“It’s the end result of giving kids everything they want,” psychologist Judith Locke explains. Kids who grow up expecting attention and success are so accustomed to getting what they want that they don’t know how to cope when they don’t.
Dr Coulson encourages parents to actively allow and encourage children to make their own decisions in a parenting style he describes as autonomy-supportive parenting. He summarises the parenting style as:
- Giving children a clear reason for requests
- Recognising the child’s perspective and feelings
- Offering choices to encourage initiative and problem solving
- Minimising the use of controlling techniques.
This shows the parents are still involved and expressing their love for their children, but they are not alienating them by being completely in control. When it comes to decisions about drugs or anti-social behaviour in teenagers, both parents who make demands and those who shrug their shoulders can end up with less-than-ideal outcomes. That’s when expectations and a shared approach to problem solving are most important.
So take the time to think about your approach. You don’t want to be one of those parents who dreads when your children grow up and become independent teens.
Dr Coulson was guest speaker at our Boarding School Expo events in 2015. You can read more on his Happy Families website.
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