Link copied to clipboard

Most of us agree that children and teens these days are more obnoxious, bratty, spoiled, and entitled than ever before. Take one look at social media and you will see hundreds of comments about how disrespectful our children have become. If you Google the words “kids disrespectful”, thousands of articles and images come up confirming this long held belief that this generation of children is like no other.

But what if we’re all wrong? What if we are all making a big deal out of nothing? Are kids these days really that much worse than we were? Didn’t our grandparents think the same of our parents? What about the generations before that? Here’s an interesting quote I found while perusing the Internet. “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” Guess what? This was Socrates who lived 470 BCE to 399 BCE.

How can it be that parents felt the same way about kids thousands of years ago as we do today? Maybe, just maybe, it is normal. Call me crazy, but I actually take comfort in knowing that parents have faced the same struggles and dilemmas for thousands of years. Maybe we’re not such failures as parents after all. Maybe it’s really just part of being a kid to be disrespectful. Maybe all kids feel entitled and have bad manners. Is this part of their development? Something they need to go through to figure out who they are and how to be a successful adult? Perhaps we’ve just become too nit-picky as parents that we just care more about everything little thing our kids do? Perhaps we’ve gone too far and just have really unrealistic expectations of how kids should behave. Of course, no one really knows the answers to all of these questions, but it’s certainly worth pondering.

Here is what we do know. Nobody wants an obnoxious kid. Luckily, there are things you can do to ensure that yours isn’t.

  1. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. From the earliest age, children need to know that they cannot just do whatever they want. And they need you to set the guidelines and the boundaries. It’s not always easy, but it’s your job. Did you think parenting was supposed to be easy? It’s not, but you signed up for it, so do it well.
  2. Be a parent, not a friend. Your kids need friends, but it’s not supposed to be you. You need to be the authority figure, and don’t worry so much about upsetting your child or making sure they like you. Sometimes they won’t. Deal with it.
  3. Don’t over indulge your child. Don’t but them a Mercedes when they turn 16. Sometimes, make them save their own money to buy something they want. I’m all in favor of giving them nice things and going to nice places, but not all the time and not just because they want it. Make those moments the exception, not the rule, and make them special. A nice gift and/or meal for a birthday or holiday can be appropriate. But if it’s Mercedes, new iPhones and filet mignon all the time, your kids will be in for a rude awakening when they leave home and actually can’t have all of that whenever they want.
  4. Do not allow your child to be disrespectful to you or others. That means you call them out on it every single time, and have consequences for them doing so. Do not ignore this behavior or you are telling your child that it is acceptable, which it is not. Lying, talking back, rolling eyes, and breaking rules are all forms of disrespect.
  5. Make sure your child understands the difference between needs/rights and privileges. There are very few actual needs. Don’t be afraid to take away privileges when they haven’t been earned.
  6. Be consistent. Remind yourself that all of this will pass, and your job is to teach and guide your child into adulthood.

Most importantly, don’t dwell on the bad behavior. Do what you need to do, and then move on. Remind yourself that this is what children do, and it’s what they’ve done for thousands of years. It probably won’t change any time soon, so just hang in there. If you do this right, one day, your child will be all grown up and a light bulb will go off. He will remember everything you taught him, and be a respectful, productive and respectful adult.

Many feel that we are raising a generation of entitled children worse than ever before.  We give constant praise for mediocrity and fear damaging our children’s self-esteem if we are honest.  But have we gone too far?

Last week, one of my friends wrote on Facebook “my son just received a trophy for participating in a chess tournament that he didn’t participate in because he was sick”.  One reply said, “Next time, they will hand you a trophy when you sign up”.  This was my sentiment exactly.  What on earth were they thinking?  What message does this send our children?  I see only two possibilities: 1) they think they’re wonderful and great and are proud of themselves, even when it’s not indicated, or 2) they realize everyone who signs up gets a trophy, and therefore realize that it is completely meaningless.

Why are we so afraid to let our children fail sometimes, perhaps not be the best at everything?  In the real world, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, are good at some things and not at others.  This is NORMAL.  In my humble opinion, we are doing more damage than good.  Praise when praise is appropriate, for a job well done or even for a great effort.  But don’t tell your child that they’re good at everything, and it’s okay to tell them the truth when they’re not.  Nobody is the best at everything, and everyone needs to know how to face disappointment sometimes.

My son happens to be a great soccer player.  He plays on a competitive team, which is difficult to get chosen for.  But he’s not the best player on his team, and I make sure he knows it.  I think this motivates him.  I praise him when he plays well, makes a good play, has a great game, and the like, but I also let him know when he isn’t doing his best.  I recently said to him after a practice, “What happened today?  You didn’t look so good doing that drill.  I think you need to practice that.”  He replied, “Stop it, Mom, that makes me feel bad.”  I then said, “Oh, I don’t mean to make you feel bad, rather I’m hoping you will work harder.  But you don’t really want me to be that mom who tells you that you look great all the time, even when you really don’t, do you?”  And I was so proud when he said, “No”.

Here are a few tips to help ensure your kids won’t feel entitled:


1)   Praise only when praise is deserved, when your child has done something above and beyond the expectations, or something extremely challenging for them

2)   Be kindly honest when your child has fallen short or needs to work harder

3)   Point out BOTH your child’s strengths AND weaknesses regularly

4)   Don’t interfere with coaches and teachers.  Let your child sit on the bench, if that’s what the coach wants, or play a different position than where you’d like to see him.  Let your child get the grade he earned.

5)   Don’t give your child everything he/she wants.  Make them wait for a special occasion, earn it with chores, or by saving their own money

No matter how old your child is – anywhere from two to twenty-two – if you are doing for him what he could do for himself you are enabling a dependent state of mind. The child who feels dependent can seem anxious and whiney. He may be demanding. He often acts lazy and thoughtless. Being dependent is not a happy condition for him … or for you. Luckily, with a few simple steps, you can change your dependent child into someone who feels capable and strong. Here’s how.

Two people have to change – your child and you. Depending on the age of your child and how long this has been going on, your job of replacing old habits with new ones might be simple or more challenging.  But this change happens just one day at a time, even one event at a time.

The key is to start being less available and less accommodating while at the same time being your very nicest self. It’s also important to be consistent. You can certainly step in when there’s a real emergency but the more consistent you can be with a new approach the easier it will be for your child and for you to make a new habit. Here are some strategies to try.

For your child:

Meet requests for help with a question. Instead of just responding with the requested help, ask a question that encourages the child to perform on her own. For example, if your four-year-old wants help to put on her coat, say, “Here’s your coat! Which arm goes into which sleeve, do you think?” If your child insists that you drive him a short distance to play at a friend’s house, and you think he could walk instead, ask “I wonder how many steps it is to Brian’s house?” or “I wonder how quickly you could walk there…” and suggest he walk and then report back.

Be pleasant and supportive. It’s tempting to try to hurry things along by telling your child he’s a big boy now or that he’s acting like a baby. This isn’t very encouraging to any kid and it’s also not fair. Remember you’ve created this little dependent person. Calling him names now or acting mean is blaming him for your own misguided actions. Instead, be as pleasant and supportive as you can be. Sympathize when he tells you it’s too hard or he doesn’t know how. Let him know you have confidence in his abilities.

Act as a scaffold. If you’ve been doing a lot for your child you might discover that she truly doesn’t know how to do some of the things you think she should know. But instead of stepping in again to do it for her, take the time to show her how to do the task herself. If the task is complicated, you might scaffold it by doing the hardest parts and letting her do the easier ones. So if your thirteen-year-old asks you do iron her shirt, say, “Let’s do it together.”

Trust your child’s instincts. If your child thinks he can, he probably can. Let him try. This is often the hardest part – knowing when to step back and watch. You could do whatever it is so much more quickly and easily and maybe more successfully. But your child will probably do well enough and will learn and grow by trying. Recently my son offered to help his three-year-old snap some Lego together. She said, “No. I want to do it myself.” Dad wisely backed off and, yes, she did it!

For yourself:

You are the second half of the equation. Changing your child’s habit of relying on you is just part of the work. If you hover because you have time to hover, get busier. While your world might indeed revolve around your children, make sure that you don’t seem to them to be living in their shadow. Don’t always be at their beck and call.

If you do things for your child because it’s quicker and simpler, slow down. Factor in the time it takes your preschooler to get her shoes on all by herself. She will get faster with practice. Yes, you’re busy and, yes, children are slower than you would be at just about everything. But taking the time to help them learn to be more self-reliant is part of your job as a parent. Slow down enough to do just that.

If you hover because you’re anxious for a perfect outcome, work on taking the long view. Just as children are not very fast, they also are not so perfect. Naturally, they make mistakes. But imperfectly done-all-by-myself is almost always more satisfying to a child than perfectly done-by-Mom-while-I-just-watched, especially if you haven’t made perfection the standard in your household. Let your children grow into their abilities by letting them try. Abandon “perfect.”

Helping children become more confident and competent is joyous work. It’s far more fun than doing everything for them every moment of the day. If you’ve been enabling dependency, now is the time to kick back a bit and have a good time together.


© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.