If your teenager acts out when you say no, can’t be appreciative when they’re granted special privileges, constantly tells you what they “need”, argues when you give them a chore, and are not accountable for their actions, they are struggling with feelings of entitlement.
There is a way out of this, and it’s important that it happens before they turn 18. It’s not easy.
Our society is suffering from a lack of accountability. It is always somebody else’s fault. There is always an excuse. We see it in our politicians, we see it in the legal system, and we even see it in the way people drive.
That behavior is not sustainable as an adult. It will prevent your child from succeeding in a career, and it will certainly prevent them from having a fulfilling and loving partnership. Ask yourself what is more difficult 1) Making your child angry and resentful at you when you give a consequence until they catch on? 2) Creating an adult who can’t function and expects you to bail them out of their own consequences?
Parenting is difficult enough to navigate as a team with a set of parents who live together, but it is even more difficult co-parenting with someone who lives in another household. It becomes futile when that other parent is more interested in holding onto personal resentment toward the ex-spouse and being a buddy to the child, rather than choosing what will help the child grow into their potential. Every stressful situation is an opportunity for growth. Don’t help your child make excuses. That’s your own shame and embarrassment. Help them to grow. It’s not easy.
A counselor specializing in family therapy can help navigate this and be a neutral bystander to provide rules and expectations separate from conniving and manipulative behaviors that leave the child in the middle. Getting the other parent to join in this counseling may be far-fetched. If so, the next step is to use a mediator to change the frequency of visits to the other home. It’s not easy.
The Cell Phone
This is a luxury item; a privilege. No kid actually needs a cell phone. Treat it as a privilege so they don’t treat it as an entitlement. Take it away when they are disregarding your rules. Your kid just made it to their friend’s house and you need to know that? They can borrow a phone. Remember how there used to be a phone on the wall of every home? Now there is one in everyone’s pocket. Hey, can you please let my mom know that I’m here? Thanks.
Watch what happens when you take the cell phone. It’s actually quite miraculous. They emerge from their room. They have a discussion with you. They are more likely to join an adventure with you while being engaged. They go outside. They come to the kitchen while you cook. They also will get on your last nerves so that you wish they would just be quiet somewhere. Hand them a book. Learning a story, seeing how words are spelled, and how paragraphs are strung together, are important life skills. Reading comprehension will increase. Their future immediately shifts from repeating rhetoric, to educating themselves.
Use the phone as a carrot. You can have this after you… School nights the phone should not be in their bedrooms. They will stay on it all night and hamper their abilities the next day. They will get up in the morning, get on it, and then not have time for responsibilities: make the bed, clean up the room, eat breakfast, and brush teeth. You are helping them learn priorities, moderation and self-control.
Everyone feels bad when they know they have hurt somebody’s feelings. How they react to that is dependent on what they have learned from their parents. Teach your child to apologize so that the offended person can feel validation and move forward without resentment and distrust.
A child who cannot apologize turns into a gaslighting adult. Rather than admitting to the wrongdoing, they will create an excuse as to why the other person is upset, and it will not be their fault. The unaccountable adult will hurt your feelings and then deny what they did, accuse you of being over-sensitive, say they were joking, laugh and say you’re imagining things, or straight up tell you you’re crazy. That’s because nobody ever taught them that it’s ok to make mistakes. Kids need to be taught, without shame, that saying sorry and validating the hurt person actually makes the other person love and trust you more.
Steps to an Apology:
I’m sorry. That’s it. No other words to that sentence.
Own the mistake. I did…and I see how that was hurtful.
Describe what happened.
Create a plan for this situation in the future.
Giving the kid chores is not so that you have an extra person to help around the house. Teaching them chores, and annoying them until the chores are done, takes more time and aggravation than doing it one’s self. Chores are to teach a kid how to take part in a team. It teaches them how to participate in the family. It provides them habits that will transfer into them being a roommate and spouse who respects other people’s needs and community space. It teaches them that a car runs on regular maintenance, rather than just gas and a key in the ignition.
Begin small with a weekly task. Reward them for remembering to do it on their own. Do not thank them for doing the chore. Thank them for being part of the team. Example: When the phone dings with a new Snapchat, they open it and message back. They are capable of responding to a prompt. In that same way, when the car pulls in the driveway loaded with groceries, they come out to unload it. Give them a night to make dinner. It will be an utter mess, and you may have to clean up until they learn how to cook and then clean, but eventually they will. Dinner will be fun, and they will be proud of themselves.
Do not utter false praise just to make them feel good. They see through this. Tell them they did a good job when you see them work hard. If a task is difficult, and they give up instead of figuring out the problem, that is not a good job. It’s important they learn to ask for help to accomplish their task. It’s not ok to throw in the towel when things get hard and wait for someone to tell them how great they did and then finish the job for them. Dedication and endurance is praiseworthy.
I hear there is a time when happy, personally fulfilled, functioning young adults come back to their parents just to hang out and have a good time. This can only happen if parents set boundaries and guided their kids so that they could be successful in all of their relationships. It’s not easy.