You probably know at least one person who’s entitled.
They’re so annoying, and difficult to collaborate with, aren’t they?
They think they’re better than everyone else. They believe that what they want is more important than what anyone else wants or needs.
Their rights are more important than anyone else’s rights. Their problems require more consideration and attention than anyone else’s.
They’ll step over anyone who gets in the way of what they think they deserve. And oh, they think they deserve it all: special treatment, promotions, and exemptions.
And yet, people who are entitled just think they deserve what they want without actually deserving it. They don’t work for it or display extraordinary abilities or talents.
They just think they’re “special”. They’re not actually better than anyone else. In fact, they may be underachievers compared to those who work hard but don’t expect or want any recognition.
If you know someone like this, you may wonder: How did they get this way?
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to know it has something to do with how they were raised, but it may surprise you to learn what exactly causes a child to become entitled. It’s not what you think! (It’s not just “spoiling” them by buying them everything they want.)
And the scary thing is, you may be doing it yourself with your kids, mistakenly thinking you’re being a good parent!
It all starts with understanding healthy family structures and roles:
Does this describe you?
Reading this, you may first have the response that this parental relationship is ideal.
After all, you feel close to your child and think it’s wonderful that you share such a strong bond. You look at other families where parents and children seem to be at odds with each other, and you like knowing that you and your child aren’t like that.
But there’s a big difference between being a loving, supportive parent to your child and blurring the boundaries of what’s healthy and functional.
According to Dr. Pat Love, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist of more than 50 years, and author of the best-selling book on parenting, Emotional Incest, a healthy and functional parenting style is one that’s hierarchical, NOT one in which you and your child are equals or best friends.
She explains it this way:
“We have more privileges as adults and we have more responsibilities.
Kids will fight for control, but they need YOU to be in control because a child who’s in charge and runs the family, who makes the decisions, who pleads and throws a tantrum or begs or connives or manipulates to get his or her way is an anxious child.
And an anxious child is one that grows up to have the characteristics more of entitlement instead of maturity.”
In other words, “We NEED to be the boss.”
But being in charge of your kids doesn’t mean being a dictator.
“Of course, you get their input. Of course you validate their feelings. But you make a decision on what’s best for their maturity, their protection, and what is going to enable this child to grow and develop in the most optimal way.”
According to Pat, that’s because a child who is treated as an equal or even as the boss of the family is trained to believe their wants and wishes are more important than anybody else’s. The hierarchical structure of the family is turned upside-down.
Here’s what she means:
Normal, functional family hierarchy in which children fare best is one in which parents make the decisions and are in charge. Parents should be in the highest, or “executive” tier of the family.
When hierarchy is turned upside down and children are the ones running things or making decisions, or are included in the highest tier as their parent’s best friend or equal, those children grow up to believe they’re very important—more important than anyone else.
This happens when you allow your child to decide on what and when to eat, what to do together as a family, what to watch on TV, or when to go to bed instead of YOU as the parent making those “executive” decisions based on what you know to be best for your child.
When children are allowed to indulge their whims and wants, they grow up to believe that their whims and wants are to be held in higher regard than anyone else’s, because that’s what they experienced growing up.
Whatever they want, they usually get, no matter if others have to put their needs aside.
“But that’s not how the world works,” says Pat. Our needs are not more important than anyone else’s and we don’t always deserve special treatment.
However, children who are treated as if their needs are the most important in the household DO think their needs supersede everyone else’s and often become indignant when asked to help others.
And isn’t that one of the more disagreeable symptoms of entitlement—an unwillingness or even a refusal to be helpful or have empathy with anyone else’s needs?
That’s concerning enough, but there’s also another reason why making your child your best friend is harming them in the long-run…
Another reason making your child your “buddy” is detrimental to them is because when you turn to your child for emotional support, companionship, or ego fulfillment (feeling worthy and important because your child succeeds or behaves) it becomes a heavy burden for a child.
It can lead to long-lastingnegative consequences: They can develop a sense of powerlessness and problems relating to their peers. They may act mature beyond their age.
Kids that act like “little adults” may seem “charming” to other adults but “weird” to their peers. That can result in them being outcast or having trouble maintaining close friendships from the time they’re children and even well into adulthood.
Kids need to socialize with siblings and peers to learn interpersonal and social skills, not with their parents. That’s why the next tier of hierarchy in a healthy and functional family is the sibling unit.
Brothers and sisters form a society of near-equals, depending on age. It’s a space where children learn verbal skills, conflict resolution, creativity, and play.
Bottom line: You can become best friends with your child when they’re adults, but while they’re kids, treating them like peers can create big problems for them growing up.
You may enjoy being “buddies” with your child, but if you’re letting them make decisions for the family, or treating them like THEY are the boss, or relying on them for companionship and emotional support, you’re not raising them with the skills and traits they’ll need to be respected, capable adults.
You’re harming their development and creating entitled, socially awkward adults!
After reading this, you may agree that you don’t want to accidentally do things as a parent that will make your child grow up to feel incapable or lacking a sense of meaning and purpose.
You certainly wouldn’t want your child to become the kind of adult that annoys others with their sense of entitlement and importance, either.
But as parents, we’re bound to make mistakes. It’s normal, and it happens.
We aren’t taught how to parent, we just go by our “gut” or repeat what we saw growing up. If we were our mom or dad’s “best friend” we think that’s what’s normal. If our parents did everything for us, we think that by doing everything for our kids we are being loving and supportive.
But hopefully when you learn the truth, you can give your kids the best start in life, even if up until now you’ve been doing things out of love that aren’t ideal for your kids.
That’s why we decided to turn to some of the world’s top experts and get their insights and advice on how to avoid the most common mistakes with parenting, and how to form healthier, more functional family structures.
When you subscribe to our free expert advice newsletter, you’ll get insights and tips about positive parenting from top parenting experts, all of whom have decades of real-world experience working with kids and parents delivered straight to your email inbox. Some of these experts have written best-selling books or have counseled thousands of parents in their career.
You’ll also learn:
As a parent, you wouldn’t dream of doing anything that would set your child back or create unnecessary challenges for them. Even when we think we’re doing what’s best, we may discover later that it was less than ideal, and that’s okay. We will all make mistakes sometimes.
It’s what we do after we learn a new and better way that really counts!