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6 Signs You’re Raising Irresponsible, Entitled Kids

In a society so concerned with building self-esteem, we often get it completely backwards.

You don’t build self-esteem by praise and flattery. This actually breeds entitlement and selfishness. Instead, self-esteem is built by teaching responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. [Tweet this.]

This thought, as well as those that follow, were shared recently by Colleen Hoffman at a ladies small group meeting. I am so thankful for her wisdom and the fact that she is allowing me to share it with you through this post. In her lesson, she referenced the article “What Really Happens When We Give Kids Everything They Want,” and the warning signs found below are derived from that article. Please check it out – it’s fantastic.

What we have to realize is that teaching responsibility begins at home. It is our responsibility to teach our kids to be responsible. And while we’d all like to think we’re doing a great job, there are some common pitfalls we need to be aware of.

6 Signs You're Raising Irresponsible, Entitled Kids

6 Signs You’re Raising Irresponsible, Entitled Kids

  1. You always give them what they want when they want it. This is very dangerous and has devastating consequences. Children who always get what they want start to believe that they deserve everything they want. That they are entitled to it and shouldn’t have to work for it. How are they going to learn the value of delayed gratification if they never experience the thrill of waiting and working for something?

  2. You want them to have the life you didn’t. Lots of us grew up in less-than-affluent homes. And maybe now that we have experienced some financial success we want to give our kids all the things our parents couldn’t afford. But when we constantly lavish extravagant gifts on them, they stop appreciating the small things. In fact, they often stop even appreciating the big things. In the end, our kids need the gift of learning gratitude and responsibility more than they need iPods, cars, lavish parties, and perfect wardrobes.

  3. You’re afraid to say no. Sometimes we’re afraid to say no to our kids because we’re afraid of the backlash. When they’re young, we’re afraid they’ll throw a temper fit in the store (ah, I’ve already experienced this one!). And when they’re old, we’re afraid they’ll sulk or rebel or think we don’t love them. But we cannot allow our fear to keep us from doing what is best for them – and sometimes that’s saying no.

  4. You want them to fit in with their peers because you’re afraid they’ll be different. We cannot try to keep up with the Jones’s – and make sure our kids keep up with the Jones’s kids. Are we buying them things so that they can impress others? So that they’ll fit in? So that we can feel good about ourselves? We really need to check our motives in this. Fitting in is not the goal. Raising responsible kids who will shine amongst their irresponsible peers should be.

  5. You feel it’s easier to just give in. When we give in and just give our kids what they’re begging for – or stop making them do the chores they’re whining about – we teach them a dangerous lesson. We teach them that if they whine and complain enough, we’ll give in. It might be easier in this moment, but it will not be easier in the long run.

  6. You want to protect them from failure. When we always bail them out and insulate them from their own failure, we teach a pattern of irresponsibility. How can they learn from their mistakes and poor decisions if they never experience the natural consequences? So maybe next time they forget their homework we shouldn’t be so fast to run home and get it for them. Maybe they’re better off suffering the small consequences now instead of the large consequences that will result from their still being irresponsible when they enter college and the workforce.

So how do we teach our kids to be responsible? We need to shift the responsibility to our kids.

We need to stop making it our responsibility to clean up their toys, make their bed, and ensure they have everything they need for school. These things need to become their responsibilities. Instead of yelling, begging, threatening, and nagging, we need to simply give consequences when needed. Here’s the plan….

How to Teach our Kids Responsibility

  1. Have a plan. Let’s say our teenager struggles with being ready to leave on time. Have a plan and clearly explain it. “If you are not downstairs ready to go by 7:15, you will have ____ as a consequence.”

  2. Follow through consistently. Once the plan is in place, follow through. If they’re not downstairs by 7:15, the consequences must go into effect.

  3.  No nagging, threats, or yelling. We’re trying to make it their responsibility, so no nagging and no threats. If they forget, we won’t yell. We’ll simply administer the consequences.

  4. Don’t rescue repeat offenders. The first time they’re running late and forget their lunch maybe we should have some mercy and run back and get it. But if it keeps happening, we need to stop rescuing them.

  5. Remain unemotional. If they argue and complain, don’t get hooked. You are doing what is best for them – even if they may not understand.

  6. Show empathy not anger. Refrain from spiteful comments like, “Too bad you forgot your lunch! If you would’ve gotten your lazy tush out of bed earlier, you would’ve had time to go through your checklist.” A sympathetic comment will go much further while still enforcing the lesson. Try “I understand you are sad that you won’t have your lunch today. Next time you need to get up on time so that you’ll be more clear-headed and able to remember it.”

Check out more thoughts from Colleen in the post “How to Cultivate Your Child’s Heart.

What is your biggest struggle in teaching responsibility? What lessons have you learned? Share your experience and advice with a comment below.

Photo by Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca

What to Read Next
  • As a kid, I agree with the tips, but not with the insinuation the title gives as it being the child’s fault for being irresponsible. It honestly makes me pissed off, the title. “Tips on how to make sure your kid grows responsible and signs that they arent” would be more important. I dont know if anyone else is reading it how I’m reading it, but it makes a kid feel like everything is their fault, like many parents seem to do from what I’ve seen.

    • I think the title is assigning blame to parents with the words, “you’re raising.” It would be truer to your understanding if the title was written “6 Signs Your Kid Is Irresponsible” which puts blame totally on the kid and leaves out parent responsibiltiy. The title I listed makes it seem like a kid is just naturally irresponsible, but that’s not true. In the original title, parents would see “raising” as a responsibility of the parent, not of the kid.

      • I firmly believe the responsibility IS on the parent. Yes, the child has his/her own free will and must make his/her own decisions. But it is absolutely up to the parent to train their child to be responsible. That’s the goal: to train the child to the point where they are responsible on their own – then it is their responsibility as they move into adulthood.

      • Parents are raising these types of kids by their actions. The parent should have the control and teach their kids how to be independent adults. A kid just doesn’t wake up irresponsible, someone has allowed them to emerge into an individual who doesn’t “own” their behavior, words, and actions. Inconsistency in expectations, rescuing, and doing it for your kid allows kids to be irresponsible.

    • You missed that rule as well. We can’t feel for our children. Parenting is not about feelings, yours or the child it is about learning, growing, and taking responsibility for your actions and life.

    • Agreed being a mother of three I would say my eldest would think the same way and the title you suggested is a better one.

    • I practically never submit feedback on weblogs, but I like to say I appreciate studying this website. Typical I weblog about psychological illnees, like ADHD.

  • I wish my husband shared this view of parenting with me. Disciplining is the biggest source of our arguments – but he feels he’s doing such a great job, he doesn’t listen to me and throws in my face that I’m such a “perfect parent.” I certainly am not, but I’m learning as I go to become better.

  • I agree with LInda, the parents have the responsibility to teach their child or children responsibility . If ground rules are not laid dow
    n the child does not understand the consequences of their actions.

  • I love this article! It is absolutely true. In order for us to raise our children we have to let them learn these important lessons. I think it’s better to teach them this when they are younger rather than when they move out and are completely on their own. We have to remember we are raising men and women. I would to baby my kids but it’s only for selfish reasons. Babying a child too much will only hurt them in the long run. Great article!

    • My ghoughts exactly! Giving them choices from, as young as a parent can, teaches them how to make good choices by their own account. Telling children often what to do with the “or else” power struggle words just makes parenting millions times harder and more heartbreaking as it all escalates. We as parents (I believe) want to raise children who become teenagers to make the better choice when given them. Ei: toddler wants the whole bag of say oreos and is ready to meltdown, I recognize their feelings, by saying I hear that you want the entire bag but that is not one of your choices, then give them 2 simple choices to choose from. Choice 1 is I can allow you xyz amount now or choice 2 is none. Make sure they are focused on your face, especially eyes, as then you know they are at least listening and trying to make an informative choice. Goal here is that when offered undesirable choices as a pre-teen/teenager they have the power to make their own informed choice. Ei: friends offer your child a cigarette, and they have been instilled with all these years of making choices and having experienced natural consequences when their choice wasn’t the best decision, so they decline the offer and feel empowered enough to not careif they “fit in”or not. Hope this makes sense. Sometimes getting this “choices” idea across through words is difficult. I saw the best video about it a few years ago, but of course for the life of me cannot remember the title.

  • This is a good article! Thanks. I appreciate the last one, which I think illustrates that it’s not a matter of praise and empathy versus boundaries. The 2 can co-exist. As a preschool teacher, I contrast 2 students who both struggle with respect for authority. I handle them differently because one seems to be afraid of me, while the other simply has no regard for me. The first one needs a whole lot more of my empathy, to which she responds well. The other one needs me to put my foot down, to which he responds when he realizes he needs to own his own behavior. I’m still learning this, so thanks for sharing!

  • Making them responsible also includes teaching them to make choices and accept consequences for those choices…..such as a child that wants to go outside, but doesn’t want to put on their shoes, boots, etc……Tell them it is their choice to #1 out their shoes on and go outside, or #2 don’t out your shoes on and stay inside….you decide. This ends the fighting, the parent us off the hook, and it puts responsibility back in the lap if your child. Children can understand this at a very, very early age.

  • I have been trying to explain this to my friend for sk long ! It’s really a parents responsibility to raise positive responsible additions to society! I am always riding the line with this but we cannot give in to every wimb and MUST issue consequences.

  • I agree whole heartedly with this article. I don’t agree with the comment left, that the parent is “blaming” the child.
    I have raised an entitled daughter, who is 27 now. I worried about her learning disabilities and felt guilty that I was a single parent and somehow she was cheated. She believes that the world is cruel, she is picked on and its supposed to be easy.
    I am now raising my grandchild. Coddling a child doesn’t help them feel successful, or let them discover their abilities and allow them to feel independence. Then they develop and self esteem follows.
    I wish I had read this article 27 years ago, it might have helped lesson my years of heartache!

  • Oh I remember those days! My kids were late catching the school bus. I told them I would cut them some slack and bring them once. After that, if they were late, I would drive them when I was ready and they would have to walk in class late in front of all their friends. They didn’t miss the bus after that lol!

  • This is a struggle in our home. I try to teach all of the children how to be responsible, but my wife steps in and pretty much erases everything I have accomplished in one swift motion. She spoils the oldest the most. We are a blended family, and I don’t want my stepson (the oldest) to turn out like his biological father (incarcerated) because he doesn’t have the skills necessary to navigate adult life. For example, the oldest child does nothing around the house. I mean nothing. He doesn’t even talk to us unless he wants something or needs to go somewhere. Yet, in the past six months, my wife has shelled out: $750 for a new phone for him, $50 for the case; $300 for under armour clothing for baseball, along with a $100 bat; gives him money on numerous occasions, and, just last night, bought him a workout DVD set because he said he “needed” it. She’s even gone to say that when we move into our new home (within the next month) that she is buying him a bigger bed and possibly giving him the $500 corner desk we just purchased for ourselves. I have immense difficulty grasping where she is coming from, since she is the one always harping on me to “treat the kids equally”. It’s gotten to the point where I have just given up. It’s too hard to stand alone when the one person who is supposed to stand by you abandons you at your time of need.

    • That’s tough. You have to be on the same page as your spouse if you’re going to make progress. Can I recommend Kevin Leman’s podcast Have a New Kid by Friday? Maybe ask her if she’d listen to it with you so you could discuss your thoughts.

  • I agree with this article a 100% sometimes as a parent you should hide your emotions and raise your kids to be responsible, respectable adults. Some parents are too easy on their children.

  • What is the matter with yelling at your kids? I got yelled at when I was growing up, and you know whT hsppened to me when I got my first job and my boss yelled at me when I did something stupid? I got yelled at! And it didnt even bother me. I yell at my kids when they do somethi g stupid because I know that when they get out into that cold, harsh, cruel world, getting yelled at wont be such a big deal. I worked with men and women who did not get yelled at growing up and when they did something wrong, and they ALL got offended, some even cried like babies! I felt sorry for them! I dont want that for my kids. So yelling every once in awhile is okay, just as long as your words arent condescending, rude, and abusive. And yes, you can yell without being rude, condescending, and abusive.

  • I agree. Giving into children will not. lower their self-esteem. We confuse providing needs with wants way too often. No, is ok. As adults we hear it all the time, kids need to learn to handle that word. And it’s usually to protect them, not to harm.

  • Thank you so much, I am a grandmother and I see my grandchildren getting expensive items that their parents really can’t afford, the other grandparents can and do, it makes it difficult for me and there parents because they expect the brand name. I will forward this advice to the parents and grandparents. Thank you again. God Bless.

  • I agree with every single word in this article. I am a product of this. Both our parents spoiled us all 3 siblings. We all grew up irresponsible and entitled. Especially our eldest brother because he is the favorite child. We suffer the consequences of this wrong up bringing. But me (the youngest) and my other brother (the middle child) realized so much so we did a lot of things to change and break wrong mindsets and attitude. But unfortunately for our eldest brother never learned up until now

  • I agree, except for #2. My husband and I have worked very hard in life (college, career, smart financial planning, etc…) and we feel that if we can afford extra things that are within the age appropriateness for our kids, we go for it. Our kids are 5 & 7, and we enjoy doing extra things such as skiing, private sports lessons and big vacations. Usually the things we indulge in are not things, but experiences, that will help them out in life, as well as are fun and we all enjoy. We are not one bit ashamed that we indulge our family in ‘extravagant’ experiences, yet both of our parents think we are crazy and are kids will grow up entitled. These are things our parents would have NEVER done for us as kids. Either way, we always have fun, and great lifetime memories!

  • I fall in the category of parent who want to give his child a life which I could not get when I was a child, So I buy him the things he wants easily. But now I feel that he does not care or respect about what he gets. Should I stop him giving everything easily?

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