Takeaway: As a parent, you might not always be proud of your teen’s behavior. But does this mean you’ve raised a spoiled teenager? If so, is there anything you can do about it? I often hear these questions (and similar ones) from the parents I work with. Here, I break down 10 signs of a spoiled teenager and offer tangible strategies to help you shift their behavior.
One of the most common frustrations for parents of teenagers is dealing with signs of ungratefulness, entitlement, and self-centeredness in their teens. Managing the demands of parenting a teenager becomes even more challenging when faced with a spoiled teenager who exhibits unappreciative behavior. At times, parents may not be aware that their teenager is spoiled, as they focus on addressing their teen's coldness, attitude, and lack of expectations to work hard for anything.
This situation often leads parents to question how their teenager became spoiled and what actions can be taken to reverse these spoiled teenager symptoms. Parents frequently find themselves confused about why their teenager is spoiled and how to deal with their spoiled teenager effectively. Distinguishing between normal teenhood stages and problematic signs of spoiledness can be challenging. A spoiled teen can really hinder the parent child relationship where it leaves little to no connection.
In this blog, I will explore the factors that contribute to a teenager becoming spoiled, identify signs of a spoiled teenager, and provide guidance on dealing with such behavior.
What causes a spoiled child or teen?
Most teenagers go through a developmental phase where they are ego-centric, entitled, and only think of themselves. The teenage brain fully develops between 23-25 years old. Due to your teenager’s developing brain, they are figuring out how to voice their opinions, wants, needs, and show gratitude. Teens struggle with being grateful and having appropriate social skills to grow deeper in relationships. Adolescence is a crucial time to teach your child and preteen how to show thankfulness, respect boundaries, build perseverance, and develop healthy social skills.
Here are some potential contributing factors to entitled and spoiled behavior in teens:
UNGRATEFUL TOWARDS OWN CHILDREN
One cause of spoiled teenagers is parents not focusing on manners and appropriate social skills with their children. Parents choose not to be intentional in demonstrating gratitude to their own children and to others around them. Children keenly observe their parents’ habits, behaviors, and interactions. It’s hard to expect your children to have manners and not be spoiled if the parents themselves are spoiled and exhibit bad manners.
A common theme I observe in cases where teenagers are spoiled is parents parenting out of guilt. Parents feel guilty, whether consciously or not, for not providing the attention and love their teenager needs. In response, parents overcompensate by buying and offering gifts, possessions, and focusing on materialism instead of prioritizing quality time, connection, and making memories and experiences together.
In the parent’s mind, constantly offering gifts can alleviate the guilt of choosing not to spend as much time or energy building an emotional connection with their teenager. It takes less time and effort to hand over a new phone than it does to go for a walk with your child to discuss how they are doing after a friendship breakup. This pattern leads to teenagers developing a sense of being spoiled because they come to expect gifts and possessions from an uninvolved parent.
“I DON'T WANT MY KIDS TO HAVE IT HARD LIKE I DID” MINDSET
As a parent coach, I’ve encountered parents with an ‘I don’t want my kids to have it hard like I did’ mindset. These parents, whom I’ve worked with, came from backgrounds of trauma, poverty, extreme neglect, abuse, and lived in conditions so challenging that they swore never to subject their kids to similar experiences. I empathize and completely understand parents wanting their children to have it ‘better’ than they did. However, in doing so, some parents have gone to extremes, paving the way for their children by offering every opportunity and gift without a trace of hardship. This mindset and type of parenting can set the stage for the development of spoiled teenagers.
FEAR OF PUSH BACK
Children and teens can exhibit a significant amount of pushback when they don’t get what they want. Strong-willed teenagers might make things so challenging for parents that they fear the unrelenting pushback. The anxiety of it all can exhaust many parents, leading them to give in to their teenagers’ demands or, in some cases, avoid dealing with the pushback altogether.
When the fear of pushback becomes extreme, family members may feel like they are walking on eggshells during temper tantrums, doing whatever it takes to avoid rocking the
boat, which can ultimately result in a spoiled teen.
TOO PAINFUL TO SEE YOUR CHILD STRUGGLE
This particular reason is a combination of guilt, unresolved trauma, and fear all wrapped up into one. When parents observe their child struggling with a challenge, it’s hard not to want to step in and rescue, save, or help their child through the difficulty.
There is a balance between allowing children and teenagers to fail at opportunities that will help them grow and thrive in the future versus protecting them from situations that could put them in harm’s way. Sometimes, I see parents go to the extreme by saving their child from any distress, doing whatever it takes to make their teenagers happy. What makes teens happy right away? Gifts, things, and possessions. This pattern can lead to spoiled teenagers.
NOT ESTABLISHING AGE APPROPRIATE LIMITS
Having limits and boundaries is incredibly helpful for children and teenagers to understand what they can and cannot do. When parents struggle with establishing age-appropriate limits and boundaries, spoiled teenagers don’t quite experience the natural consequences of their behavior and have minimal self-control. If there are no limits and consequences for actions, a sense of entitlement and self-centeredness will set in.
Next, we will go over the warning signs of a spoiled teen and how to deal with them.
10 spoiled teenager signs to look out for
It can be hard to decide if my teenager is spoiled or if this is just normal teenage behavior. At times, it is common for teenagers to be unappreciative and show little gratitude towards parents and others. Spoiled teens usually exhibit more than one of these signs that last for a considerable amount of time.
When determining whether or not your teenager is spoiled, here are 10 signs of a spoiled teenager:
1. Do not want to, nor expect themselves to, work hard for privileges, gifts, or possessions.
An entitled teenager who does not expect to work hard for their privileges, gifts, and possessions really sets them up for failure in the future. Their expectations of being given everything without challenge, patience, or physical or mental effort will only teach teenagers that this is what adult life will be like.
And let’s be real… adult life is nothing close to a paradise of not lifting a finger or not facing challenges. Parents can give teenagers a false sense of what the future entails for them. In turn, your teenager will not have the resilience, confidence, and strength to overcome what life throws at them and become a responsible adult.
2. Not saying thank you or demonstrating any gratitude.
An ungrateful teenager can go through a phase of struggling to communicate gratitude, appreciation, and a sense of thankfulness for their life and their surroundings. This is common because entitled teenagers are ego-centric and very much all about themselves. Demonstrating little to no basic manners over a period of time is a significant sign your teenager is spoiled. With little to no skills in verbalizing gratitude, it can really be a detriment to their relationships.
Most individuals want reciprocity, where they show thankfulness and their loved ones show it back. This dynamic is what strengthens the connection between two people. When you have a teenager who shows no thankfulness nor appreciation towards their parents, friends, or people in their life, others will eventually move on and not want to invest in those relationships.
3. They throw a fit if they don’t get what they want.
Again, most teenagers will throw a fit in their own way when they don’t get what they want. They might have a temper tantrum, give you the silent treatment, roll their eyes, beg excessively until you give in, or engage you in power struggles just to make you say 'UNCLE.' You might be wondering why your teenager throws a fit every single time they don’t get what they want. Because it WORKS! Most of the time, the pattern has worked, where your teenager threw a fit and got what they wanted. The brain links behaviors to getting what you want.
4. Avoid taking any responsibility for their actions.
Your teenager really wrestles with taking responsibility for their actions and finds it hard to be humble. They are practicing being assertive and voicing their stance on issues and conflicts; however, they show no remorse for their own actions. This can look like your spoiled teen pointing out everybody else’s flaws, mistakes, and poor choices without acknowledging their part.
5. They show a significant amount of attitude and disrespect.
Again, it is pretty normal for teenagers to have some attitude and, at times, be disrespectful. However, they are displaying so much attitude and disrespect that it is affecting their ability to communicate with other adults and form friendships. They expect others to be gracious to them even when they are treating others poorly.
6. Care more about material things and possessions.
Spoiled teens care more about getting the latest and greatest things and possessions without being aware of the financial and age appropriateness of that thing. Constantly comparing, they are more focused on making sure they have what their friends have. They might have no concern with wasting an item that is in good working condition. Lastly, they really struggle with understanding the difference between 'needing something' and 'wanting something.'
7. Difficulty delaying gratification and waiting for rewards.
Another sign of an entitled teenager is having no patience or sense of waiting for rewards. They fight tooth and nail, or they go to extreme measures to get what they want or what they think they deserve, such as lying, stealing, or taking something without asking. They have never had to manage the discomfort of waiting to be rewarded.
8. Avoid spending quality time with family and friends.
Spending quality time with family and friends is really important for children to develop basic life skills and a healthy self-esteem. Spoiled children tend to have superficial relationships where they don’t invest emotionally. They would rather spend time on their phones or electronics than spend time with family. The sad part is they feel they get more out of their possessions and material things than being in a relationship with others.
9. Have little to no perseverance during challenges and struggles.
A big sign to look out for when assessing if your child is spoiled or entitled is them having little to no perseverance to complete a challenge task or obstacle. This can initially look like you notice poor performance from your teen however, it is really due to them giving up before they actually gave it a good shot.
They have no need to work hard for something so, they have not built the tolerance to keep at it. Spoiled teens with little grit really struggle with staying positive, continuing to move forward after failure, and having the belief in themselves to overcome. If they have been handed everything, why would they have to keep trying when they already know they can have the result no matter what.
10. Privileges are hindering your teen, not providing opportunities for growth.
You notice all the privileges, opportunities, gifts, and possessions you have given your child has made them an unkind person. Being given abundance is supposed to help people achieve their dreams and make them a better person to themselves and others. When you start noticing your privileges are making your child an unpleasant person to be around, the privileges are doing a disservice to your child not helping them.
How to deal with a spoiled teenager
There are several things you can do to help your spoiled child gain skills to better their relationships, interactions, and self-esteem.
Check out 8 ways on how to deal with a spoiled teenager:
Utilize limit setting and follow through with consequences:
One of the best things you can do for your family life is to set clear boundaries, limits, and follow through with consequences. Start by getting on the same page with your partner regarding the rules, limits, and values you want to establish in your household. Then, discuss those limits with your teen in a loving and compassionate way. Make sure you follow through with consequences, and there are no empty threats, so your teenager will learn self-control and respect.
Have them work towards a reward:
Instead of your child feeling entitled and believing that the world owes them, they can grow up truly understanding their self-worth and being proud of the type of person they have worked hard to become. Teaching modern children to work towards buying themselves a new car or saving up money to attend a school dance can instill in your teen an appreciation for the experience, the people they spent time with, and what their hard work earned. Because they chose the goal or reward, and they decided it was worth fighting for. This is an important start to helping your spoiled teenager learn good work ethic and internal strength.
Encourage them to take care of themselves and be more independent:
Out of all the 10 signs of a spoiled teenager, this tip of encouraging your teenager to be more independent financially, socially, academically, and personally can increase gratitude, self-sufficiency, and maturity. Some examples could include having your teenager get a job to earn their own money, encouraging physical activities, and having your teenager volunteer in the community to increase awareness of diversity.
Use a different love language:
The 5 love languages that enhance connection within your relationship with your teenager are acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, and words of encouragement. If you primarily use gifts as a way to demonstrate your love towards your teenager, it might be a good time to switch it up and use a different love language. For acts of service, it could be making their favorite snack or meal to show you are thinking of them. Spending quality time with your teenager by participating in their preferred interests or hobbies can be really beneficial. Offering a hug, kiss on the cheek, pat on the shoulder, or grabbing their hand to visually tell them you love them can be reassuring for your teenager. Lastly, effective praise and words of encouragement from you can make all the difference in the world in your teenager developing mental and emotional strength.
Spend quality time with your child that does not involve buying anything:
Quality over quantity! Many parents of teenagers struggle to understand what spending quality time with their ungrateful teenager entails. You might feel anxious that spending quality time looks like having to be around your teenager for hours on end when, in reality, it can be as simple as 15 minutes a day. For example, quality time can look like coming home, putting down your phone, demonstrating undivided and uninterrupted attention to your teenage son, and asking him how his friends are doing and what his current struggles in school are. It's about showing genuine interest and emotional attunement with your teen.
Simplify your life and remove the excess:
Getting rid of excess material possessions can help teens develop the true value of essentials. By simplifying life, you create an environment where teenagers can focus on personal growth, academic pursuits, and developing meaningful relationships. It encourages them to find satisfaction in experiences and relationships rather than material possessions, promoting emotional well-being.
Be intentional with your parenting:
The teen years are a time when you, as a parent, have to be intentional about equipping your teen with valuable life skills that prepare them for the future. As a parent, you have to sit back and reflect on how you want your teen to be as a young adult and how you can prepare them to live a thriving life where they have meaningful connections and feel a sense of belonging in this world.
How do you help your teen become a person who can withstand challenges and appreciate their life? Enlisting the support of parent coaching can offer guidance on providing unconditional love, creating screen-free moments, ensuring consistent enforcement of behavioral consequences, and fostering an authentic connection with your teenager. These strategies contribute to equipping your teen with essential skills in gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation.
Recognizing the challenges of parenting a spoiled teen, many parents seek help and turn to teen therapy services to address relational and behavioral issues. Ashley Hudson Therapy, located in Orange County, CA, specializes in providing mental health services tailored for teenagers struggling with entitlement and disconnection. Our teen therapy sessions focus on fostering empathy, increasing mindfulness, and improving relationships, helping teens navigate and overcome the challenges associated with being spoiled.
Contact us today and schedule an appointment with a teen specialist today!