How To Avoid Having Entitled Kids

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Parenting is simultaneously one of the most difficult and most rewarding things one will ever do in their lives.  Every parent wants the best for their child, but can “wanting the best” be taken too far?

Amy McCreedy recently wrote an article for on five different styles of parenting that contribute to the conglomeration of behaviors we might call “entitlement” in kids.  Take a look at them below, and let us know if you agree with her assessment.

1. The “Keep Em Happy at All Costs” Parent

This style of parenting is characterized by excessively avoiding any unhappiness, disappointment, or anxiety, in your child.  Behaviorally, this entails providing reinforcers at the first signs of trantruming or verbal aggression.  Amy gives the example of letting your kids “dominate your phone” in the grocery store so as to not disturb other shoppers.  Amy suggests this strategy might leave your kids with a lack of coping skills during times of adversity.  As a solution, she recommends providing caring attention and affection at other times of the day.  Behavior analysts might call this non-contingent reinforcement, and can function as a useful way to alter kids’ motivations for acting out at inappropriate times.

2. The Enabler

Enabling, as Amy describes the style, involves doing things for your kids that they should be doing for themselves.  Behaviorally, the parent is enabling the child to avoid demands.  Amy gives examples of parents making their teenagers lunch in the morning, rather than having them make it themselves, or always cleaning up their kids toys rather than have them do it on their own.  Her solution here is simply to outline simple rules that specify contingencies for tasks that generally fall under the category of “personal responsibility.”  She gives the simple example of laundry, as in “I’ll wash the clothes that are in the laundry baskets” and anything that isn’t in the basket will not get washed.

3. The Rescuer

The rescuer is characterized by “saving” the child from the consequences of his/her own forgetfulness with constant reminders about important school-related tasks (e.g., doing homework), bringing the appropriate shoes to soccer practice, etc…  Amy warns that this style of parenting could lead to kids feeling “entitled to your personal delivery service when they forget.” Her recommendation is to bring the child into contact with some of the natural consequences for said forgetfulness, while remembering that everyone forgets things once or twice, but recurring issues should be addressed.  Doing so will likely make the child more attentive to the logistical requirements of their own obligations.

4. The Indulger

Similar to #1 above, the indulger is concerned with their child’s happiness.  However, the indulger is characterized by giving into specific demands from the child, such that the child soon becomes bossy.  Amy gives the example of the child who demands to drink a soda every night at dinner.  Her solution in this case is to rein in the limits a bit on what indulgences are acceptable.  Additionally, you can provide your child with choices or alternatives when they make demands.  Everyone likes choices as it gives people a sense of control.  Also remember that we all indulge from time to time, but excessively demanding preferred items or activities at every turn will not make your child a popular person later in life.

5. The “Over-the-Top” Parent

Amy describes the “over-the-top” parent as one who is obsessed with giving their child the absolute best childhood experience ever.  Another word for this would be “spoiling” your child with materialistic things, such as the perfectly designed bedroom, the latest high-priced fashions, etc… Amy warns that if kids “always experience the best of what life has to offer when they’re young, they’ll feel entitled to it, and better, as they grow older.”  A suggested solution in this case is to practice recognizing the existing reinforcers in your life in order to foster gratefulness for the things you already have.

Click here to read Amy’s full article for more details.

Be sure to let us know what you think about these parenting styles, and if you have had experience with them, in the comments below.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns and  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment on "How To Avoid Having Entitled Kids"

  1. Balance; a little of each of the aforementioned choreographed with integrity, respect and responsibility. Alongside acceptance, awareness, exercise, meditation and daily red wine…
    We got this!

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