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Entitled Kids or 4 Steps To Raising A Narcissist

Updated: Jun 29

Children are most definitely entitled to certain things at birth. Nourishment, safety, shelter, and medicine are some of them. In my opinion, kids are also entitled to love, learning, and play. (Brazelton/Greenspan 2000)

Nobody wants to raise a child who thinks they're entitled to a lot more than others or doesn't know that they should have to work for the things they want. Here's a good definition of that negative type of entitlement from Amy McCready, and Dr. Ruth Milanaik.

“Typically, entitled kids believe the world revolves around them, that things should be done for them, and that paths should be cleared for them without them putting in much effort. Signs of entitlement include not taking ‘no’ for an answer and acting helpless when they're not. When an entitled kid messes up, he expects to be rescued. He tends to not be grateful for what he has, and he finds it difficult to be content. Also, he requires constant entertainment. Any child on the planet will exhibit these characteristics from time to time, but if you’re seeing them as a regular pattern, you should ask, ‘Is this an entitlement issue?”

Entitlement is an attitude and atttitudes form early on in life.

Children are born knowing only about themselves and not understanding that others exist. They are also born with an instinct to survive. Since attachment and learning help them survive, that's what they do.

It's up to us to teach them to do those things right, going after what they want and need yet keeping the feelings of others in mind.

So what should we focus on teaching young children to build resilience to entitlement?

Here are a few guidelines:

#1   Emotions

Don't let them think they're the only ones with feelings.

Help them to identify their own and others' emotions.

This can help them with the progression from being egotistical infants, to loving toddlers, to caring preschoolers, and empathetic adults.

#2 Boundaries

Learn to set boundaries that work. "I" messages are the easiest, most straightforward way to do this with very young children and everyone. If you don't know how to use "I" messages to be clear and teach emotional boundaries, you can learn more about it in my 2021 article Setting Boundaries here. 

#3  Problem Solving

Don't solve their problems for them. Instead, you can teach them to do it for themselves. Talk them through that puzzle, let them struggle a bit trying to mount that riding toy, and let them learn to climb the ladder first to enjoy the slide.

If we do everything for them, we do put them at a disadvantage compared to kids who've had to figure things out on their own. Young children feel entitled to have someone else do it for them if that's what they're used to.

Still, don't ever ignore their struggles or give them more than they can handle. Always give them the least possible amount of help they need to succeed. (Vygotsky ) In that way, they'll start to understand the feelings of working hard to achieve what they want instead of having it handed to them on a silver platter.

Teach them the word or the sign for frustration. Once it has a name they can become aware of when it's happening to them and they might be able to deal with it better. They might decide to quit, take a break, or try a different approach.

This is a great sign to teach as your baby approaches the terrible twos. The sign frustrated helps when your baby encounters a task too complex for their motor skills or intellectual skills.

#4  Responsibility

Try to see responsibility as a response to their ability. Watch them carefully to see what they can and can't do. Then you can expect them to live up to it.

Responsibility is different than cooperation. Cooperation is good because it means they're listening. Responsibility is even better because it means they're taking action without being reminded.

The opposite of feeling entitled is feeling like a useful contributor to something good.

It's also a good idea to let young children make some mistakes and live through the consequences. as this story from a seasoned educator illustrates.

When the mom of an absent-minded second-grader asked me if I thought she should bring his homework to school when he forgot, I told her that although I understood her strong feelings about not wanting to let him fail, I wouldn't bring it because receiving the consequences of forgetting in second grade might stop him from having to feel the consequences of failing in college or at work.

Taking responsibility has nothing at all to do with blame. It's the opposite of entitlement.

That's why problem-solving instead of blame is the first part of our PLAN.

You can click on the cover below to see the synopsis of the PLAN.

Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human dev from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI and is the founder of early childhood rocks, a non-profit org dedicated to creating change through early childhood education.

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