Gabriele is a 17-year-old aspiring writer from Jacksonville, FL. She loves the wit of Charles Dickens, the smell of sharpened pencils, and the charm of coffee shops. She lives her life by a Benjamin Franklin quote: “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write the things worth reading or do the things worth writing.”
You’ll try to hide in your inconvenient convenient stores and in your pretty, overpriced supermarkets. But they’ll be there. You’ll try to hide in your sort-of healthy picked restaurants and your used-to-be charming coffee shops. But they’ll be there. You’ll try to hide in little Junior’s pewee games and grown-up Cindy’s seventh birthday extravaganza. But they’ll be there.
And you know—you must know—that you certainly can’t hide in your house.
But you try. You wastefully bubble your bathtub and soak to Celine’s That’s The Way It Is. You mindlessly search for the item that was never lost. Your façade of sickness is so impressively real that they leave you alone, if only for a second.
But you knew it wouldn’t last long. You finally succumb to their cajoling puppy eyes and their sniffled apologies and their obnoxious self-deprecation sprinkled with just a smidge of selfish ennui.
And you’re not the only one.
It is a constant struggle to live with a self-entitled teenager who thrives in unity with his “self-entitled generation,” a land where all teenagers come together to Want, Mooch, and Deserve.
Though the reasons behind this egocentric behavior vary from teen to teen, there are three main reasons why a teenager feels he is entitled to the world around him. I used the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to help clarify these reasons as well as what to do to help your teenager become less selfish and more selfless.
1. It happens every time. They all become blueberries.
Here we have a prime example of a parent neglecting to discipline his child. A brief refresher: Girl wants gum. Willy Wonka says no. Girl wants it anyway. Dad tells girl not to do anything stupid. Girl rolls her eyes. Girl eats gum. Willy Wonka tells her to stop. Girl doesn’t listen. Girl eats gum. Dad encourages her (What’s for dessert, baby?). Girl eats gum. Girl turns into a blueberry. Dad blames Willy Wonka. Girl eats gum. End scene.
The moral of the story? Discipline your teenagers or they’ll end up blueberries. They’ll think they can do whatever they want because they’re immune to consequences. Every adult that gives a teenager a command simply relays a suggestion because the teens are free to do whatever. And since they can do whatever they want, they can also have whatever they want, right?
2. And if I don’t get the things I am after, I’m going to screeeeeeEEEEAAAM!
Ah yes, Veruca Salt. Spoiled, impatient, and a bad egg. The father in this situation gives his daughter whatever she asks for because she whines, complains and throws a fit until she gets what she wants NOW. His intentions are good. He wants to make his daughter happy and give her a better life than he had, but the way he executes it turns her into a self-entitled child. Remember that your teenager will never be happy with materialistic things. There’s always going to be someone who has something better, and he will always search for something else. He will continue to want more and more. Also remember that it’s okay to take something away that you paid for. If you paid for his cell phone, and he does not deserve the privilege to have one, then it’s yours to take. Help your teenager to understand that if he wants something, he can work for it and get it. That doesn’t mean you can’t give your teenager gifts, but that shouldn’t be the focus of your relationship.
3. Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame. You know exactly who’s to blame…
Your teenager may be self-entitled because you’re enabling him to be. Don’t be a helicopter parent—a parent who constantly hovers over his children and solves all of his problems, who allows his teenager to mooch off of him and take advantage of situations. There will come a day (if the day hasn’t already passed) when your teenager will have to stand on his own two feet. If his parents constantly bail him out of everything, he may expect the world to do the same. See what happens when you let your teenager own up to his own actions and responsibilities while still offering him the support he needs.
You can’t hide, but you can help. Through caring discipline and a little bit of tough love, your teenager may learn to appreciate what he has. The sooner it starts, the easier it will be.
Oh, and one more thing.
Don’t buy into our self-entitled charade. In reality, we know you’re in control.
And that’s what scares us.
Photo by bigdeadbat from Flickr