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Entitlement and Gratitude in Teens

by Mark Gregston

Kids today are growing up in a culture that’s constantly bombarding them with messages of entitlement.  Some are subliminal and some outright overt, but they all scream, “I want it.  I deserve itand so, you should give it to me.” 

That is a lie and could not be further from the truth. 

So, what’s a parent to do these days?  How do we raise teens to overcome their feelings of entitlement while getting them to enjoy and even be grateful for what they have? 

Well, first things, first.  You’re going to have to understand that your teen is probably unlikely to admit or even understand how they’re giving into their feelings of entitlement.  With the way the world is today, entitlement is par for the course, and it some cases, entitlement has become second nature.  The second thing you’ll need to know is how to read the room, so you can catch the signs and make appropriate course corrections before it’s too late. 

Facts about Entitled Teens 

This might come as shock, but it’s not always our culture and society that enables your teen’s sense of entitlement.  Entitled teens often have enabling parents who for one reason or another have allowed their child’s behavior to spiral out of control.  Some parents feel guilty.  Others are trying to compensate for being both parents.  And still others, expose their kids to whatever they want—when they want it, because they can.  They have the money and the world has become their teen’s oyster.  The problem with this is when you constantly shower your child with gifts, or you allow anything and everything to be available to them with the touch of a button or a snap of their fingers, your child is not developing the internal skills they need to be content.  And with contentment comes gratitude. 

Alternatively, entitlement often brings disrespect.  And parents, contrary to popular beliefs, disrespect does not go away as your child matures.  It only it only grows and gets worse, and being entitled or disrespectful isn’t going to serve your teen well.  So, do everything you can now, to help your child learn how to be grateful and content with who they are—and what they have. 

Developing a Heart of Gratitude 

Entitlement prevents your teen’s heart from being grateful for their life, their families, their belongings, and even just the everyday little things in life, like the smell of rain, or the flowers in season. So, it’s important that as the coach in your household, you take time each day to make sure you’re being thankful for something, and that you’re asking them to do that same.  When you make being thankful a commonplace occurrence in your life and in your home, you’ll help combat complaining, which will go a long way in the fight against entitlement. 

Make working around the house a requirement in your home.  Have weekly conversations (no nagging allowed!) about what they can do to contribute to the family.  Start small and then work your way up to the big things.  Feeling a sense of ownership and accomplishment is something that all kids need and look forward to, even if they won’t admit it. 

The Bible reminds us that “It’s better to give than receive.”  So, look for ways that you and your family can give back to those who are less fortunate.  Sometimes, just seeing another person who is not on the same level as you is enough to open your teen’s eyes to their first-world “problems.” 

Moms, dads, and grandparents, too … remember, your teens are watching you.  What you do in your life on a daily basis speaks volumes to how you relate to and interact with the world.  Are you showing them that you’re grateful, thankful, and blessed?  Or, are you sending them another message?  Gratefulness keeps relationships healthy and alive.  When you have hope, your kids will, too.  And when they’re older, they’ll be grateful to you that you didn’t allow them to stay entitled, angry, and constantly searching for that next best thing. 


Mom, Dad … it’s no surprise that our kids live in a world of entitlement where they rarely appreciate all that they have while constantly expressing the need for more.  You know, it’s a part of their culture and they are being shaped that way, but it’s your responsibility to make sure your teens know that thankfulness and gratitude are attributes that come from knowing they are owed nothing.  The older they get, the less dependent they should be on you for the accumulation of money and possessions.  And once they are made to work for the things they have, their gratitude for those items given to them, or the services they receive will be greatly appreciated. 

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.