"My daughter doesn't appreciate anything I do for her!" Have you ever said something like that? If so, you may need a wake-up call...
Over-indulged teenagers are not born, they are created. Moms and dads create teenagers that are over-indulged by giving them an over-abundance of what they want, but don’t need. However, it’s not always the material things that lead to over-indulgence. It may be a permissive parental approach in which the youngster is allowed to read things that are not age-appropriate. It might also be over-permissive and over-protective parenting of the youngster (e.g., doing everything for the teen in a protective manner).
- a form of child neglect; it hinders teenagers from performing their needed developmental tasks, and from learning necessary life lessons
- doing or having so much of something that it does active harm, or at least prevents a youngster from developing and deprives that youngster of achieving his or her full potential
- giving a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to meet the teenager's needs but does not, so they experience scarcity in the midst of plenty
- giving teenagers things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents
- giving teenagers too much of what looks good, too soon, too long
- the process of giving things to teenagers to meet the adult's needs, not the teen’s
Recent research finds that over-indulged teenagers were likely to grow up to become “externals” rather than “internals.” “Externals” want to become rich and super wealthy, to become famous, to achieve a unique look and have a deep need to have people comment on how attractive they are.
“Internals” want to grow and learn new things, to be able to look back on their life as meaningful and with satisfaction. They also want to share life with someone and have a committed intimate relationship. “Internals” want to work to make the world a better place and to help people in need.
Teens who are over-indulged tend to grow-up to be oppositional. This is of course frustrating for the parent, and it’s rather sad as well. Parents want their youngster to be happy, and they want what’s best for him or her, but the more parents try, the more things turn out badly because their efforts are misguided.
Amazingly, it’s counter-intuitive. The more the parent gives to the youngster, the more he or she wants and is ungrateful. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. If the parent takes a stand, usually the youngster knows, “If I get mad, my mother will give-in.” In that regard, it can be quite a challenge for the parent to finally stand firm after years of over-indulging.
Over-indulgence can be in terms of the relationship (e.g., moms and dads acting as “friends” as opposed to a parent). Also, emotionally there’s a tendency to be overly doting and emotionally intrusive with the teen. All of which tends to develop the tendency in the son or daughter to respond with anger, resentment, over-inflated self-esteem, as well as a loss of compassion for others.
The youngster grows up with a sense of entitlement. They develop this perspective not only regarding the relationship with their moms and dads, but that the world should give them all the things they want. This can lead to having problems with friendships and, later, with dating and maintaining meaningful relationships.
Moms and dads created the problem usually by having any number of irrational beliefs. For example:
- in order to make the youngster happy, they must give her everything she wants
- their youngster cannot be punished
- they cannot implement any consequence that involves discomfort
- they cannot subject their youngster to any sense of pain or discomfort
Of course, this is contrary to what happens in the real world. Teenagers need to be disciplined appropriately and learn from their misbehavior and mistakes through logical consequences. In the absence of such discipline, much of the time you will end up with a youngster who is oppositional and defiant.
Another irrational belief of moms and dads, which is targeted in treatment, is this tendency toward unconditional positive regard. Of course, such admiration and love is wonderful; however, these moms and dads will demonstrate such positive regard no matter the behavior of the youngster. Moreover, these parents see “love” as “giving” to the youngster and not carrying out discipline. These parents tend to rationalize and “look the other way” rather than discipline.
The extent of “over-indulging” a youngster is on a continuum. Most teenagers are, at times, demanding and ungrateful. If moms and dads respond accordingly, then their son or daughter can move toward appreciation and cooperation. However, if such behavior is tolerated, or “indulged,” then demanding and ungrateful tendencies can worsen.
Parents can begin a “change process” by changing their irrational beliefs, which then fuels the parent making the necessary changes in discipline of their youngster. The important thing is “balance” between “giving” and “discipline.” It’s important for moms and dads to not feel guilty for not giving their teens everything they want. In that regard, a frequently repeated motto is that “parents should give teenagers everything they need, but only a small portion of what they want.” Moms and dads need help to understand that, by giving everything, the youngster only becomes more resentful rather than grateful.
Ways parents can change habits of overindulging:
- “No” means “No.”
- Attach good and clear thinking to your teenager’s emotions.
- Counter your teenager’s manipulation where you feel guilty by simply practicing saying “I won’t get that for you, but I have a way you can earn it!”
- Do not soothe your teenager’s painful emotions with gadgets and luxuries. Sooth them with your calm presence, voice and tenderness.
- Hold onto your better judgment and avoid thinking, “I know I shouldn’t have done such and such…” Stop your own unhealthy sway of emotions.
- Let the emotional sting of discipline happen. The emotional sting has a lesson.
- More than discipline, you should guide your teenagers to make amends.
- One television per household creates better family gatherings. Research indicates that teenagers who have TV’s in their room spend less time with family and friends.
- Over-indulgence is an impulsive act. So, slowly contemplate how to respond to your teenager’s misbehavior, guilt trips, etc.
- Parenting is not a popularity contest! Want to create a living hell for yourself? Become a buddy to your teenagers. They don’t need a friend in a parent – they need a mentor. Parent-child friendship is for later.
- Take time to help your teenagers manage difficult emotional times.
- Whatever the consequence, consider ¼ time off for good behavior.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents