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How to Foster Self-Reliance in Overindulged Teens

Do you happen to use an “overindulgent” parenting style? If so, then you are probably experiencing a lot of behavioral problems with your teenager! What’s the connection between overindulgence and behavior problems you ask? In this post, we will answer this question in great detail…

First of all, do you notice any of the following characteristics in your teen?
  • Asks for help on a task she should be able to do on her own
  • Can be obnoxious and temperamental
  • Constantly engages in whining and complaining
  • Demands things all the time
  • Exhibits extreme clinginess or the inability to be alone
  • Fails to bounce back from normal adolescent disappointments
  • Has little concern for the welfare of others
  • Ignores or negotiates every request you make
  • Is self-centered
  • Is verbally and/or physically aggressive
  • Is very manipulative
  • Lacks motivation
  • Repeatedly asks for rewards or money for basic chores 
  • Shows little gratitude for what she has
  • Wants to control the decisions of other family members

If this sounds like your teen, then it’s safe to say that he or she is overindulged, which is a nice term for “spoiled rotten!”

What happens when you have an overindulged teenager? The result of overindulgent parenting includes the following. The teenager:
  • begins to underestimate his abilities
  • believes the rules do not apply to him
  • depends on the parent to give him what he wants, but at the same time resents being dependent, and this resentment comes out as anger and ungratefulness – and a strong desire for more material stuff and privileges
  • does not get along well with authority figures (e.g., teachers)
  • feels entitled to privileges, but not responsible for his actions
  • finds school boring
  • gets labeled ADHD by school officials and mental health professionals
  • is the one in charge rather than the parent (i.e., the tail is wagging the dog)
  • is used to not having to be responsible for anything
  • learns how to avoid unpleasant tasks or challenges instead of facing them
  • learns to manipulate others instead of how to take responsibility

Even if your teen is already well on his way to becoming overindulged, all is not lost. Your goal as a mother or father is to teach him to weather the natural frustration of not getting what he wants without feeling like his world is ending or taking it as a sign you don’t love him.

Here are 25 ways to move from overindulgence to fostering self-reliance in your teen:

1. Allow your teen to make mistakes when safety is not an issue. It’s natural to want to step in and solve problems (which you’ve been doing for years). But now is his chance to make some minor mistakes and learn from them while the stakes are lower. He will also learn valuable problem-solving skills, and develop self-resilience and self-control.

2. Announce your limits, and stick to them. Let it be known what you will and won’t shell-out money for. Even if this leads to more arguments, make your teen respect your authority by refusing to budge.

3. Don’t FORCE your opinion on your teenager. Parents sometimes don’t trust what they have taught their teens. Did you ever plant some tulips? What happens if you yank the bulbs out every day to see if they’re growing? No tulips! Give the truths that you have poured into your teen’s heart and mind some time and space to take root and grow.

4. Don’t lose your temper. Staying calm helps you and your teen. Plus, it models the behavior you expect from him.

5. Encourage your teen to fully express himself. He is trying to discover who he is and is not (an important undertaking during adolescence) Accept that he may not like the things you do or have the same opinions, and get to know him as a person in his own right.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

6. Establish ground rules for safety. As your teen tries out new behaviors and methods of self-expression, and gains new skills (e.g., driving, cooking, dating, etc.), she will still need limits to keep her safe. Negotiate rules when you can to give her a sense of ownership, but make sure she knows safety is a priority and is not negotiable.

7. Follow through with consequences consistently so that your teenager learns to accept responsibility for his own actions.

8. Foster a good work ethic. Even preteens can wash a car or help mix pancake batter.

9. Have your teen participate regularly in household chores (e.g., vacuuming, dusting, washing dishes, etc.). Also, teach him how to do his own laundry and care for his clothes.

10. Have your teen participate in making meals regularly.

11. Help your teen to discover his world. As he tries to figure out where he fits in, give him opportunities to try new activities and sports and to meet new people. He may end up discovering a lifelong career path in the process.

12. Hold your teen accountable. For example, if he continually oversleeps and misses the bus, charge him gas money to drive him to school. Now is the time for him to learn that his actions matter in the bigger world and affect others as well as himself.

13. Intentionally teach your teen how to work through conflicts with her peers. Simply preparing your teen with some practical conflict-resolution skills will help foster self-reliance and confidence.

14. Let natural consequences be your friend. For example, instead of nagging your teen to get a summer job so she can afford all the activities she wants to do – don’t. If she doesn’t follow through, she’ll just have to skip some of those activities.

15. Remind your teen you will always be there for him. As he spreads his wings, make sure you let him know you will be nearby whenever he needs you. This safety net will make it possible for him to have the confidence he needs to fly into his future.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

16. Set shopping parameters. For example, if you’re out to a store with your teen and she wants a new pair of jeans, tell her she can have it—if she pays for it with her allowance money.

17. Talk openly and honestly about sex.

18. Teach your adolescents about Internet safety.

19. Teach your teen how to use an assignment pad to keep track of homework.

20. Teach your teen life skills. Your teen should be starting to learn how to manage money and drive safely in various situations. Increase her responsibilities as she gets closer to college age so she is ready to fully take care of herself when it’s time to move out and be fully independent.

21. Teach your teen to check the tire pressure and oil in the car he drives.

22. Teach your teen to think independently about commercials and advertisements aimed at teens.

23. Teaching your teen to monitor his own TV time and video game time.

24. Understand that making decisions for your teen can be destructive to his independence. Decision-making is a skill that only comes with practice. It isn’t something that’s magically conferred on a teenager when he turns 18. Letting him make choices means that he will probably do some things wrong and make poor choices, but he will learn from those, too.

25. Use praise. When you notice your teen is making a real effort to act differently, let him know that you notice.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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