Getting to the Root of Entitled Behavior in Teens

Four key ingredients help combat entitlement in teens:


As youngsters enter the teen years, it’s necessary for them to test boundaries. Although this isn’t always comfortable, it’s the way they learn to exercise agency in the world. Ensuring teens have safe, age-appropriate boundaries is essential. Teens should have responsibilities in the household or community along with clear rules for behavior.


Teens require structure to flourish. Looking at that structure in terms of accountability rather than punishment is helpful for both you and them – it helps build adult coping skills. Failing to live up to expectations should lead to consequences. Naturally, this is only possible when their responsibilities are clear and predictable to teens.


If teens feel like they’ll be punished “no matter what they do,” they close down on an emotional level. That’s why, when teens do right or take concrete actions to make up for past mistakes, that should be valued. In the long run, positive reinforcement is much more likely to lead to desired behavior.


Teens struggle to define what’s “private.” They want to be seen as independent, but also run into difficult situations they simply shouldn’t have to face alone. When teens feel trusted, they are more likely to live up to positive expectations set for them. Engage them in conversation and provide opportunities for family bonding appropriate to their changing circumstances.

Sometimes, entitlement can spiral into risky behavior. For example, teens might abuse alcohol or drugs in an effort to assert their independence. Professional help can rebuild relationships and re-establish healthy structures for teens as they mature.

To find out how wilderness therapy can help, contact WinGate Wilderness Therapy.

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