There’s no shortage of entitled people in our society today. Those with a sense of entitlement tend to believe that they deserve only good things and special treatment, and therefore demand it from everyone.
But while many parents are rightfully concerned with how to avoid raising entitled children, it’s also important to examine whether they model this kind of negative behavior. Failing to realize the impact that entitled conduct in caregivers can have on kids may carry deep consequences in their later lives.
Below, experts share some of the ways having entitled parents can affect children as they grow up.
They may become entitled themselves.
“Children often learn by what they see. In this case, a child could lean toward entitlement,” said Craig Knippenberg, a therapist and author of “Wired and Connected: Brain-Based Solutions To Ensure Your Child’s Social and Emotional Success.”
Being raised by an entitled parent means seeing your caregivers make unreasonable demands and act out when those demands aren’t met because they feel the world owes them. Kids with this experience may emulate their parents and have a bad attitude when people tell them no.
“They may be unappreciative and act increasingly spoiled and demanding,” said psychologist Sanam Hafeez. “Not handling losing well, not caring about the feelings or needs of others, and not expressing gratitude are also traits a child can develop and carry over into adulthood. They may feel that the rules don’t apply to them. They might expect privileges for things they did not earn ‘just because.’ For example, just because they turn 17 and have their driver’s license they may feel entitled to a luxury car.”
They may have trouble dealing with adversity.
Entitled parents often do anything in their power to assure that their children will succeed in all areas of life ― from school and sports to other tangible markers of achievement. As a result, their kids miss out on opportunities to face challenging experiences and develop resilience, coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills.
“Entitlement often leads to inability to deal with emotional pain and lack of basic skills in self-care,” said psychotherapist Noel McDermott. “Entitled children can be brittle rather than resilient in temperament. Entitlement can lead to significant psychological problems and an inability to deal with any form of adversity. Over-servicing a child’s needs means they can grow up without the ability to be resilient to life’s challenges.”
They may develop an inferiority complex.
While children of entitled parents may develop a sense of superiority and belief they are owed great things as well, the opposite can also be true.
“The child of an entitled person may develop an inferiority complex,” said Catherine Athans, a licensed marriage and family therapist who wrote “The Heart Brain.” “They may even develop an inner rage because they feel not important or considered. Much worse, the child may decide that his only worth is in serving his entitled parent.”
Low self-esteem is a natural result of years of feeling inadequate or ashamed. These kids may not have the ability to advocate for themselves. Athans explained that a lack of self-worth could also create the circumstances in which the child begins to develop a “sadomasochistic” personality style.
“The child will learn that being ignored is a price they have to pay to stay alive. The inner rage of this ignorance may grow, so that the child will then punish others, as they feel punished and ignored,” she said.
They may struggle with employment.
As children of entitled parents grow up and imitate their parents’ behavior, they may have difficulty finding or keeping jobs.
“They have not been taught that hard work begets privileges, so they are not accustomed to having to earn things,” said Becky Stuempfig, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “They may be reluctant to get jobs or attempt to cut corners in the workplace. They may struggle with holding down stable employment because they often do not live up to expectations and believe they simply deserve a paycheck without putting forth the effort required.”
Stuempfig added that they may also have legal troubles due to engaging in behaviors that “skirt the law” because they were taught that rules don’t apply to them. The “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal highlighted the legal consequences that may stem from entitled behavior in parenting.
They may have trouble with relationships.
“These children may have difficulty creating trusting, intimate relationships because they were not taught positive communication and interpersonal skills,” Stuempfig said. “They may have been told by their parents that others ‘are not good enough’ for them and therefore have a hard time connecting with others in a meaningful way in their adult life.”
Forging genuine emotional connections with others is difficult when your parents instilled a sense that you are special in a way that means separate and superior from the mundane lives of others.
Entitled people may appear very narcissistic and have trouble managing their anger when they feel others have crossed or failed them in some way.
They may go overboard trying to avoid entitlement.
“Some more empathic children may be embarrassed or ashamed of their parents’ entitlement,” Knippenberg said. “As they reach adulthood, they make a conscientious effort to avoid entitlement.”
Many children of entitled parents make a point to distinguish themselves from the people who raised them.
“They often recognize as they grow older that their parents’ behavior is unhealthy and take proactive steps to not repeat their parents’ mistakes,” Stuempfig said. “They may seek out others who display the opposite of entitled behavior and practice gratitude, empathy and compassion. Children of entitled parents may be so fearful of being seen as entitled themselves that they take extreme measures to not stand out in a crowd.”
This can be unhealthy if they choose to internalize their feelings as a method of avoidance of repeating their parents’ vocal behavior.
“Sometimes children of entitled parents overcompensate for their parents’ dysfunctional behavior and constantly apologize and smooth over their parents’ conflicts,” Stuempfig added. “These children may develop an ability to handle tense situations while remaining calm on the outside because they became so accustomed to tolerating their parents’ conflicts.”
They may seek healthy alternatives.
“Many children of entitled parents seek therapy as adults to gain a better awareness of how their childhood has impacted their decision-making and relationships,” Stuempfig said. “Having a wide support system of others in their life can be helpful for children of entitled parents so that they have positive experiences to draw upon.”
Stuempfig pointed to the value of having supportive teachers, coaches, parents of friends, and neighbors as positive role models to show the children of entitled parents that there are many different ways to interact with the world.
“If a child has been exposed to a strong support system, the impact of their entitled parent is likely to be less dramatic,” Stuempfig said. “They are also less likely to repeat the entitlement pattern if they are exposed to a wide array of positive personality traits within their extended family and support system.”