More and more we are witnessing prolonged childhood extending well into people’s 20’s. University students that stay during the course of their degree, into masters or secondary courses or into the early years of their careers. Or of the children who receive financial or emotional support and have entitlement issues to the detriment of individuality.

We see two kinds of clients affected by this enmeshed dynamic with entitlement issues; both with the same eventual goal:

  • The parents who have realized their child hasn’t progressed, or is resisting the pathway to adulthood, but doesn’t know how to get out of the dynamic.
  • The child, who is struggling in adulthood to establish their individual direction and sense of purpose

Entitlement Issues

The end goal for both parties, parent and child, is to have a healthy adult relationship dynamic, wherein the child is an independent individual and the parent has appropriate boundaries.

When we provide a level of support beyond what is realistic or appropriate for our child’s specific developmental stage, we begin to interrupt their progression through the various life stages. For instance, while it is reasonable to help a four year cut their food, it would be ridiculous to continue cutting the food of a now 13-year-old.

The effects would be such:

  • The parent would have to be present and needed more.
  • The child would likely develop a preference for east, pre-cut food.
  • The child would not develop food cutting skills, due to a lack of practice opportunity or motivation.
  • The child would be out of sync with their peers, and fall behind.
  • The parent would have a displaced sense of purpose from this boundary disturbance.

When the parent abruptly ceases the food cutting, the child, now without the appropriate skill set and the maladaptive perspective that it should be done for them, tend to lash out or there is a perceived threat that they will. This puts the parent in a holding pattern wherein they fear rejection by the child if the giver-taker dynamic is disrupted. The result is ongoing dysfunction in the dynamic.

The thing with dynamics though, is that they are relatively easy to alter.

When we work with either the parent or child, the first step is the exact same: alter the client’s behaviour and it will change the pattern of interaction. Now, obviously, this is easier said than done. So, we identify what the healthier behaviour would be, i.e.) stop cutting the food for the kid, in this case, and then we look at which limiting beliefs are active in preventing healthy behaviour.

Once the relevant limiting beliefs are identified, we use our protocol to reprocess the thoughts, rendering them untrue.

Then, they no longer block healthy behaviour so the dynamic can be easily altered. The parent stops cutting the food, the child deals with the learning curve and an appropriate relationship ensues. The same thing but the opposite can happen with the client as a child, the focus is just on the blocks to doing the healthy behaviours in individuating (or adulating). Either way, the goal is established.

We’ve been using the example of food cutting but in real life, we see things like giving money, supporting lifestyle, emotional dependence, social dependence, and the like can all be stand-ins. Some clients cannot bake banana bread at age 28 without calling their mom. Others ask dad to bail their car loan payment out at age 24. Others have parents who bought the condo they live in. Still, others let their children live at home, while they dabble in career school path number three and four. These are some of the ways these dynamics can display when that boundary overstepping becomes a pattern.

So, when we look at children and see what appears to be an entitlement, we need to go deeper and investigate where they learned this behaviour from and why it exists. Then, it is easy to alter and improve.

If you have someone or are someone wrestling with this concern, don’t accept being stuck.

Entitlement can be defined as the belief that one inherently deserves privileges or special treatment.

This issue is not unique to any generation, but it has become particularly prevalent in contemporary youth, largely influenced by societal changes and the digital world’s immediacy. Here are some examples of toxic entitlement among today’s young people.

  1. One common manifestation of toxic entitlement in youth is the inability to deal with rejection or failure. Some young individuals have developed an expectation that they should always be rewarded, regardless of effort or outcome. For instance, a young athlete might become hostile or sulky if they don’t make the first team or win every game. They believe they’re entitled to success without acknowledging the role of hard work, perseverance, or the inevitability of setbacks.
  2. In the realm of digital and social media, toxic entitlement can be seen in the expectation for immediate gratification. With platforms providing instant access to entertainment, information, and communication, some young people struggle when real-life scenarios don’t offer the same immediacy. They may feel entitled to prompt responses to messages or posts, and if not met with the desired speed, they may respond with impatience or even aggression.
  3. The demand for constant attention.In a world where ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ serve as a form of social currency, some youths have developed an inflated sense of self-importance, believing that they deserve constant validation from their peers. This can lead to narcissistic behaviours, where they prioritize their needs above others and lack empathy.
  4. Bullying, both offline and online, can also be a manifestation of toxic entitlement. Youth who feel superior may belittle others to maintain their perceived status, believing they have the right to impose their power or will over others. This behaviour can have serious impacts on the mental health of those targeted.

Toxic entitlement can also manifest in lack of accountability. Young people may dodge responsibility for their actions, believing that they are exempt from the consequences. For example, they might cheat on a test and then lie or shift blame when they are caught, insisting that the rules shouldn’t apply to them.

Lastly, there’s the issue of material entitlement. Some young people might expect their parents to provide them with the latest gadgets, designer clothes, or luxury items, viewing these not as privileges but as rights. They may react negatively when such expectations are not met, disregarding the value of money or the efforts their parents make to provide for them.

These examples of toxic entitlement among the youth illustrate an urgent need for effective strategies to address and mitigate these attitudes. Teaching empathy, resilience, patience, and respect for others can go a long way in shaping balanced and considerate young individuals. It’s crucial to remember that while these attitudes can be concerning, they don’t define all youth. Many young people exhibit incredible kindness, resilience, and understanding, offering hope for future generations.