Q&A Wednesday: Help! My child has a sense of entitlement

Q&ADear Jill,
I have a question for you. I have 3 children. My middle child (age 8) has a sense of entitlement. I’m not exactly certain how this happened, since our oldest has not shown issues with this. I am a social worker and have always talked to my kids about other’s who are less blessed. We even mentor a 15-year-old who is financially poor and has a mom who has not been emotionally connected.
My 8-year-old whines, doesn’t like to be told “no,” and is argumentative.  We can have a perfect day of fun and if one thing happens that was not to his standards, he will focus on that one negative event (for weeks).  Otherwise, he is a good kid and does great in school/with his peers.  Do you have a specific suggestion or book that I could read to help with this? I thought about trying Dr. Phil’s commando parenting where we would take everything away from Josh.
I would love to hear your opinion.
Jennifer
Dear Jennifer,
To answer your question well, I decided to tap into the wisdom of Dr. Todd Cartmell who is a popular Hearts at Home workshop speaker. Dr. Todd’s response was this:
I have seen many kids where this is the presenting issue.  At the risk of sounding simplistic, it sounds like Josh has what I would call a negative thinking style.  This can be learned or simply a tendency from early on.  Just as some people may be more naturally optimistic, others can be more naturally negative or inflexible. 
 
The intervention that I have found most helpful with these kids (and they are often quite nice kids), is to help them develop a more positive/flexible thinking style.  This can take a bit of time and repetition, as we are trying to trade a negative thinking habit for a positive one.  Often we spend time learning a set list of flexible thoughts, learning how to find the “mistakes” in mad/negative thoughts, learning to create multiple flexible thoughts for any situation, and recognizing the truth in the flexible thoughts.  If mom is a social worker, this should make good sense to her.  This can be done through exercises and games. 
 
Mom made mention of negative consequences, which of course are appropriate if Josh responds in a disrespectful way to others.  But, I believe his thinking style is where the action is.  In fact, the only way his behavior will sustain a lasting change is if his thinking style leads the way.
By the way, I discovered that Dr. Todd has created a Flexible Thinking game that is available on his website. I love learning about great resources, so I wanted to pass that along to you, too!
What about you?  Do you have any wisdom for Jennifer?  Have you found a way to help a child who feels entitled or has trouble being flexible?

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4 Responses to Q&A Wednesday: Help! My child has a sense of entitlement

  1. I also have a child that has a negative attitude. What I started doing for her is for every negative thing you say, you have to tell me 3 positive things. For instantance: a few months ago something happened at daycare & she got really upset. Before we got a mile from daycare she had already told me 3 negative things & was wanting to go on & on about them. I immediately stopped her in mid conversation (to stop a 7 yr old girl from her fast talking rants is like pulling teeth!) & gently told her ‘you’ve just now told me 3 bad things that happened at daycare today’. I reminded her what our rules were now & gently told her she had to now tell me 9 positive/good things that happened that day. In the midst of her telling me she tried to revert back to the negative (well this was fun but…) & I had to stop & remind her again we are only talking about positive things, not negative things. She got a little frustrated at first but after 5-10 min we were finished & she forgot about what she was complaining about in the 1st place..plus it totally changed her attitude. This situation has played out several times a day after get togethers (church, play dates, birthday parties, etc…). After a few wks, she finally caught on & loved the idea of telling me all the positive things that had happened that day. She even asked me one time if she had to tell me a negative thing just to give me 3 positive things. She even got to the point where she was correcting her older sister. She still stumbles up once in a while & I tend to get in a rush w/the hustle of life but got to love older siblings that has the perfect memories 😉 to get us back on track!

  2. Barb Winters says:

    When I read Jennifer’s question, I immediately thought of Kay Wyma’s book “Cleaning House.” She addresses the entitlement issue in this excellent book. I read it several months ago and wrote a review of it here: http://inthemidstof.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/cleaning-house-book-review/.

    Kay & her family were recently on TODAY promoting the suggestions she wrote about. I highly suggest reading this book.

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