Parents generally strive to avoid raising entitled children. But that doesn’t mean they won’t fall into that category themselves.
“An entitled parent is a ‘Karent’!” author and The Parenting Mentor founder Susan Groner told HuffPost, sharing a play on the term “Karen,” which has come to evoke pushy people, usually white women, who are rarely satisfied and often demand to speak to managers.
Groner noted that many child-rearers among us believe they and their families deserve special treatment, favours, and anything they deem the “best” because they are somehow superior to others by virtue of their economic or social position ― or “just because.”
“Being an ‘entitled’ person refers to someone who feels they should have things or get to do things without having to work for it,” said Becky Stuempfig, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Entitled people believe they deserve special privileges or recognition for things they did not earn.”
Suspect your parent may be someone with a strong sense of entitlement? Or trying to avoid this in your own parenting? Below, Groner and Stuempfig, along with other experts, share seven signs you were raised by an entitled parent.
They make unreasonable demands.
“Being demanding is a sign of an entitled person,” said Craig Knippenberg, a therapist and author of “Wired and Connected: Brain-Based Solutions To Ensure Your Child’s Social and Emotional Success.” “They want to go right to the top instead of dealing with the person at hand. They still feel entitled despite a logical explanation by another party, almost as if they feel wronged.”
Parents who are entitled will make unreasonable demands or requests of everyone, including their own kids.
“The entitlement is projected onto the child as a set of expectations and belief in perfectionist views of the child,” said psychotherapist Noel McDermott. “Any criticism of the child will be a criticism of the parent. The parent will insist on special treatment for their child and remove their child from opportunities to socialise outside of their tightly controlled social circle.”
There’s a sense that the rules don’t apply to them and an expectation for special treatment at restaurants, stores, their children’s school, and their extracurricular activities. If entitled people perceive that others aren’t treating them better than everyone else, they feel important enough to demand it happens.
They act out because they believe the world owes them.
“Believing that everyone owes them something” is a major sign of an entitled parent, Stuempfig noted.
“Entitled parents may seem like they have ‘a chip on their shoulder’ and often be heard complaining about how they were treated unfairly,” she explained. “Many times entitled parents will be seen complaining to people with authority such as managers of stores or restaurants, teachers, principals, and coaches. They may be seen dramatically storming out of social scenes or youth sporting events due to feeling like their child is not being treated correctly.”
She added that entitled parents may also engage in extreme behaviour in an effort to have their voice heard ― like yelling, complaining incessantly online, sending harsh emails, or posting rants on social media.
This behaviour often leads to feelings of embarrassment and shame in their children.
“Nobody enjoys sitting in a room when their parent is berating someone for something they didn’t do, have no control over, or will not do because it’s against rules or procedure,” Groner said.
They don’t show concern for others or their needs.
“It’s important for children to be raised to believe that other people’s needs are as important as their own. If a parent is entitled they are likely not modelling that for their children,” said Perri Shaw Borish, a psychotherapist and founder of Whole Heart Maternal Mental Health. “Entitled parents may not be helping their children to understand their place in the larger community and world and their connectedness to those outside of themselves.”
A lack of compassion or sensitivity toward others is common in entitled people, and they’re generally not inclined to apologise or make amends for their behaviour when others call them out because they believe they’re always right. They may choose to surround themselves with people they deem worthy or who share their worldview ― furthering limiting their capacity to understand of others’ feelings or realities.
“An entitled parent may be someone who continuously seeks attention, someone who knocks others down to make themselves feel better, gaslighting people when they don’t get what they want, not knowing how to compromise, and generally feeling like they are better than others,” said psychologist Sanam Hafeez.
Catherine Athans, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “The Heart Brain,” highlighted the way word choices can reveal a sense of entitlement.
“They refer to others as ‘them,’” she said. “They rarely refer to people as ‘we.’”
They’re obsessed with accomplishments and status.
Entitled parents tend to mention family status and accomplishments frequently, placing an over-emphasis on tangible measures of success.
“They may exaggerate their children’s achievements and accomplishments to the detriment of the child and they may also pressure their children rather than encourage and guide their children,” Shaw Borish said. “This can cause a sense of the child not living up to expectations which contributes to self doubt and low self esteem. It’s important for children to feel special in their parents’ eyes but they don’t need to feel special in everyone’s eyes.”
In some ways, having entitled parents can make children feel extra inadequate when they don’t win the first-place trophy or make honour roll. In other ways, it may prevent them from developing resilience because their parents do everything they can to remove obstacles to success.
“An entitled parent will never accept that their child is at fault for anything,” Groner explained. “They expect their child to be treated as the smartest, most talented child and will fight with teachers, principals, coaches, directors.”
Groner gave examples of statements you might hear from an entitled parent: “Why is my child only in the chorus? They deserve the lead role!”; “Don’t even think about benching my child. You better make them a starter”; “My child deserves to be in the gifted class, and I will go all the way to the superintendent if you don’t put them in that class”; “Take that off my child’s record or I will sue.” or even “Change my child’s grade.”
The “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal highlighted the lengths entitled parents will go to in order to assure their children gain entry into top-performing schools even if their credentials do not merit admission. The most important thing is that their child is a “winner,” said Stuempfig.
“The 2019 college admission bribery scandal is an extreme illustration of how parents with a sense of entitlement often feel they are above the law and will even commit crimes due to their core belief that their child deserves privileges they did not earn,” she noted.
They have trouble finding enjoyment in their life.
“Another sign that a parent is an entitled person is difficulty finding true enjoyment of their lives,” Stuempfig said.
Even if they are in a good position in life, entitled people may believe the opposite is true and have a self-pitying attitude that suggests they are victims of bad circumstances.
“Entitled parents often place great value on material objects and tend to spoil their children with all the latest and greatest physical items such as technology, clothes, bikes, cars and so on,” Stuempfig added. “They often attempt to find joy through material objects due to a lack of emotional satisfaction in their relationships and they believe they deserve to have the highest standard in everything.”
Having less than everything will breed a sense of dissatisfaction that prevents them from enjoying their day-to-day lives.
They don’t have healthy boundaries.
“Entitled parents often treat their child’s life as if it’s their own life,” Stuempfig said. “There’s not a healthy separation between parent and child.”
It’s important for parents to set healthy boundaries with their children to give them space to develop a sense of self, understand their needs and express them. This lack of boundaries can be damaging for kids, who may feel like they are not important and develop low self-esteem.
“Entitled parents may be stingy with their children and their children’s needs because their needs come first,” Athans said. “The pronoun ‘I’ will be used in conversations about anything.”
They lack gratitude.
Many psychologists tout the importance of practicing gratitude and its impact on mental health. Living in the moment and acknowledging the good things around you is a very powerful and healthy pursuit. But entitled people tend to lack this sense of gratitude.
“Entitlement isn’t so much about actual position but more about relationship to position,” said McDermott. “Someone who is entitled will lack gratitude for their good fortune and view anyone who questions their position as bad.”
If any of the above characteristics are reminiscent of your parents, know that entitlement is not necessarily a permanent condition, nor does it have to be your genetic fate. We’re all human and have our entitled tendencies from time to time, but expressing gratitude for the positive things in your life is a meaningful first step for combatting the negativity.