Demanding children – children who have entitlement issues – seem to be common these days. Like the obnoxious child, Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, who was constantly demanding that her father get her whatever she wanted (“I want an Umpa Lumpa! Get it for me NOW!”), we hear many children today uttering the fairly constant refrain, “I want ….! Give it to me! Get it for me, now!” They seem to be masters at instilling guilt in their parents through phrases such as “It’s not fair!” or “You don’t love me!” or “What about what I want?”, or by getting angry, shutting down or crying piteously.
Why are there so many demanding children?
Olivia grew up with a self-centered demanding critical mother who never let her have her feelings. Olivia learned early to take responsibility for her mother’s feelings by being a good girl. Now, as a parent herself, and not wanting to do to her children what her mother did to her, she has gone the other way. Rather than being demanding and self-centered, she is compliant and self-sacrificing. Rather than being an authoritarian parent like her mother was, she is a permissive parent, giving in to her children’s demands rather than setting appropriate limits.
Olivia tends to give much to much credence to her children’s feelings. All they need to do is be upset about something and she stops what she is doing to attend to them. They have learned to use their feelings of hurt, irritation and anger as a means of control. Olivia thinks she is being loving when she makes it “safe” for her children to express their feelings. The problem is she is not discerning the difference between having feelings and using feelings as a means of control. Because she gives her children’s feelings so much importance, her children have learned to use their feelings against her.
Olivia’s children need to learn to care about Olivia instead of just trying to get her to give herself up to meet their demands. The only way they will learn to care about her is if she learns to care about herself.
Demanding children are difficult to be around. They have a hard time keeping friends and as adults they create chaotic relationships. So let’s take a hard look at what we need to do to support caring in children rather than self-centeredness. Authoritarian parenting often creates compliant/caretaking children, while permissive parenting seems to create narcissistic children. Neither authoritarian nor permissive parenting is loving parenting – parenting that supports the highest good of both children and parents. Let’s break the cycle of creating caretakers and takers. As parents, we need to learn to:
* Take loving care of ourselves rather than constantly give ourselves up to our children’s needs and feelings.
* Set appropriate limits rather than always complying with our children’s demands.
* Care about our own feelings as much as we care about our children’s feelings.
* Not allow our feelings and needs to be invisible to our family.
* Accept rejection from our children rather than give in to them to avoid being rejected.
* Learn to discern the difference between children’s feelings that need to be attended to and feelings that are being used to manipulate.
* Expect to be appreciated and respected rather than accept being taken for granted.
It is not a matter of swinging back to authoritarian parenting. It is a matter of expecting to be treated with respect and caring. Your children will learn to treat you the way you treat yourself. If you allow your feelings and needs to be invisible because you are not attending to them or making them important to you, your children will learn to see you and others as invisible. Children who see themselves as important and others as invisible because this is what their parents are role-modeling may become narcissistic, self-centered, demanding children.
It is not easy to move out of caretaking and into caring about yourself and others. Caretaking others was likely a form of survival when you were growing up. Yet to truly be a loving parent, you need to have the courage to behave in a way that fosters caring and consideration in your children, and this will never happen if you consistently put yourself aside for others.