First published on ksl.com
Please help us with our 17-year-old son. Despite all our best efforts and role modeling, we have raised an entitled child that expects things in life he hasn’t earned. He has been jumping from job to job, because he feels they are too boring or the pay is too low. He instead spends his time hanging with friends, sleeping too much, or arguing with us that we aren’t there for him, although we pay for everything and he even has access to a car. Honestly the entitlement attitude is wearing thin, but we don’t know how to fix it. We can see that we made life too easy on him, because when things don’t go his way he sulks and acts like he hates us, or blows up in anger over small things. How can we get him to accept some responsibility for his life now, without pushing him away?
We are seeing this more and more with the teens we work with. These aren’t bad kids, they just didn’t learn how to be responsible hardworking contributors as children, despite their parents best efforts to teach it. They are also displaying repressed anger and confusion about who they are, where they are going and how to get there.
It is going to take getting tough and enforcing some real consequences, and doing it consistently, to instill better work ethic and cure the entitlement in your son now. The attention-seeking, excuse-making behavior happens because teenagers seek negative attention over no attention at all, and often they don’t know a better way to ask for the love and attention they need.
It is a time of great change and confusion for teens, and often their entitled behavior comes from fear they don’t know how to get what they need on their own. If you can look beyond the sense of entitlement, you will see a child who is desperately lost and scared. He has huge fear of failure (the fear he isn’t good enough) and this is creating the selfish, egotistical behavior. You will have to be very encouraging, validating and firm with your consequences to fix this.
Introducing new rules that encourage better behavior is essential, but it must also include having lots of mutually validating conversations, where your teen feels heard, validated and encouraged. This ensures you are addressing the underlying fear issues while maintaining a loving connection. The best way to have this conversation is gently, with love, and frequently. There is a communication worksheet on my website to help you do this. Constantly reassure them you are there for them and you believe in them.
Set aside some time every week to do something (one on one) with your teen. Getting food together is usually your best bet. Then, work at listening and asking questions more than you talk. This is difficult for most parents and will take time and practice to master. You may consider some life coaching for yourself, so you get the tools and skills you need to really connect with and help your child.
Here are some ways you can teach work ethic and eliminate a sense of entitlement in your teen:
If you are struggling with this, get some professional help yourself and quick. You may benefit from some parent coaching while you get another coach to work with your teen. Either way, some consistent tough love and consequences are in order, and we promise the sooner you do it, the sooner you will get a son who cares about his future, wants to be successful, and cares about others. Professional help makes a huge difference.
It’s a critical right time now, and you still hold more power than you realize. Use consistent rules and consequences to reshape his attitude. You will be doing him and the rest of the world a big favor by doing this.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the CEO of claritypointcoaching.com and a master executive coach. Nicole Cunningham is a master coach who specializes in working with teens.
This was first published on KSL.com
I have a difficult family problem. My wife has a daughter from her first marriage that is toxic, controlling, and alienating. I am trying to be "the wise, mature, strong and loving adult” you talk about in your articles, but it’s really hard. And we coming up on the holidays, Christmas, and other special events and her daughter wants her mother there, but I am not welcome. My wife is even starting to get pulled in that direction and siding with her daughter, which really hurts. How do I handle this? How do I heal our family? How do we stop all the finger pointing and should I let my wife go or insist on being included?
Life is rough, it is no easy, rose garden endeavor and everywhere there are people, there are problems, drama, fighting and defensiveness. This is true because everyone on the planet is dealing with a huge amount of fear, which puts us in a selfish, needy, defensive, and protective state - where we are incapable of loving, wise behavior.
Our fears of failure and loss keep us focused, every day, on getting something (validation, reassurance, attention or a feeling of superiority) to quiet our fears. Until we get this, many of us have an empty bucket and nothing to give.
This sounds dismal, but understanding this truth will help you to see human behavior accurately (as fear-based) and get yourself into a better space where you can rise above it.
Many people, who suffer from deep subconscious fear they aren’t good enough, cast other people around them as the villain. If they can do this and stay focused on your bad, they won’t have to deal with their own bad behavior or feelings of inadequacy. Chances are pretty good this daughter has cast you as the bad guy, to make herself feel better or she is haveing fear of loss (losing her mother’s focus, attention and love). This might drive her to use guilt to manipulate or control her mother into siding with her.
This happens a lot in blended families and can make everyone feel threatened and unsafe. But you can fight the fear in your family dynamics with strength and love. Here are three questions, which might change the way you see this situation and help you to be your best in spite of it:
1)Are you experiencing this situation for a reason? One of my hero’s is Viktor Frankl, who survived the concentration camps during World War II. During the midst of that horrible experience he asked himself this question, “Was it just random bad luck that I ended up here or did this happen for a reason, and there is meaning and purpose in my being here?”
After much thought, he decided there was no way to know for sure which might be truth. This left him with a powerful realization, when there is no way to know ultimate truth “We get to choose our perspective”.
You can choose to see your life as random chaos, and view others as having the power to take from you and even ruin your journey. You can experience pain and grief over this situation, or you can see life as a classroom and the universe as a wise teacher, who is co-creating your journey with you and every choice you make, to deiver the perfect educational experiences for you. This would mean this whole situation is here to bless you.
Frankl said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose” in how you see them. When you decide to see any situation as here to serve you in some way, you will suffer less and take things less personally. You may even be grateful for it.
You have the opportunity (if you choose it) to see this daughter is your perfect teacher. She is in your life for the same reason everything else is in your life – to grow you, to help you become stronger, wiser or more loving toward yourself and others.
This is the real purpose of everything in your life. When you get this, you will feel better about the situation.
2)How can I be a hero and turn this mess into a human achievement? The amazing Viktor Frankl decided to see his circumstance as having purpose and meaning (to grow him in some way). He decided if he was here for a reason, then he must turn this horrible situation into a human achievement of some kind. He could do this by choosing to stay in trust and love, and help and serve others every day, which was absolutely heroic in those circumstances.
He was dwelling deep in human fear and suffering, which meant there was a great deal of selfishness, anger and hate around him. It would have been easy to embrace negative thoughts and behavior. I am sure it took every ounce of power he had to stay in a place of love, but he proved it can be done.
We can rise with love, amidst hate and conflict. We have the power to behave with grace and strength when things go bad or people attack us. Remember we are eternal beings having a interesting educational experience here, but we cannot really be diminished or destroyed. Ultimately we are safe in God’s hands the entire time, and our infinite, absolute value cannot change. Therefore there is nothing to fear.
When we remember this and choose a fearless mindset, we can become a hero in any situation. We can dig deep for the love and strength (that is our true nature) and love our enemies, give to those that curse us, and even stay peaceful through an attack. We do this not because we are a doormat, but because we know they can’t really hurt us.
“Human potential at its best, is to transform a tragedy into a personal triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement.” - Viktor Frankl
You can do this too. Choose to view this situation as a story. Years from now someone will read this story and come upon this chapter (from today moving forward). What do you want them to read about you and how to handled this from today moving forward? Take the time to put write this story on paper and detail how you (the hero) will rise from here.
You might choose love towards your wife and her daughter no matter how they choose to treat you. You could ask them what would make them happy and if they choose to go alone, let them, without feeling slighted at all. But you must do this as a gift of love, not to claim moral high ground and beat them with your righteousness. You must take a completely generous, non-needy stance, showing them you are fine and will still stand in love towards them, no matter what they choose. This might make them see their unloving behavior and own it (but that cannot be your agenda).
Another possibility is that this lesson for you is about learning how to have mutually validating conversations so you can talk this through with your wife and daughter. There is a great worksheet on our website to help you with this. We also teach a relationship skills class each month, where we can show you how to have loving, mutually validating conversations and good boundaries so you can work through any problem.
3) What is in my control? You cannot control how other people think, feel or behave. You cannot make people like you or care about you. The only thing in your control is what you think, feel and do. You asked me, “How do I heal our family?” - the truth is you can’t, but you can heal yourself.
Viktor Frankl said, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Make this your focus every day. Heal yourself by turning anger over to God and choosing peace. Make some plans with your friends or family and show you wife and daughter what love really is. Love never forces or demands, or defends or attacks. It just says “I want you to be happy and I know I’m whole, loved and right on track in my classroom journey no matter what you choose.”
Choose to see your wife and her daughter as innocent, struggling, scared, students, doing the best they can with what they know (they may need more education, which you can trust the universe to supply right on time.)
Be the hero in this story by choosing an accurate perspective (that you have nothing to fear), strong thinking (based in principles of truth), and loving behavior (that is unselfish and giving). These are the only things in your control and you will at least be proud of yourself and like who you are.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
My teenage daughter rules the house and if she’s not happy, no one is happy. She is so difficult when she doesn’t get her way, it’s sometimes easier to just give in and not ask too much of her. I choose my battles and don’t let her walk on me about the big stuff, but I think I’ve become a doormat on the little stuff. She knows how to manipulate me with guilt to get what she wants. I hate it, but I don’t know how to change the pattern. Any advice?
Most teens use a great deal of manipulative and attention seeking behavior on their parents, and many parents, due to their fears of failure and loss, get played.
When your fears of failing as a parent or losing your child get triggered it’s hard to see the situation clearly and respond in a way that really serves your child. Instead, you may find yourself giving in, reducing your boundaries or even allowing yourself to be manipulated into doing or purchasing things in order to feel safe.
(Obviously, there will be some of you, who feel very comfortable enforcing strict boundaries and saying no to their teens. This article is directed at the parents who get walked on or manipulated and may not see it.)
We often see a cycle of guilt and fear in our Parenting Bootcamps, where parents, subconsciously create and contribute to cycles of manipulative behavior, as a result of their fear. Coaching these parents to function in a fearless state, stops this over-compensation and enables them to put well thought out, balanced and productive boundaries in place. These boundaries enable them to love and support their children without drama or being sucked into psychological games.
Eric Berne M.D. published an interesting book in 1964, called Games People Play. In it he describes the subconscious games people use to make themselves feel better or get what they want. All parents should be familiar with these maneuvers teens (or adults) may use.
Watch for these games in your home in your children and in yourself:
(You may be where they learned it.)
1) The Shame and Blame Game. This is where you are critical or judgmental towards other people and project your shame (your fear of not being good enough) onto others, because if you can cast them as the bad guy, then you must be the good guy. At least that is what it feels like in the moment. In reality, putting other people down only makes you feel better temporarily, because focusing on their shame doesn’t really take yours away.
If you have a teen that is critical and/or complains about everything and everyone, they may be having a self-esteem crisis, and they may need professional help to change the way they determine their own value. When they are more secure they will be less critical.
2) The Self-Pity Card Game: This happens when someone calls you on your bad behavior and you immediately play the self-pity card and talk about how bad you have it. You are really asking people to excuse your bad behavior and feel sorry for you instead of being mad at you. You may say things like, “I’m sorry, but everything is going so wrong for me right now, I’m having a horrible day, I have no friends, or I’m just so depressed. That's why I behaved badly.” They use self-pity to manipulate their way out of being responsible for their behavior.
This is favorite of “drama prone” teens and works well on loving, caring parents. You must watch for this and validate their hard time, but do not remove their responsibility for their behavior. You can’t let this game work or you will encourage more of it.
3) The Sympathy Card Game: This happens when they constantly talk about how bad they have it or how terrible and/or worthless they are. This is a game to get validation from other people. People play this game on Facebook when they leave posts like “Worst Day Ever” but they don’t leave an explanation about what happened. They do this because they are subconsciously fishing for validation. This game is a subtle and immature way to get attention.
If you see this in your teen, it is a sign they need some help with their self-esteem though and trust us, you cannot fix this with compliments or praise. It’s a deeper issue and may require some professional help to change the way they value all people and themselves.
4) It’s Their Fault That I Can’t… This is about blaming others for making it impossible for you to do something you should be doing. Teens often blame the teachers for their bad grades, their parents for their bad attitude and their friends for their sadness. The payoff here is they aren’t responsible for anything.
You must insist that your teen be responsible for everything they do, think or say, and for every situation they have created in their life. If you don’t they will become a powerless victim and spend their entire life there. Again, this may require a professional help (or someone other than you) to show them the truth or teach you how to handle being the bad guy.
5) You Don’t Love Me: This is a common game with teens, as it is really good for manipulating parents. Parents feel guilty (especially if they have been working long hours and already feel like they are letting their family down) so they have to give the teen what they want, to prove their love. If you are seeing this in your home, don’t give in on this one, but show an increase of love and attention in a healthy way somewhere else.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you have healthy boundaries and a healthy connection with your teen:
When you don’t know what to do… just ask questions and listen. Don’t say anything but, “Tell me more. Help me to understand what you are feeling.” If you haven’t created a safe place or listened well in the past, you may have to apologize for that and promise to just listen now. Then, validate your child’s feelings, while at the same time enforcing strong boundaries as to how you and the family must be treated and what behavior is appropriate.
Good communication, trust, and mutual respect (and seeking professional help early on) are the keys to a healthy relationship with your teen.
You can do this.
My ex-husband hurt me so deeply I cannot even express the depths of my anger, hurt and devastation. He has moved on and is happy in a new relationship, but I can’t seem to stop hating him and wishing horrible things would happen to both of them. I think I would feel better if he would just get what he deserves, but his life is just grand and happy instead. How can I stop being so bothered and angry at them for being happy while I’m not? People say I should forgive for me, but I can’t even see how that is possible. Help me.
There is a reason you (and most of us) struggle with forgiveness. The fact is there are very real benefits to staying mad or hurt. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest about why you might want to stay mad.
Forgiveness may feel impossible right now, but that is because you think forgiveness means something it doesn’t mean. You think it means pardoning the offense or saying it’s OK that he hurt you. But it is not OK, it was wrong, and this fact is keeping you stuck.
But there is another way to approach forgiveness that involves looking at this situation in a different way, which will completely change how you feel about it. It comes down to choosing one of two mindsets about life. You need to examine which of these is your current life perspective, and consciously choose which way you really want to live
(If you don’t make a conscious choice about your life perspective, your subconscious mind will choose for you, and it might make a bad choice.)
The first mindset option is a judgment and condemnation mindset. In this place you believe life is a test and we (human beings) must earn our value. Here, any mistakes we make count against that value, which means some people end up being better than other people. With this mindset you see human value as changeable, based on our behavior, appearance, property, etc. In this place there is judgment, criticism, attack, gossip, guilt and a constant fear that you aren’t good enough because you believe that is possible. This fear mindset makes you focus on the bad in others and cast them as worse than you so you can feel better. This mindset creates anxiety, insecurity and fear of failure. If you choose this mindset you will struggle to forgive others because you must condemn them to feel safe and good about yourself. (This is where most of the world lives, but it doesn’t sound too enjoyable, does it?)
The second option is a trust and forgiveness mindset. In this place you believe life is a classroom, where humans are here to learn and grow. In a classroom you can erase any mistakes and try again, and no mistake affects your value. Here everyone has the exact same intrinsic worth and that worth cannot change no matter what bad choices we make. Bad choices just sign us up for some interesting lessons and create educational consequences we get to work through, but we still have the same value as everyone else.
With a trust and forgiveness mindset, hurts and mistreatment happen to make you stronger, wiser and more loving, and you can trust there are reasons and purpose in having them. Here, you can see the positives that each negative experience creates and you are grateful for the strength and wisdom you gain from them. Here, you don’t need to condemn others to feel safe, because you understand you are all safe the whole time. You understand your value is infinite and absolute and so is theirs. Here, forgiveness is easy because you trust God that you can’t be diminished and your journey is always the perfect classroom for you. You trust the universe that it knows what it’s doing, and from here it is easy to let offenses go and forgive.
The question is, “how do you want to live?”
Holding onto anger and judgment is like reaching into a fire to grab a hot coal to throw at your enemy, even though you are the one being burned. It would make a lot more sense to pour water on the whole thing and let it wash away. A trust and forgiveness mindset is the water.
Staying in condemnation of others is like choosing to be the warden guarding the prisoners at the jail (making them stay guilty) even though neither of you can ever leave. If you stay at your post to keep them in, you are still there with them (in prison) the whole time.
Let yourself out of prison, even if it means letting them leave too! Choose to let everyone out and do it for selfish reasons — because you want a better, happier life, free from pain.
Remember, forgiveness is not about pardoning the guilty or saying it’s OK that they hurt you. It is about choosing to see life as a classroom and seeing all human beings as divine, amazing, scared students in the classroom of life whose poor choices are driven by misconception, fear, confusion and stupidity but whose value is the same no matter what. It is about choosing to see every experience in your life as something that happened to serve your education. If the hurtful experience served you on some level, does it make sense to stay mad about it?
This is the one point in this article I want to make sure you get. You must choose a forgiveness mindset if you want to ever feel good about yourself. You must choose to see everyone as a guiltless student for you because it is the only way you can escape your own fear of not being good enough and create peace.
If you insist on staying in judgment and condemnation, you will be giving power to the idea that humans can fail and not be good enough, and this will have to be true for you too.
If you choose to give power to the idea that human value is infinite and not tied to our mistakes, that counts for you too. Remember, there are no benefits to not forgiving that are worth feeling horrible yourself.
There is a High Level Forgiveness Formula worksheet on my website that would also help you shift your perspective. Make sure you answer every question on paper and process your resistance to forgiving.
You can do this!
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.