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How Schools and Teachers Should React to Entitled Children

Knowing how to respond allows for raising competent adults.

Key points

  • Some people believe that children today are more overindulged than other generations.
  • Teachers can help parents realize that certain experiences help children grow up to be responsible adults.
  • Tips for avoiding overindulgence include setting limits and letting students make decisions.

Joshua Grubbs et al. studied how emerging adults feel when labeled as the most narcissistic and entitled age group. They found that:

“… emerging adults believe their age-group and the one following them (e.g., adolescents) to be the most narcissistic and entitled age-groups, that they have generally negative opinions of narcissism and entitlement, and that they respond negatively to being labeled as narcissistic and entitled.”

Further, some believe that children today are more overindulged than any other generation. If this is the case, these students and their parents could prove to be very challenging for teachers.

Max Fischer/Pexels
Source: Max Fischer/Pexels

When Overindulged Students Come to School

Being a teacher often means being in an unpopular authority position. Teaching is not a popularity contest and understanding and being clear about this helps prevent overindulgence. Remember there are three ways to overindulge a child (too much, soft structure, and over-nurture), and all three can be done simultaneously. Focus on one way in which students are being overindulged first. It will be easier if only one thing is changed at a time. Identify which of the three overindulgences is occurring and address it, then later address other areas of concern.

Get Parents Involved

Next, involve parents in the process. There are three main things parents may not realize are important for students to experience. First, many parents try to rescue their children from everything. They need to realize that it is alright for children to experience some unpleasant consequences and that these are necessary for learning. For example, an angry father who berates the teacher and threatens to go to the administration if his daughter’s grade is not changed does not want her to experience the unpleasant consequence of poor study habits. But this is an important lesson for the daughter to learn. Second, parents need to realize there will be rules that need to be followed even though their child may not want to follow them. Finally, it is important that children learn that they will not get what they want all of the time. Teachers can help parents realize that these experiences help children grow up to be healthy and responsible adults.

Keep the Dialogue Going

One additional area that should be considered when making systemic changes is an ongoing dialogue within the school. Teachers should encourage ongoing discussions with school administrators about what changes and policies need to be established. This helps both teachers and administrators prevent overindulgence before it happens. For example, an upset mother who emails her son’s teacher daily demanding to know his assignments and progress immediately is unrealistic particularly when most teachers have 25 to 30 students or more per class. Teachers would be overwhelmed if all parents demanded the same responsiveness. As a school, a policy should be developed on the use of email with parents. Further, involving concerned parents and students in the development and review of policies would be helpful.

Tips for Avoiding Overindulgence

  • Practice and use the Test of Four.
  • Decide which rules are negotiable and which are non-negotiable. Enforce rules using reasonable consequences.
  • Set limits and discuss them with your students.
  • Have age-appropriate rules adjusting the rule to each new level of child development. Then gradually give students freedom appropriate for their age.
  • Show appreciation to your students for how well they follow rules.
  • Let students make decisions appropriate for their age.
  • Encourage your students to solve their own problems.
  • As children demonstrate greater responsibility, increase their level of freedom.
  • Teach the difference between wants and needs.
  • Learn to say “no."
  • Practice saying, “You have had enough for now.”
  • Teach respect for people and things.
  • Become a good role model for your students. Talk the talk and walk the walk.

The task of effectively responding to overindulgence is possible through an ongoing discussion between concerned teachers, administrators, and parents. The tools of knowing what overindulgence is, as well as how to respond allows school, teachers, and family to raise competent and well-adjusted children who will eventually become capable and successful adults.

The Lutheran Education Journal also published portions of this post.

Practice Aloha. Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2022 David J. Bredehoft.


Bredehoft, D. J., & Armao, C. K. (2008). What teachers can do when overindulged children come to school. Lutheran Education Journal, 142(1), 25-35.

Bredehoft, D. J., Clarke, J. I., Dawson, C., & Morgart, M. (2003). The relationship between childhood overindulgence and personality characteristics in college students. Study 2.

Grubbs J. B., Exline, J. J., McCain, J., Campbell, W. K., & Twenge, J. M. (2019). Emerging adult reactions to labeling regarding age-group differences in narcissism and entitlement. PLoS ONE, 14(5), e0215637.

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