Overcast   57.0F  |  Forecast »

Self-Centered Teens: How to Deal

Does your kid think the world revolves around her? Here's why your adolescent is acting this way – and what parents can do.

Dealing with teenagers can sometimes make you feel like you're trapped in a perpetual re-run of the Me, Me, Me show. While going through the changes and challenges of puberty, sometimes teens get stuck on themselves and what's important to them, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Henry Ford Health System child and adolescent psychologist Nikki Sulaica, LLP, says parents anxious about their teens' self-centeredness come to her asking how to help them be more concerned for others. The root of teens' self-centeredness, Sulaica says, may rest in the amount of responsibility they take for their actions.

"There's a lot kids don't have to be accountable for," she says – particularly when parents rush in to rescue them every time they get stuck.

Walking a line

Parents should support their teens and be there for them when needed, she says, but when caregivers constantly give a "free pass" by not seeking accountability for problems at home or school, teens don't learn the impact their actions have on others. Repeatedly footing the bill for speeding tickets, for example, doesn't help teens learn why speeding is dangerous to themselves and others.

"(Parent interventions have) got to be balanced out with teens having the opportunity to be accountable for their own actions," Sulaica says.

Tara Lindsay, a professional nanny who does volunteer work with teens, agrees.

"No parent wants to see their child struggle in life," she says, but "sometimes when we think we're helping, we have to look at what the long-term help will be."

It's a normal thing

When worried parents come to Sulaica for advice on their self-focused teenager, she assures them that their case is not unique.

"The first thing I do is try to normalize what they're going through," she says.

The inherent changes and developments that accompany adolescence are part of the problem. As teens try to find their places in the world, Sulaica says, friends, cell phones and Facebook emerge as the most important things in their lives.

"Development for kids … is a self-centered time without a doubt," Sulaica says.

"The only difference between a toddler and a teen is the size of the vocabulary," adds Lindsay. Both age groups, she says, experience sudden spurts of changes in development and perception that would challenge an adult going through the same thing. "To expect a toddler or teen to react to those changes with calm and peace is a little unfair."

Tips for parents

For parents who want to help their teens be less self-centered, Sulaica has this advice: Give them as many opportunities as possible to be accountable for their actions.

"I feel like once we feel responsible for our own actions, we're more likely to think about our actions and how they affect people in our world," she says.

When teens have opportunities to take responsibilities for themselves, she says, "the world will open up" as teens realize the far-reaching consequences of their decisions.

Sulaica reassures parents that a bit of self-centered behavior doesn't mean their teen is doomed to a life of selfishness. She says the majority of adolescents she sees are open to helping others through fundraisers and volunteer work.

"Now more than ever, I'm seeing kids open to being selfless," she says.

Lindsay urges parents to set a good example for their teens through others-centered behavior and to find volunteer work for teens that relates to their interests and favorite activities.

"You can't learn to read if you don't practice. You can't learn to be a compassionate person if you don't go out and practice it," she says.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

How to Prevent Your Child from Choking

Mealtime can turn from pleasant to panic in a matter of seconds. Protect your child from this mishap with our list of dos and don’ts.

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

YouTube Moms Parody Iggy Azalea's Hit Song 'Fancy'

The rapper's had the hit of the summer, but these clever mothers made it their own, riffing on pregnancy and motherhood in some pretty funny viral videos.

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

Biscuit Recipes: From Classic to Chocolate

September is National Biscuit Month, but you can bake these any time! These recipes, including classic biscuits from Betty Crocker and cornmeal biscuits from Martha Stewart, will have you reaching...

Little One-Yard Wonders Book Review and Play Mat Project

Little One-Yard Wonders Book Review and Play Mat Project

Check out a new title that promises lots of sewing projects you can make for kids. Also, for the skilled seamstress, try one of its cool play-oriented patterns.

Talking to Kids About 9/11

Talking to Kids About 9/11

Do you remember where you were on Sept. 11, 2001 when you got news of this tragedy? Here are nine tips to calm, educate and understand it 13 years later.

Fall Crafting at Home: Tea Towels, Harry Potter Owl, More

Fall Crafting at Home: Tea Towels, Harry Potter Owl, More

Whether you're planning a kids party, want to capture autumn art in a frame or would rather keep summer going with ice pops, try these family DIY ideas.

Helping Teens Avoid Social Media Mishaps

Helping Teens Avoid Social Media Mishaps

With so many apps that keep us connected, it's easy for kids to get hooked and too often, their online presence goes bad. How can parents keep their teens safe? Experts weigh in.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement