Teens today have grown up with access to information and resources at their fingertips. While it sounds cliche to say that they are living in a material world, it is true that they take for granted the privileges they have to have grown up in today’s society. As parents have worked hard to be able to provide for their children, they often underestimate how much they do for them and the emotional support that they try to provide. Your teen may seem selfish or self-centered when they are demanding or rebellious or even when they don’t say “thank you enough.” Selfish teens may expect you to do things for them unconditionally and feel resentful when you don’t go above and beyond. However, it’s not always effective to call them out on it, as they may become defensive or chalk it up to a difference in generational values. Instead of focusing on their ungratefulness, it may be helpful to teach them simple ways to build gratitude. 

Signs that your teen is selfish or ungrateful may include: 

  • They never feel satisfied with what you give them
  • They feel entitled and believe other people owe them something. In addition to material things, this may include a sense of justice or forgiveness.
  • They are bitter and struggle to let go of the past.
  • They play the role of the victim.
  • There is no room for your feelings and needs.

Research shows that grateful teens are more likely than their less grateful peers to be happy, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and less likely to have behavior problems at school. Changing their mindset can lead to more life satisfaction, sense of purpose, and better moods. Gratitude can be developed over time, even if it sounds impossible for your teenager.They may struggle with noticing when they are being ungrateful. For teens who are depressed or anxious, they may struggle with identifying things that are secure or positive in their lives. Many traditional methods of While it is ultimately up to them to develop this skill, some ways you can help include:

  • Keep a positive attitude: If your attitude towards your child is positive, they are more likely to respond in a positive way. Compliment your child whenever credit is due, but don’t shower them with praise for every little thing, which can create high expectations for them to succeed. 
  • Don’t judge the way they show gratitude. Teens hate being told what to do and they are quick to get defensive if they feel like their opinion is being invalidated. Reminding them to “use their manners” or criticizing the things they express gratitude for as “selfish” often doesn’t actually encourage them to show more gratitude. While words of gratitude can be powerful, actions speak louder.
  • Differentiate between rights and privileges: If your teen was raised not knowing the difference between what they are entitled to as a human being and what is merely a privilege based on their life circumstance, you need to make it clear to them that they are lucky to have the things they have-both material and abstract. However, be careful in how you give examples when comparing their privileges to other people’s disadvantages as this can reinforce entitlement.  
  • Get them involved in helping people: This can be a reality check for teenagers to check their privilege, but it also allows them to build relationships with other people and internalize the gratitude that they are shown. Gratitude can be contagious.
  • Start a daily gratitude tradition: Expressing gratitude should not be limited to Thanksgiving. Encourage your teen to write something down every morning or talk about it at the dinner table. Incorporating it into their routine or your family’s routine can help them get into the habit.
  • Change their environment. Like with volunteering, traveling to new places or visiting different parts of your city can change their outlook on life and make them pay more attention to the small details that they don’t always realize in their everyday surroundings. Whether they recognize their privileges or adopt a more realistic view of the things they need to be happy, a change in scenery can help them show more gratitude. 





blueFire Wilderness Can Help

blueFire Wilderness is a wilderness therapy program for teens, ages 11 to 17 struggling with mental health issues and behavioral issues. We understand that dealing with an selfish teen is difficult and challenging for the whole family, but we’re here to guide you through it. We incorporate adventure therapy and family therapy into the program to help students show more gratitude, build confidence, improve communication skills, and gain leadership skills that help them repair relationships and rebuild trust with their parents. Our goal is to help teenagers rediscover their inner spark and hope for the future. 

For more information about treatment for an ungrateful teenager at blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today.

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