By: Rachel Doherty
Teenagers have a reputation for being selfish, but it’s better for parents to see this behaviour as self-centred instead.
Selfishness was one of the myths about teenagers, as selfishness is about personal gain. Being self-centred is more about neglecting others. It’s a thoughtlessness rather than an intentional act to put their needs first.
Seeing it from their perspective
There’s a lot happening in the life of a teenager. Their body is changing and they’re forming deeper friendships than ever before. They’re working out who they are and what they want to be. Or at least what they don’t want to be.
All this thinking and feeling about themselves doesn’t leave much room for the needs of others. That’s why they come across as selfish and thoughtless. Parents need to tolerate this behaviour for a while to let the changes in the body of their teens settle down. But like most things, it’s best to see this as a temporary stage. Look for ways to get your teen moving on to being more thoughtful and accommodating.
Overcoming the self-centred life of teens
Self-centredness is best dealt with in a relationship. One that involves some great modelling and the odd conversation about how their behaviour is affecting others. So, it’s a good thing that all this self-centred behaviour takes place within a family. The hub of our most important relationships.
Here’s some tips to help you tackle this stage of teenagehood in a way that makes sure it’s just a temporary blip:
1. Build thoughtfulness into family life. Shared meals shape the little manners involved in caring for others. Passing platters and waiting until everyone is served reminds us that manners are part of putting other people’s needs first. Tackling jobs as a family is another handy way to remind teens of the shared nature of life.
2. Ask them for help. People respond so much better to an invitation than an order. As teens get older, inviting them to give a hand tests how much of a citizen they are. If you’ve asked for a hand lugging in 15 bags of groceries and they all decline, just look after yourself and make life uncomfortable in other ways. Teenagers are quick to learn lessons that impact on their own comfort.
3. Get involved in a cause together. The opposite of self-centredness is generosity. If you and your teens get involved in volunteering or supporting a cause, they’re likely to better appreciate how blessed their life is. Gratitude goes a long way to hobbling selfishness.
4. Invite their friends over. Kids are always better behaved at other people’s places or in front of their friends. Not only do they get some great modelling when someone else is over, but they’ll probably put on a bit of a show as well. You can later on thank them for showing how thoughtful they can be.
5. Call out selfishness. Spot when they’re being too self-centred and need to think more of others. Just be sure to do this in a quiet and respectful manner so they don’t feel publicly humiliated.
Most teenagers are thoughtless rather than selfish, so take this stage in your stride. Then focus on what you can do to show them that there’s far more people in this world than just them.
Do you have a self-centred teen in your house? What have you found works best for getting them to think beyond themselves?
Article supplied with thanks to Tweens 2 Teen.
About the Author: Rachel Doherty helps those living and working with young people, through supervision, coaching, speaking and consulting.