If it suddenly seems like your teen believes the universe revolves around her, you aren’t alone. Selfishness is common during adolescence, when teens become highly focused on their developing world view and values.
Although selfish behavior is normal for teenagers, consistent selfishness can hinder your teen’s previously healthy relationships and create other negative effects, like a poor work ethic or lack of social consciousness.
While your teenager does need some patience as she grows and forms her own moral code, it is important to know what behaviors are normal, and how you can help to encourage her to be more selfless, and more focused on the needs of others.
Kids are naturally selfish and must be taught concepts like sharing and generosity. Unfortunately, this behavior sometimes becomes worse during the teenage years, when children are trying to achieve independence. Your teen is focused inward while she struggles to find her own identity, which can result in thinking less about others and breeding conflict more often with peers and authority figures.
The reason teenagers act selfishly could be because of the way their brains operate. According to a study by University College London, teenagers hardly use the area of the brain that considers other people’s emotions and thoughts when making a decision. They are even less likely to consider their own emotions than adults do.
Selfishness can emerge in many different ways. A teen may be unwilling to share family resources with her siblings or parents, or may forsake responsibilities to do the things she wants to do. Sometimes, selfishness is just a general attitude. Your teen may talk about herself as though she holds more value than other people, and might express feelings of entitlement or arrogance.
Parents can help diffuse a teenager’s selfish actions by talking with her to deconstruct her choices. When you see her acting selfishly, explain the potential harm caused by her actions and help her think about the underlying reasons for her behavior.
Set boundaries so your teen knows selfish behavior will not be tolerated. Additionally, provide plenty of opportunities for her to experience selflessness, such as donating used items or volunteering in the community. Other opportunities to serve can be found through church mission activities, school philanthropy projects and nonprofit organizations.
Let your teen choose a cause or organization that is meaningful to her. For example, a young animal lover may be motivated to donate or volunteer to benefit the Humane Society or the American Society for the Protection of Companion Animals. If she feels vested in the organization’s mission, she’ll commit more fully to the work.
Help your teen find other like-minded young people to spend time with. By helping her connect with those who share similar priorities, it will allow her to build friendships with other service-oriented youth, and will help show her that lots of people are driven to help others.
As a parent, you are one of the most important influences in your teenager’s life. Throughout her childhood, she has watched you, and other trusted adults, to learn how to act. Model good behavior by living selflessly yourself. Find ways to give back to your community and your church, and show your children that having a heart for service is a priority in your family. Encourage your teen to find her own ways to help others and discover how she can give back, too.
Finally, remember that selfish behavior can sometimes accompany other more high-risk behaviors, such as drinking and driving, cheating or engaging in sexual activities. Self-centered teens may perceive themselves to be invincible or think they can’t get caught, feeding the potential for disaster.
To learn more ways to turn selfishness to selflessness, please contact Compass Rose Academy today.