Although selfish behavior is normal for teenagers, consistent selfishness can hinder your teen’s previously healthy relationships and result in other effects, like a poor work ethic. While your teenager needs some patience from you as he grows and forms his moral code, it is important to take note of which behaviors are normal and how you can help to encourage him to be more selfless.
According to Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., kids are naturally selfish and must be taught concepts like generosity. This behavior can potentially become worse during the teenage years, when children are trying to achieve independence. Your teen is likely focused inward while she struggles to find her own identity, which can result in thinking less about others and butting heads more often with peers and authority figures.
You can correct some of your teenager’s selfish actions by talking with him about his decisions. When you see him acting selfishly, explain any potential harm caused by his actions and help him pinpoint his reasons for acting that way. Set boundaries and consistent rules so that he understands acting out in a selfish way will bring consequences. Additionally, consider providing plenty of family opportunities for him to experience selflessness, such as donating used items or volunteering in the community.
As a parent, you are one of the most important influences in your teenager’s life. Throughout her childhood, she has observed her parents and other trusted adults in order to learn how to act, so it is important that you avoid acting selfish toward the people in your life as well. The Mayo Clinic recommends providing plenty of positive attention and praise while maintaining a balance with discipline that works for your relationship. Additionally, you need to set boundaries with your teenager so that she knows selfish behavior will not be tolerated. If your teenager prefers not to spend time with you, make sure she has interaction with another responsible adult, like an extended family member, so that she can see selfless behavior in action.
Sometimes, selfish behavior can be displayed outside of the typical inward behavior and extend to illegal or dangerous activity, such as drinking and driving. If you observe your teen practicing selfish behaviors that concern you or are extreme, seek the help of a counselor or other adolescent professional. Your teen might need counseling or more aggressive methods of discipline to change his behavior.