You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,  he humbled himself…Philippians 2:5-8 NLT
Webster’s Dictionary defines entitlement as the belief that one is deserving of certain privileges.
Table of Contents
- Start with the example of Jesus
- Set an example yourself by serving
- Model for them valuing people over possessions
- Use positive speech when talking about others
- See a need? Meet the need
- Love those who are hard to love
- Pray for your teenager’s love to grow
- Pray with your kids for the needs of others
- Teach gratitude and forgiveness
- Encourage your teen to practice love with their friends
I was definitely “born on third base” as they say, and my parents recognized it. My parents were high achievers, and I saw them at a pretty accomplished phase in their lives when I was still young. I didn’t get to see all the mistakes, hard lessons, failures, and getting back up along the way that helped them get there.
I’m sure my parents could see the entitlement growing in me so, to their credit, they spent years sharing with me in conversations or at the dinner table what they struggled through to achieve what they did – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m grateful they did that, because it gave me both a sober estimate of what it really took to be successful and at the same time helped me dream big and believe that success is possible.
I think it’s fantastic when our kids have dreams and visions to do big things. We should nurture that as parents because we believe in them. The problem is that if our kids are entitled, their dreams will probably center around getting things for themselves, and they won’t have the humility, work ethic, respect, and care for others that they need to become who they are meant to be and do what they are meant to do.
So how do you inspire an entitled teenager to love others and think beyond themselves?
In Philippians 2, the Scriptures remind us that even though Jesus knew he was God, he didn’t cling on to his equality with God as something to be proud of. In other words, he neither felt nor acted with any entitlement even though he could have had every right to.
Instead, Jesus changed the world through humility, love, and service. As parents, we can help our teenagers to love others – no matter how entitled they may be – by inspiring them to follow this example.
Teaching our kids to be selfless isn’t easy. It’s often easier to get frustrated and want to give up trying to inspire them. But that’s what this article is all about; it’s so worth the fight to inspire your kids while they’re a “captive audience.” You won’t regret it – and neither will they.
Let’s look at 10 tips from the Bible on how we can inspire our entitled teenagers to love others.
Start with the example of Jesus
You call Me Teacher and Lord, and truly, that is who I am.  So if your Lord and Teacher washes your feet, then you should wash one another’s feet.  I am your example; keep doing what I do.John 13:13-15 Voice
There’s no better place to start busting the entitlement mentality in our kids than with the example of Jesus. After all, he changed the world, and he did it through serving.
Jesus knew that the night before Passover would be his last night on earth before leaving this world to return to the Father’s side. All throughout his time with his disciples, Jesus had demonstrated a deep and tender love for them. And now he longed to show them the full measure of his love.  So he got up from the meal and took off his outer robe, and took a towel and wrapped it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ dirty feet and dry them with his towel.John 13:1,4-5 TPT
John 13 gives us a vivid example of Jesus’ humility and selflessness. You can apply this to your own family by talking over how you all can put the heart of John 13 into practice yourselves. Washing others’ feet may not be the need of the hour, but you can discuss ways you can sacrifice your comfort to serve neighbors, classmates, or coworkers in need.
There are countless other stories of Jesus in the gospels that display how reducing and emptying himself to serve or care for others made inspiring impact on people’s lives:
- Jesus washes his disciples feet (John 13:1-15)
- Jesus touches and heals the leper (Matthew 8:1-3)
- Jesus eats with “tax collectors and sinners” (Mark 2:15-17)
Planting the Scriptures’ teaching in your kids’ minds and hearts (and in your own mind and heart) is powerful, and so is your own personal example of putting the Scriptures into practice.
Pause and reflect:
- How can you use the Scriptures in your life and home more to inspire your teens (and yourself) to love others?
Set an example yourself by serving
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.1 Cor 11:1 NIV
Serving together regularly in some way is such a bonding and encouraging thing to do as a family. Kristi and I and our boys have been serving together weekly on Saturdays in an inclusive program called E-Sports since the boys were literally in their strollers. Now that our kids are in their mid- to late-teen years, we see the cumulative value of all those years focused on helping others regularly.
Both of our sons now help run one of E-Sports’ inclusive basketball programs. Over the years, they’ve had to learn how to adapt basketball skills and drills to best support the kids with special needs that they are training. To do that, they’ve had to think a lot about the other kids’ needs, limitations, and strengths — as well as how to make things fun and captivating.
I really believe that the heart to think about and care for others like this was not necessarily ingrained into them by “making them serve.” It was inspired into them. We all enjoy it and have made it a fun part of our life. They would tell you themselves it’s actually been a joy to serve in this way, not a burden or duty.
Some of their closest and longest friendships were forged on the E-Soccer fields and E-Hoops courts. Now they continue serving weekly with a lot of those friends in their teen years. Doing something like this together as a family has made so many special memories we will never let go of.
Pause and reflect:
- What opportunities can you think of for your family to serve together regularly?
Model for them valuing people over possessions
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.Philippians 3:17 NIV
Don’t set the affections of your heart on this world or in loving the things of the world. The love of the Father and the love of the world are incompatible.  For all that the world can offer us-the gratification of our flesh, the allurement of the things of the world, and the obsession with status and importance-none of these things come from the Father but from the world.  This world and its desires are in the process of passing away, but those who love to do the will of God live forever.1 John 2:15-17 TPT
Our kids need to see that we value relationships over achievements and prioritize people over possessions. More often than not, they will learn to love and be excited about what we love and get excited about. Does your life model for them that you are more excited about your career or the next cool new thing you want to buy than building your marriage and friendships?
Let’s learn from this next guy who got so consumed with all he had accumulated that other people were not at all on his mind, or even a part of his vocabulary:
Speaking to the people, Jesus continued, “Be alert and guard your heart from greed and always wishing for what you don’t have. For your life can never be measured by the amount of things you possess.”  Jesus then gave them this illustration: “A wealthy land owner had a farm that produced bumper crops. In fact, it filled his barns to overflowing! He thought, ‘What should I do now that every barn is full and I have nowhere else to store more?  I know what I’ll do! I’ll tear down the barns and build one massive barn that will hold all my grain and goods.  Then I can just sit back, surrounded with comfort and ease. I’ll enjoy life with no worries at all.’ “God said to him, ‘What a fool you are to trust in your riches and not in me. This very night the messengers of death are demanding to take your life. Then who will get all the wealth you have stored up for yourself?’  This is what will happen to all those who fill up their lives with everything but God.”Luke 12:15-21 TPT
Pause and reflect:
- Are your kids learning that the measure of their lives will be in the quality of their friendships — or in the amount of stuff and achievements they’ve accumulated?
Use positive speech when talking about others
Speaking of vocabulary, our language around the house and the attitude it carries will affect our kids’ perspective about other people. The heart condition behind our words can be contagious, for good or for bad.
Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults.  But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another…Eph 4:31-32 TPT
The Bible tells us to lay aside bitter words and insults. Talking about people in a bitter or insulting way will affect our kids (Hebrews 12:15), teaching them it’s okay to hold grudges. And this will not lead to them caring more and loving others.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.Ephesians 4:29 NIV
Practicing building others up in conversations teaches our kids to think about how to encourage others. It teaches them to see other people’s positive qualities and have vision for others instead of criticalness.
Pause and reflect:
- Has your speech around the home been positive and uplifting about others, or more negative and laced with bitterness or insult?
- How do you think the way you talk about other people has affected your teenager?
See a need? Meet the need
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:17-18 NIV
Our kids need to see that when we see a need, we respond. We care and take action if we can. When it comes to loving others, our actions speak louder than our words.
A great story in the Bible about this is the parable of the Good Samaritan. This story shows how the heart to stop and care for the needs of others makes a great impact, because so many others around us keep walking by.
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.Luke 10:30-34 NIV
The Good Samaritan inspires me to go beyond feeling pity for others who are hurting. By stopping to meet a need wherever we can, we help the person in need and the hearts of those joining us. We also can inspire our kids to learn to look for needs around them too.
Pause and reflect:
- When was the last time you recognized a need around you and took action to meet it?
Love those who are hard to love
…We can all understand if someone was willing to die for a truly noble person.  But Christ proved God’s passionate love for us by dying in our place while we were still lost and ungodly!Romans 5:7-8 TPT
We have to give credit to our son for coming up with this one. When we asked him if there’s anything we do that inspires him to love others, he said it’s inspiring when he sees us love someone unconditionally who is “hard to love” and not loving us back. As he said, “That’s what Jesus did for us.”
This can be difficult because our selfish nature so much wants reciprocation or appreciation when we extend our hearts to care. But persevering in our love even when it’s not reciprocated is the true test of purely-motivated love for others.
Pause and reflect:
- Can you think of examples where your kids are seeing you love others unconditionally? Ask them what they are seeing in your life in this area.
Pray for your teenager’s love to grow
I continue to pray for your love to grow and increase beyond measure…Philippians 1:9 TPT
One thing my wife and I do is pray for our kids to develop well and to have a heart for God. It might sound simple, but it works.This is something we can easily add to our life.
Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can’t quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians.Colossians 1:3 MSG
We also need to thank God when we see or hear of our kids caring about and extending love to others. Communicate that to God and to your kids – that you appreciate it and you are inspired by seeing how they care about others.
Pause and reflect:
- Do you pray daily for your kids’ love to grow?
- Are you relying on God through prayer to help your kids’ hearts grow in love?
Pray with your kids for the needs of others
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”Matthew 18:19-20 NIV
It’s powerful to know that Jesus is with us when we pray together. By praying together with our kids for their friends, family, neighbors, or classmates, we help them attach their hearts to the people they know. We help them think about, consider, and put in their hearts the needs of their friends and others.
Pause and reflect:
- Are you taking time to pray with your kids regularly?
- When you pray together, do you take time to pray for specific needs of others?
Teach gratitude and forgiveness
“I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”Luke 7:47 NLT
When we live with an attitude of gratitude, we want to extend love to others. As Luke 7 teaches us, the more we experience forgiveness in our lives, the more love we have to share with others. It may sound cliché, but we need to remind our kids how much they have to be grateful for.
It also doesn’t help when we get embittered toward our entitled teenagers and don’t want to forgive them. If we’re embittered, we nag our kids until they do their chores and get easily angry at them. Let’s just say, it’s not inspiring.
By being honest with our kids but forgiving at the same time, we can motivate them to love and serve as well.
Pause and reflect:
- How grateful are you? Do you practice gratitude and forgiveness yourself?
Encourage your teen to practice love with their friends
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
One of the ways we can inspire our kids to love others is to help them be a good friend to their friends. In addition to teaching by sharing about your own friendships, help them understand how important it is for them to initiate being interested in how their friends are really doing (emotionally, mentally, spiritually beyond just the surface).
We’ve found that our teens benefit from having conversations about how to be good friends. Just like us, they have strengths and weaknesses in their friendships. We help them learn to ask questions, be curious, and step out of their comfort zone to care about the deeper things with their friends.
You can help your teen by having conversations about their friendships and helping them go beyond activity to real engagement of the heart.
Pause and reflect:
- Are you aware of your teenager’s strengths and weaknesses in his/her friendships?
- How can you encourage the strengths and help with the weaknesses?