Is Your Child Selfish? Here's An Action Plan.

I recently received this question in the Reboot Your Kids Facebook group.

“Let’s talk about the label ‘selfish’ as it is applied to children between the ages of 5-15. I am curious what you think.”

It’s a great question. The selfish label is used early and often by most parents and is quite destructive.

I did a little Google search for dealing with selfish children because I wanted to see what the mainstream advice was. I came across a convenient checklist.

My, oh my. A checklist for determining whether your child is selfish or not! Here are some of my favorites:

“Refuses to help in the home.”

“Lack of respect for parents.”

“Bad temper.”

“Excessively angry when everything doesn’t go as one wants.”

“Tries to control others.”

“Curses excessively.”

“Expects automatic compliance with his or her expectations.”


“Taking others possessions.”

“Lacks empathy.”

I could literally go on and on. And on. And on. (It’s a damn long checklist).

Do you want to know what this checklist would be REALLY good for?

It would be PERFECT for determining how selfish mom and dad are!

Let’s start with “lack of respect.” In mainstream households, children are completely disrespected at nearly every turn. They’re given very little autonomy, corrected every five seconds, told what to do, hit, yelled at, ignored, teased, belittled, isolated, and punished.

You don’t teach kids to respect others by disrespecting them. You wouldn’t respect your boss if he spent the majority of the day disrespecting you, would you? Why do we think children are any different?

“Excessively angry when everything doesn’t go as one wants” and “tries to control others.” Wow, if that doesn’t describe mainstream parenting I don’t know what does. “Do it now! Because I said so!” Zero negotiation, zero empathy. 100% CONTROL.

If the child defies that order, guess what happens next? Yelling. Anger. Raging. Or hitting. I think parents call that “a temper tantrum.” Except it’s the parents who throw it.

How about “manipulative?” Parents are tricking children all the time. You’re smarter and have more experience so it’s easy to do, right? Yep, it’s also manipulative. And kids who are manipulated learn to manipulate. It’s that simple. (punishments and rewards, by nature, are manipulative as well).

“Taking others’ possessions.” One of my favorites. “No ma’am, you MUST share!” (Parent snatches object or forces child to give it to another child). That’s not sharing, that’s stealing. And you just taught your child that there’s no such thing as property and things can just be taken by force. Well guess what? It’s perfectly logical for a child to think, “if there’s no such thing as property, then I can take things from others the same way they were taken from me.” Don’t punish your child for being logical and for copying exactly what you just did — that’s silly.

“Lacks empathy.” Uh huh. Have any of these examples been a clear illustration of empathetic behavior? Of course not. So, children are just magically supposed to have empathy in an environment where they’re offered none? That’s a pretty tall order.

So, what have we learned about selfishness? The BEST way to determine selfishness in a child is to have the parent look in the mirror. 

We need to stop putting these labels on children as if parents have nothing to do with it. Everyone is obsessed with diagnosing children and “solving the child’s problem” when the problem is almost always created by the adult.

Let’s start solving our own problems so that our children can benefit by having stronger, healthier leaders and so we can stop falsely passing blame to them (and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in the process).


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