Why Does My Teenager Seem So Self Absorbed?

Parents who are concerned that their teenager is very self absorbed are not alone in their concerns or worry. The reason for such noticeable self absorption in teenagers is related to their developmental stage. Feeling as though the world revolves around them is part of the normal developmental process for teenagers. It does not mean that it won't drive you crazy and cause you to be worried, but what it does mean is that your teenager is not doing anything out of the ordinary if they are presenting as self absorbed.

Some of the more obvious forms of self absorption parents may notice in their teens are the following:

1. They will not admit they are wrong and do not want your valuable advice: parents will often notice their teens struggling or making significant mistakes, yet they will not admit it and will not allow themselves to be helped by others. Often times they would rather pretend things are fine or argue with you that they are fine than to tell you they need help.

2. They will defend friends you do not approve of just to prove you wrong: this can be really frustrating for parents. Teens will often defend their friend's behaviors to you as though they were their own behaviors. Teenagers want to feel that they have good judgment and will often not fully see all aspects of a situation for fear of being wrong or of being judged. In addition, teens want to have control and choosing their friends is an area where teens want to maintain full control.

3. They will not see how their behavior impacts others: this can be very upsetting to parents. I have heard parents express fears that their teen will not be a good person or will end up hurting others because they cannot see how their actions impact others. It is good to keep in mind that this is a normal phase of adolescence and that most teens grow out of this way of thinking.

4. They cannot understand that they cannot always get what they want, when they want it: this is directly related to teens wanting immediate gratification in addition to them viewing their needs as more important than the needs of others. So...even with you rationally explaining why you don't have money to get them a new video game because there are household bills to pay, they may still not appear to understand. This can be really infuriating to parents who are trying to teach their children the importance of budgeting. In addition, they may not understand why you cannot drop everything you are doing at a particular moment to drive them to their friend's house. This is equally as frustrating because it leaves parents feeling unappreciated and undervalued.

5. They do not want to participate in family events or holidays anymore: this is generally very hurtful and stressful for parents who place a lot of value on family. I have seen parents so hurt at the thought that their teenager would rather be with friends or in their room on the computer than participating in a family dinner, birthday party or holiday. This is related to teens seeing their friends as the most important people in their lives and being fearful of missing out on something with a friend if they take time to participate in a family related function.

The good news is that these behaviors are the result their current phase of development and that most teens grow out of such behaviors. The bad news is that this phase can be extremely frustrating for parents in the moment. Some suggestions which can help parents manage such apparent self absorption:

1. Remember it is a phase and will pass - just keeping this in mind can help parents see it as a normal part of growing up which can make it a little less stressful.

2. Don't take things personally - generally teens are not doing anything to be intentionally hurtful -they are just self absorbed and cannot see how they are impacting others. They are doing what feels best for them in the moment and are not intentionally doing anything to make others feel worse.

3. Pick your battles - if you try to address everything about your teenager that you find troublesome you will likely be engaged in a constant argument with them. Rather, figure out which things are most important (Thanksgiving dinner versus a summer cookout with the family) and stress those with your teen while acknowledging their interest in doing other things. This can also help teach them the art of compromise.

4. Set clear limits and stick with them - this is especially helpful for situations where you teen wants what they want, when they want it. If you are clear about how much they have for allowance or what you will and will not do in terms of providing them transportation AND you stick to what you say you will do, they will be less likely to continue to bring it up or try to get you to give in to them.

5. Know that they will hear your advice and follow your role modeling - even if they will not admit to it...they do listen to what you have to say (at least some of the time!) and they do observe your actions. Being a positive, consistent role model plays an important part in shaping your teenager as they move into adulthood.

© 2009 Elite Life Coaching

For more information on Life Coaching or coaching for parents please visit [] or email

My name is Karen Vincent. I am a Certified Life Coach as well as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with a Masters Degree from Boston University. I have worked with teenagers / adolescents and their parents for the last 15 years in a variety of settings, including outpatient therapy, specialized schools, and in the home.

I have developed and conducted numerous parenting classes and support workshops specific to parents of teens. I have also created and presented training for professional staff including teachers, therapists and counselors who work with adolescents in Massachusetts, Connecticut and in New York City.

In my work, I partner with parents (usually through phone calls) who are experiencing difficulties in connecting with their teenage children and who are struggling to manage social, emotional or behavioral issues which arise during the teenage years. Through working with me, parents are able to:

• work through any self doubt they are having about their parenting

• develop action plans for addressing their areas of concern

• develop new ways of parenting their teens effectively

• discover new ways of connecting effectively with their teens

• eliminate sleepless nights and worries while Restoring Peace of Mind During the Teenage Years

Please call for a free Coaching Consultation: 774-245-7775

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