Teens can become preoccupied with shopping if they haven't developed other interests.

What Causes Teenagers to Become Greedy?

by Morgan Rush

Designer-brand clothing, frozen coffee drinks, the latest handheld digital device or regular manicure-pedicure dates can add up quickly for families. Many parents enjoy treating teens to occasional splurges, but the enjoyment of generosity fades when it isn’t met with appreciation. Avoid having teenagers become greedy by looking for signals that their gratitude is waning.


Teenagers raised with a certain level of entitlement might be less grateful about receiving privileges, according to the Live Science.com article, "Are Teens Really Lazy & Greedy?" If teens become accustomed to receiving an expensive haircut or new clothing each month, these items become expected. Parents can reduce entitlement-based greed by explicitly pointing out that they are intended to be “extras” and not part of a routine. EmpoweringParents.com recommends cutting back on treats and talking with indulgent friends or family members about sharing experiences such as going to a museum, rather than purchasing more "stuff."


Parents might assume that they’re facing greedy teen spending when looking at credit card charges or being asked to hand over cash for movies, clothing or dining out. The root cause of apparent greed might be misunderstanding; your teen might assume that you have more spending money than you have, especially if you have never discussed family finances or budgeting in general. A 2013 article in "The Christian Science Monitor" recommends tackling this type of teen greed by reviewing elements of the family budget together and setting reasonable spending targets together based on the teen’s needs and priorities.

Peer Pressure

Teens make all kinds of friends in middle school and high school, including friends whose parents have different spending priorities than yours. Teenagers might also befriend classmates who work part time and spend their income on expensive goodies, according to a University of Akron article titled "Protecting Society from Teenage Greed." This can lead to your teen becoming greedier in an attempt to keep up with friends. Don’t forbid or discourage friendships with wealthier classmates; instead, discuss the basic fact of different spending habits and clearly articulate the parameters of the family budget.


Media and marketing can create foster greed in teens, according to the FamilyEducation.com article, "Giving Teens Money." If this becomes a problem, limit the teenager’s access to shows and movies that celebrate materialistic lifestyles. Star-struck teens might be interested in learning more about celebrities who have used their money and influence in philanthropic or political endeavors to improve the world around them.


Too much time spent at the mall, where stores are packed with expensive trinkets, can cause teenagers to become greedy. It could be that your teenager isn’t particularly interested in shopping or hanging out at the mall, but hasn’t yet developed outside interests. Joining a sports team, trying out for a school play, or completing volunteer work can help teens occupy their time in more meaningful ways. Parents can also encourage teens to start their own business, according to "The Christian Science Monitor" article.


Because greed has a strong biological basis, according to Richard F. Taflinger in a Washington State University article titled "Taking Advantage," parent modeling could be causing teen greediness. Parents who exhibit excessive interest in having new TVs, clothing, jewelry or collectibles are sending the wrong message to children about spending and debt, according to FamilyEducation.com. Limit household spending to set a good example, and avoid using extrinsic rewards to incentivize desired behaviors. Handing over a $50 bill for earning good grades will only encourage materialistic motivations.

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

Photo Credits

  • Maria Teijeiro/Digital Vision/Getty Images