Spoiling your kids comes naturally to most parents. It’s simpler to say yes to their every command, it’s rewarding to watch their eyes light up when they get their way and it’s satisfying to be inundated with kisses and cuddles when you agree to a treat or a toy.
But parenting isn’t always about taking the easy road. It’s not about letting your children get what they want, whenever they want. It’s not that simple.
The Spoil Factor
Being a parent is about teaching your kids the lessons they need to succeed in society, to grow into confident and happy individuals and to accept the ups and downs that come with life. It’s about teaching them how to accept the good with the bad, the give with the take, the play with the work and, most importantly, the nos with the yesses.
By giving in to their every whim, we are not teaching them lessons in gratitude, acceptance, empathy and generosity. In fact, many experts suggest that by spoiling our kids, we are actually setting them up for future failure. We are setting them up to assume that they are entitled to anything they want.
And, when you think like this, you are bound to be disappointed when life doesn’t work out this way.
So how can you ensure you are raising grateful, unspoiled children, even in a society where patience, entitlement and instant gratification seem to be the norm?
Stopping the Spoiling – Five Lessons to Teach Your Kids
1. To Pitch In, Be Patience and Play Fair
Play is a child’s work. And through play you can teach them the importance of sharing and being part of a team, of taking responsibility and cleaning up after their messes, and of waiting their turn. These lessons that you can teach your toddler and pre-schooler will translate to all activities as they continue to grow.
2. To Understand the Value of a Dollar
As your children get older, chores and allowances can help them to understand that it is through hard work that we are rewarded. However, it is also important to instil that helping out shouldn’t be something children do just to be compensated – it should be part of the regular family routine. Everyone contributes to the household, regardless of what’s in it for them.
3. To Appreciate the Little Things
Life doesn’t have to be grand to be enjoyed. Explore the little things that make life wonderful and choose activities, holidays and entertainment where there is no sense of ‘want’. Explore playgrounds and parks, go camping in the bush, make blanket forts in the backyard and learn to appreciate the non-commercialised activities that involve spending time together rather than spending money.
4. To Have a Sense of Gratitude and Generosity
There is no greater feeling than that of giving but young children don’t realise this just yet. Teaching them to be grateful for what they have often comes down to showing them as well as talking to them about it. Giving to charity is a great way to start but allow your child to choose what he gives away and don’t force him to do it – help him understand the ‘why’.
5. To Live Within Limits and Learn to Wait
Patience shouldn’t just be a virtue. It should be expected. Rather than jumping at your child’s every command, let him wait until you are finished what you are doing.
It’s important for parents to step up and set the limits. It’s also critical that, no matter how tired you are or how much your child begs, you stay within these limits. Your kids are going to push you but you’re the boss. You’re stronger. And by sticking to your boundaries and teaching your children to live within these limits, you are teaching them an incredibly important lesson in life.
Dethroning Your Child
Sometimes it’s too late to simply say, “I’ll do XYZ to make sure my child isn’t spoilt.” If that’s the case and you’re struggling with a spoilt child, it’s time to take back your place as the master of the household and own it. Here’s how to bring your spoiled child back to the realm of reality.
1. Set Expectations
By telling your child ahead of time what can be expected in the next hour, day or even week, you allow them to subconsciously prepare which, in turn, gives them realistic expectations about how you will respond to their requests, or their behaviour. It also sets you up for a less dramatic response on their end when you say no. For example, let them know, “We’re going to the shops to buy some food, we will not be buying any toys or treats, do you understand?”
They may still ask but being able to refer back to your earlier conversation can mean the difference between a tantrum and a reasonable reaction.
2. Be Consistent
There’s nothing worse than inconsistency when trying to improve behaviour in children. If your child knows that they can get their own way on some occasions, they are more likely to exhibit inappropriate behaviour in every situation until they get what they want. Consistency doesn’t just come in the form of saying no though, it can be used for rewards too. For example, “When you finish your dinner, you’ll get dessert.” If you’re consistent, your child will soon learn that they will get what they want, a treat, once they’ve completed the necessary task and they’ll be more likely to do what is required of them, with less arguing too.
3. Don’t Tolerate Unacceptable Behaviour
Knowing that there will be consequences for certain actions, and making sure you as a parent follow through with punishment every time, will help to repair a spoilt child’s sense of entitlement. Punishment comes in many forms, and whether it be using a naughty step or taking away your child’s tech, your chosen method will, inevitably, be initially met with resistance. But don’t fold, see the punishment through and you will soon see your child’s overall behaviour change.
Resources to Help
Check out these great books on helping with this common parenting concern:
Escape the Parent Trap: Unspoil Your Kids by Cheryl Critchley
Raising Grateful Kids in An Entitled World by Kristen Welch
Your Kid’s a Brat and It’s All Your Fault by Elaine Rose Glickman
The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham
All books are available here.
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