It seems each new generation of children are becoming more and more spoiled than the ones before them, doesn’t it? Sure, most parents want their kids to have things they didn’t have, but in an age of consumerism, some parents are going overboard.
Those who don’t spoil their kids with “things” are also at risk of spoiling kids with lack of structure, rules, boundaries or consequences. Where do we draw the line? How can we avoid spoiling our kids?
Set Some Limits
Whether its birthdays, holiday gift-giving or some other occasion, set a financial limit for stuff and stick to it. It’s much better to give the gift of your time and come up with creative ways for your kids to unwrap a gift of a camping trip together or a family holiday somewhere they’ll enjoy. There is also nothing wrong with asking others in your life who give your children gifts to keep them inexpensive, or also gift your kids with their time.
The remote control car your child’s grandparents give him or her will long be forgotten once the novelty wears off, but a day at the zoo with grandparents creates memories and photo ops that your child can hold on to much longer than that remote.
Using “please” and “thank-you” are important, but so is understanding our own privilege. Kids of any age can be taught to appreciate all of the things and opportunities they are fortunate to have while learning compassion for others who don’t have the basics like a home or food in the cupboards. Working together as a family in a soup kitchen or doing some other kinds of charitable work where children meet people who are down on their luck is a perfect way for them to gain an understanding of a diverse range of people and life circumstances, and to appreciate their own lives.
Establish Boundaries and Limits
If “stuff” isn’t how your kids might be spoiled, best to focus on keeping their behaviour on making good choices. There are no “bad” kids; parents shouldn’t use that terminology as it often reaps what you’re trying to avoid. Instead, teach your kids what the family rules are, establish firm boundaries and stick to them consistently. Ensure your kids get fair consequences for inappropriate behaviour or for breaking rules, but also ensure they understand why their behaviour was a concern.
“Because I said so” sometimes feels easiest and most satisfying, but it doesn’t help a child truly understand why limits and boundaries are important. If your answer to a question is “no” or some version of no, don’t give in to begging. Children will push, so they need to know that their pushing doesn’t get rewarded or they’ll continue trying. A good way to avoid hearing the same question asked a hundred times is to respond, let your child ask again and give the same response, then on the third request, simply reply, “Asked. And answered.” Usually, a couple times saying that will stop the asking, but if you’ve got a persistent asker on your hands, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Asked. Answered. Moving towards consequences if asking continues.” They’ll get the hint.
Be a Parent, Not a Buddy
Sometimes you’re going to be the bad guy, and that’s ok. Your child may even tell you she hates you, and in that moment, she just may, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing by enforcing your family rules. There’s a difference between kids liking you and loving you, and sadly, “like” isn’t always guaranteed, even if you don’t have rules and consequences. Children don’t have to agree with us, but as they get older, it’s a good idea to establish a process for them to discuss their disagreement in a respectful way, ensuring they understand that you having the discussion with them won’t always guarantee you’ll change your mind or allow something you were undecided about.
Learning negotiation skills is also a great way to prepare kids for life outside your home, so when little Johnny comes and asks to go to his friend’s house to play, it’s ok to say to Johnny, “Have you done all your homework, had a shower and picked up your wet towel and dirty clothes?” so that Johnny understands work comes before leisure, and next time he can let you know he’s done all his expected chores before he asks.
This is a tough one for parents because we love our electronics too! Kids should not have free run of their electronics whenever they want them, and some (like TV time) should even be asked for to avoid having to turn off the TV if other work hasn’t already been completed. Daily usage limits should be enforced and no electronics should be in the bedroom or workspace while homework is being done, nor at the table while eating. Having small talk conversations across all age groups is a dying art in today’s youth, so practice at family dinners without phones. If the internet or computer is needed to complete homework, establish a no-clearing-the-browser rule so you can see what your child was doing online.
Wifi passwords should be restricted and changed often so kids need to ask for access to go online and you can ensure school work and chores are done before the internet is available. Until your child has demonstrated they are trustworthy, responsible and fully understand the risks of the internet, they shouldn’t be given large amounts of time unmonitored online, or have access to electronics in their room when it’s bedtime.
The easiest path to avoiding a spoiled child is to always remember the parents are the drivers of the family bus. That doesn’t mean you have to be unfair, unkind or unnecessarily controlling; it just gives you the opportunity to bring up a well-rounded child that can deal with restrictions as a fact of life and understand temper tantrums aren’t tolerated.