Raising an unspoiled child…how to strike that parenting balance
A spoiled child grows into an adult who feels entitled…how do you strike the balance between wants and needs as a parent?
It is so difficult to see your child upset, disappointed, or wanting something that you don’t feel is necessary or maybe can’t afford. There were many days when I questioned whether we should break down and buy an item that one of our kids “just HAD to have”, fold and give that cookie before dinner to keep the peace, or rescue a child from the consequence of a behavior because their tears broke my heart. There were days that I did…but I know that the lessons the kids learned when I did NOT were much more valuable.
When you bring home your precious baby, that first year there is very little difference between your child’s wants and needs. Everything your child wants IS a need. Your sweet baby communicates those needs loudly and clearly resulting in you feeding, holding, rocking, changing, and responding. As a parent, your quick response to those needs lets your child learn that he is loved and safe. Very important lessons!
Fast forward to a 3-year-old laying on the floor at the grocery store check-out line screaming for a package of M & Ms at 9:00 am. Does he need them? No, but he sure wants them! Is the behavior annoying, do you want to make it go away quickly? Yes, but purchasing the candy may not be the best lesson for your child!
What exactly is spoiling?
As parents we must teach our children how to navigate the world even when there is frustration or disappointment. Think no M&Ms at 9:00 am, not getting your attention when you are speaking with another adult, having to save money to buy those designer jeans, and dealing with sitting the bench during a basketball game. Our children must learn that when disappointment in life happens, when they must wait for something they want, or the world doesn’t revolve around their desires, that life doesn’t crash down around them and that they are still loved. Your child must learn that in life you must work hard, be patient, and “play nicely” to be happy and successful. Being loved does not mean there are no bumps in the road, being loved means you are taught how to navigate them.
Spoiling means your child will learn that they are entitled to things. This entitlement replaces the idea of hard work and patience to get or achieve things. Children who are spoiled often do not learn the difference between wants and needs. Spoiling is never due to giving your child the things he or she needs, the opposite is true. When your child has what they need, good behavior patterns can follow. Children need loving physical contact, soothing when upset, structure, routine, positive words, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, toys, …basics…these basics bring an emotionally solid foundation and feeling of security. How do you prevent the “spoiled brat” that none of us want to raise? How do you strike the balance as a parent? Of course there are times we will give our children things they simply want; there is nothing better than seeing the excitement of getting something that is special! Of course we are going to fold and stop the “madness” in the grocery store and give in to the M&Ms occasionally. Of course we will respond to the whining….but how do we strike the balance??
- Don’t buy things your child wants constantly. Gifts are important parts of childhood…the holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions are wonderful, exciting times for your child. Receiving a gift every time you walk through Target and see the latest toy is not the best parenting choice. This results in a child who no longer appreciates but expects.
- Delay gratification. Help your child develop patience. It is fine to tell your child “I will help in a minute when I finish this.” “That new Barbie is very nice, let’s write it down on your birthday wish list.” This will help your child learn that his world will not collapse when he does not get what he wants NOW. Delayed gratification teaches the difference between wants and needs and that others have needs too.
- Develop strong values and morals as a family, give together. Raising an unspoiled child is not just about saying “no” to things, it is about developing a value based home. A home that has kindness, generosity, gratitude, hard work, and feelings as its core. Teach what it feels like to make someone else happy. Point out when your child is kind. Start talking about gratitude. Share what you are thankful for each day. A great time is during family dinners or right before bed. Ask your child to share 3 things each day he is thankful for….you share too! Share as a family, donate used toys your child no longer needs, participate as a family in donations to charities…be sure your child is included! This is a great way to teach your child about the joy of giving and appreciation for what he has. There is happiness in appreciation; there is misery in concentrating on what you don’t have.
- Watch how much screen time your child has. Advertising knows how to send the message to your child on what he “needs”! Children who learn to self entertain and play outside are less needy!
- Spoiling is not just too many things, it is an attitude too. Don’t give into temper tantrums, this teaches that those actions result in “getting what I want”. Have consistent consequences for unacceptable behavior; try not to fold because it is easier. Parenting is hard work!
- Let natural consequences of life happen for your child…bumps in the road happen, learning to handle that is essential.
- Give your child praise, but praise for specific behaviors or accomplishments. Constant blanket praising results in a child who feels the world owes him this. Let your child learn that positive actions feel good INTERNALLY!
- Give your child chores and responsibilities. In the real world, we are all responsible for something. This fosters a good work ethic and self confidence too. Studies show that children who have routine chores at home are happier, more responsible, and learn the value of taking care of possessions!
- Remember, giving your child things does not replace your child’s need for your time. So many of us are busy! Many parents feel some guilt regarding the hours they spend away from their children! What your children crave is your time, not your gifts. Taking time to talk to your children, read stories, and play games is better than any purchased gift. The feeling of contentment from the latest video game is fleeting, the feeling of love from your time is not.
- Live the values you teach. Your child learns what he sees. Does your child see you buying the newest and the best? Do you show your child that you often sacrifice and delay gratification? Talk to your child about what you want, but demonstrate that you might not need it!
Fostering an environment that doesn’t result in a child who feels entitled is not always easy. There will be times when your child may be unhappy, angry, or even throw a fit, but it is only for a brief time. Giving in affects behavior for the long-term. I am not telling you to make your child’s life difficult. There are certainly times that we will and should indulge our child. But remember, a spoiled child learns that behavior, that spoiled behavior it is a result of parenting. You cannot love your child too much…but sometimes loving your child means your child will not get everything he wants. 🙂
There is nothing harder as a parent than seeing your child disappointed about something he or she wants but can’t have, but nothing makes you prouder as a parent than seeing your child handle the ups and downs of life with grace, respect and a “can do” attitude.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Becoming a parent ♦ Discipline ♦ Growth and Development ♦ Parent/child communication ♦ Raising a child with character ♦ Uncategorized
- Tagged: character, family bonding, growth and development milestones, how to prevent spoiling, infant, parenting balance, preschooler, school age, self confidence, self esteem, spoiled. entitled, teen years, temper tantrums, toddler