A good definition of a spoiled youngster is “one with a sense of entitlement” (e.g., “I deserve whatever I want – and I shouldn’t have to work for it”). This is a youngster who is more interested in herself than in others. Moms and dads who are over-protective and all-giving contribute to this sense of entitlement.
What does "over-protective" parenting have to do with having a spoiled child? Over-protective parents don't want their youngster to fail, so they do everything in their power to make sure this doesn't happen. But at a certain point, these moms and dads are no longer doing their youngster a favor. The youngster becomes accustomed to having things done FOR him and assumes that everyone will work for his success (and unfortunately, this is simply not the case). Whenever parents get between their child and life experiences (in order to minimize the consequences of his choices), they are officially being over-protective.
Here are some methods of over-protective parenting:
1. BRIBING: “You can have a new DVD if you do your homework.”
2. DOING TOO MUCH: Doing things for children that they could do for themselves.
3. GIVING TOO MUCH: Buying nearly everything she wants (e.g., cell phones, cars, insurance, clothes you can’t afford, junk food, etc.) in order to “keep her happy.”
4. HOVERING: Doing their laundry, waking them up in the morning, making their lunches, driving them to the park when they could walk or ride a bike, excusing them from helping the family because they have homework.
5. LYING FOR THEM: Writing excuses to the teacher (e.g., “Okay, I’ll write a note to the teacher that you were sick this morning, but you’ll need to be sure and catch up”), or refusing to tell your spouse about a particular behavior problem (e.g., “You better be glad I’m not telling your father about this!”).
6. RESCUING: Buying new things to replace what a youngster loses, staying up late to help with (or do) last minute homework, defending your child when his teacher reports misconduct.
So how can parents avoid being over-protective, but still make sure their child is safe?
Here are some tips:
1. ASK FOR HELP: ʺI need your help. Can you explain to me why it’s not important to you that you do your homework?ʺ
2. CONTROL YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR: ʺI’m willing to take you to the library when we come to an agreement in advance for a convenient time, but I’m not willing to get involved at the last minute.ʺ …or… ʺIf you need my help with your homework, please let me know in advance.ʺ
3. DECIDE WHAT YOU WILL DO WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT. “I’m available to help with homework between 6:00 and 7:00 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays. I won’t be available to help with last minute projects. If you’d like, I can teach you some time-management skills and show you how to set up a routine.”
4. ENCOURAGE LEARNING FROM MISTAKES: “I can see that you feel bad about getting that ‘D’ on your assignment. I have faith in you to learn from this and figure out what you need to do to get the grade you would like.”
5. EXPRESS YOUR LIMITS: “I’m not willing to go to school to bail you out. When your teacher calls, I will hand the phone to you or tell her she will need to discuss it with you.ʺ
6. FOLLOW THROUGH WITH KINDNESS AND FIRMNESS. "I can see you are stressed about waiting until that last minute. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. I’m available to help with homework between 6:00 and 7:00 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays."
7. INFORMATION VS. ORDERS: ʺI notice you spend a lot of time watching television and talking on the phone during the time you have set aside for homework.ʺ …or… ʺI notice you often leave your homework until the last minute and then feel discouraged about getting it done.ʺ
8. JOINT PROBLEM‐SOLVING: ʺWhat is your picture of what is going on regarding your homework? Would you be willing to hear my concerns? Could we brainstorm together on some possible solutions?ʺ
9. LETTING GO OF THEIR ISSUES WITHOUT ABANDONING THEM: ʺI hope you will go to college, but I am not sure it is important to you. I’m happy to talk about your thoughts or plans about college anytime you like.ʺ
10. LISTEN WITHOUT FIXING: ʺI would like to hear what this means for you.ʺ
11. LOVE AND ENCOURAGE: ʺI love you just the way you are and expect you to choose what is right for you.ʺ
12. RESPECT PRIVACY: ʺI respect your privacy and want you to know I am available if you want to discuss this with me.ʺ
13. RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION: ʺI am feeling too upset to talk about this right now. Why don’t we put it on the agenda for the family meeting so we can talk about it when I am not so emotional – O.K.?ʺ
14. SET UP AN AGREEMENT: ʺCould we sit down and see if we can work on a plan regarding homework that we both can live with? Let’s put that on the agenda for the family meeting so we can work on an agreement.”
15. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS: Share your truth by using the ʺI feel ______ because _______ and I wish ______ʺ process without expecting anyone else to feel the same or grant your wish. This is a great model for kids to acknowledge their feelings and wishes without expectations. For example, ʺI feel worried when you neglect your homework because I value education, and think it could be very beneficial to you in your life.”
16. SHOW FAITH: ʺI have faith in you. I trust you to figure out what you need. I know that when it is important to you, you will know what to do.ʺ
17. STAND FIRM: Of course, this single act is not going to magically change your youngster. You must consistently tell your youngster when you think he or she is acting spoiled. Explain why you think this and why it's important to compromise or share. Most importantly, begin setting limits and standing by them.
18. TEACH CHARITY: For example, if you believe you've bought too many toys for your youngster, tell her so. Go on to explain that she does not play with all of them and is no longer putting them away or taking care of them. Allow her to choose a few favorite items and then give the rest away to charity. This will teach her about giving to others while learning to value what she has.
19. THINK OF THE FUTURE: Remember that this change won't be easy, but it is important. If you continue to spoil your kids, they will get to the point where they are not satisfied with anything. They will never feel gratified. When you decide to stop spoiling your youngster, it doesn't mean you can no longer buy her designer clothes or nice things - just cut back. Buy one pair of designer jeans, not 5.
20. BE PATIENT. If your child has been over-protected most of her life, she is not going to develop self-reliance over night. So understand that this is a process that will take some time.
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents