How to Avoid Spoiling Your Child

Now let’s get real for a moment.  I’m going to be tough on parents in this article.  So if you have a weak backbone, then you may NOT want to read what I have to say...

Some parents had a hard childhood and now they want their own youngster to have everything and do everything they missed out on. Often, the pendulum swings and mothers/fathers who had a strict upbringing feel the answer is to give their youngster as much freedom as possible. Research shows that this results in kids developing a huge sense of entitlement.

It is wise to assess just how sloppy one’s parenting skills may have become. Answer these tough questions with a "yes" or a "no."

1. At the end of the day, do you pick up after your youngster (e.g., dishes, toys, books, clothes, etc.) since that's easier than asking her to do it? If yes, you are getting her accustomed to having an expensive personal servant when she becomes a young adult.

2. Do you feel that giving a youngster a good understanding of ethics, morals and spirituality will stifle her creativity and warp her spontaneity? Doing that will reward you with a youngster who doesn't value herself, her body or her ability to function harmoniously with others.

3. Do you figure that sex and violence in television and movies will prepare your child for the "real world"? Wouldn't it be better to help her enjoy and create a better world? 

4. Do you permit your child to engage in every teen fad so he can be "one of the crowd"? Then prepare for a wardrobe that causes you embarrassment, problems with bad hygiene, and the youngster's inability to think for himself and be an individual.

5. Do you treat the possessions at your house, your car and in the community as if they were as disposable as toilet paper? If you do, this will result in a messy, uncaring citizen who does not value anything but herself.

6. Have you abandoned family mealtimes in favor giving your youngster fast foods and snacks whenever she wants them? In doing so, you are depriving her of three things: good nutrition, learning to enjoy a variety of foods, and participation in family togetherness at mealtimes.

7. If you and your spouse have an argument about something, do you then bad-mouth your spouse in front of your child, filling her with hatred? If so, you will turn her against marriage and the needful art of problem solving.

8. Is it your opinion that "kids must be kids" and dishonesty, cheating, plagiarism, minor shoplifting and graffiti are an inevitable part of "growing up"? Start teaching your youngster that one doesn't have to experience these activities to know that they are totally wrong, a waste of time, illegal and eventually costly.

9. Is your child given an allowance that is so generous that he has no incentive to earn any money? Then be prepared to support him for his entire life, buying him a car, paying his credit card bills, giving him down payments ---- none of which he will appreciate.

10. Rather than telling the youngster he has done something wrong, do you use the silly term "inappropriate" or "unacceptable"? If you answered yes, boldly teach the difference between right and wrong by using these more understandable words such as good, bad, yes and no.

11. When a youngster expresses an interest in a toy or sport, do you quickly fulfill his desire to attain it or participate in it? If so, you are teaching him that the world owes him everything he wants without effort or anticipation on his part.

12. When your child is reprimanded (by a teacher, activity leader, neighbor or law enforcement officer), do you immediately assume that they are picking on your youngster? This teaches lack of respect, the ability to politely defend oneself, and a warped sense of prejudice leading to the feeling that "everyone is against me."

13. When your child makes a crude remark, uses profanity or sneaks sips of alcohol from you, do you excuse it as "growing up"? Be prepared that this kind of "cuteness" will encourage language and activities that will shame you later in life.

If you said yes to 10-13 of these questions, your youngster may be heading toward delinquency. If you said yes to 6-9, your youngster is spoiled. If you said yes to 2-5, you should assess your parenting while you still can. With just one yes, congratulate yourself!

How to Avoid Spoiling Your Child—

1. "No" is not a bad word: In other words, you're not hurting your little one by saying no. In many cases you may be helping him. Take for example, teenagers who drive expensive, luxury cars. Ask yourself: “what's the value of giving a 16-year-old a Porsche?” People feel better when they earn something they're given. No 16 year-old has earned a Porsche. Now, if you want to help your youngster buy a car – that's another story.

2. Avoid comparisons: Setting limits and saying "no" becomes even harder when parents of your youngster's friends are saying "yes." This is a frustration, but moms and dads should stand firm by their decisions. Your child may complain that all of his friends have an X Box and nobody will want to come over unless he gets one, too. I suggest telling your youngster to enjoy playing the video game at friends' homes and finding something unique to do at his own home. Your child has qualities and possessions that attract his friends and they will still want to come over. He should be proud of these things, not embarrassed or upset by what he doesn't have.

3. Avoid materialism: Make sure your kids aren't defining their happiness and their status in the world as a function of what they wear or drive. Sit down with them and have a one-on-one conversation about what really defines their worth — their intelligence, their creativity, their caring, their giving, their work ethic, etc. If you spent equal time sitting down and talking to them about what really mattered as you do shopping, you might be able counterbalance the countless images they see telling them otherwise.

4. Be a good role model: We're not the only influence in our kids' lives, so we better be the best influence.

5. Changing the behavior earlier rather than later: Once your youngster does start acting spoiled, it may seem impossible to change this behavior.

6. Don’t be a buddy: Your youngster does not have to love you every minute of every day. He'll get over the disappointment of having been told "no." But he won't get over the effects of being spoiled.

7. Don't let your guilt get in the way of your parenting: Your job as a parent is not to make yourself feel good by giving the youngster everything that makes you feel good when you give it. Your job as a parent is to prepare your youngster to succeed in school and when they get out into the world. Kids have to be socialized in a way that they understand you work hard for what you get. You don't want to teach your youngster that they will get everything through manipulation, pouting, crying, door slamming and guilt induction.

8. Help your youngster set goals: Teach her that striving to own nice things is fine if she understands how much hard work it takes to afford that, and then doesn't base her self-worth around what she buys.

9. Model unconditional love: If your parent-child relationship is based on material goods, your youngster won't have the chance to experience unconditional love.

10. Money is not the problem: Money has nothing to do with spoiling a youngster. Even kids from low-income families can wind up spoiled. If you are on the phone with your husband, even if you're just talking about dinner plans, and your 7-year-old keeps wanting to talk to you, wants to interrupt and thinks that's OK ... he's spoiled. The youngster assumes you are going to drop everything and pay total attention to him. You have indulged this behavior in the past and now the youngster expects it all the time.

11. Prepare your youngster: Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your youngster for how the world really works. In the real world, you don't always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you've experienced it as a youngster.

12. Redefine what taking care of your kids means: Are you providing for them emotionally and spiritually? You need not buy them material goods in order to create a bond. Instead of tangible gifts, how about spending some time together? Be careful that you aren't teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall.

13. Set limits and stick by them: It's tiring and tedious and just not fun, but moms and dads must decide what they are willing to give their kids (in terms of material goods and attention) and then stand by this decision. Once you take a stand, recognize that your youngster will try to manipulate you. He'll give lots of logical reasons why he needs to have something. But stick with your decision! So if you do buy your youngster a toy after telling him you wouldn't, you can be sure he will persistently badger you the next time you say "no." He now knows that if he's persistent, he can break down your resolve.

14. Teach charity: For instance, if you believe you've bought too many toys for your youngster, tell him so. Go on to explain that he does not play with all of them and is no longer putting them away or taking care of them. Allow him to choose a few favorite items and then give the rest away to charity. This will teach him about giving to others while learning to value what he has.

15. 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 by 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 10.

It helps if parents understand "intrinsic" versus "extrinsic" motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when people do things because they feel proud of themselves when they do it. They feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Extrinsic motivation is when someone does something because of external motivation. For example, they will receive money, a toy or privilege if they do the task. If you are always rewarding your youngster with material things, he will never learn how to motivate himself with internal rewards like pride. He also will never learn to value things because there are so many things and nothing is special.

You can’t “make” your youngster feel more secure. Particularly in this age of mobility and divorce, a lot of moms and dads try to compensate for a perceived lack of security in their kid’s life by, shall we say, “giving in” to them. They feel like they have to give their youngster her way because they are struggling over the divorce or other trauma and just can’t deal with anything else at this point. While their plan is to get things back on track in the weeks and months ahead, the reality is that those weeks and months never come – and the youngster is empowered in a manner that often shows itself in very negative ways.

As mothers and fathers, we need to remember that feelings of "security" are subjective and not necessarily related to an actual situation, be it divorce, an illness in the family, a move to a new neighborhood or town, or other trauma that kids all too often experience. Real security cannot be imposed or provided from the outside. Security is achieved by living through and overcoming life’s difficulties.

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