Itâ€™s every parentâ€™s worst nightmare. You do everything you can to raise your kids with manners, discipline, and good values, but they wind up spoiled rotten. The truth is, many parents end up spoiling their children without even knowing it â€“ especially in households where both parents work.
When you have limited time and energy for your kids, itâ€™s easy to slip into a pattern of giving in to their every demand, whine and tantrum. But while saying yes to avoid their outbursts â€“ or to appease your guilt for not spending more time with them â€“ may be a quick fix, it can prevent them from learning crucial life lessons such as empathy and how to cope with disappointment.
Here are five signs you may be spoiling your kids, along with tips for getting them back on the right track.
You Never Say No
When you indulge each and every one of your childrenâ€™s requests, you create a sense of entitlement on their part that can be difficult to shake. Theyâ€™ll grow up believing they can always have everything they want in life â€“ or worse, that they only need to throw a temper tantrum in order to get their way. Not only is it good for your children to hear no on occasion, itâ€™s necessary for them to learn how to cope with the real world. The same thing can happen if you constantly shield your kids from disappointments or making mistakes. We learn from our mistakes. You never knew the stove was hot until you touched it…right? So, donâ€™t do your children a disservice by rescuing them too much.
Your Threats are Empty
In a moment of frustration or anger, itâ€™s all too easy to make threats you donâ€™t intend to keep. But the problem with empty threats is that they teach your kids not to take you seriously. The same principle applies to rules. While exceptions to a particular rule are fine (and even necessary) on occasion, itâ€™s important to establish responsibilities and follow through with consequences. When youâ€™re too lenient, you actually rob them of boundaries they desperately need. By flip-flopping and failing to stand your ground, they become confused about how you want them to behave, creating a sense of anxiety around expectations and authority.
You Resort to Bribery
You shouldnâ€™t have to bribe your kids in order for them to obey your rules. Not only does this undermine your authority as a parent, but it sets them up to expect unrealistic rewards for performing necessary, everyday tasks. Instead of promising your kids new toys or allowance in exchange for cleaning their room, for example, encourage them to take pride in a job well done. Try communicating that they should clean their room because a) you expect them to, b) theyâ€™ll be able to enjoy the pleasure of a clean and organized living space and c) theyâ€™ll feel proud for doing something constructive.
You Donâ€™t Foster a Sense of Gratitude
When you lavish your kids with toys, clothes and other material goods without acknowledging that something has been given to them, you prevent them from understanding and practicing gratitude. It also raises unrealistic expectations and encourages them to derive joy from materialism rather than relationships and experiences. This can easily be remedied in three ways.
First, be sure to thank your children when they do something for you so they understand the pleasure of being thanked. Second, demonstrate when and where itâ€™s appropriate to say thank you to other people. It wonâ€™t be long before your children pick up on it and begin thanking people on their own. Third, resist the temptation to lavish them with gifts â€“ especially around special occasions like birthdays or holidays. Instead, stick to one or two meaningful gifts theyâ€™ll actually appreciate.
You Let Your Child Interrupt Conversations
Although your kids may not interrupt your conversations with other adults on purpose, allowing them to do so is rude and doesnâ€™t teach them about patience, delayed gratification or proper modes of communication. The next time your children interrupt a conversation youâ€™re having with your spouse or another adult, try telling them they need to wait until itâ€™s their turn to talk â€“ and then give them your full attention. Just remember that this will only work if the rule applies to everyone â€“ even adults. If youâ€™re having a conversation with your kids and an adult interrupts, finish talking to your children before responding to the adult.
As any parent with limited time and energy knows, taking the easy way out can often add up to spoiled children. By resisting the temptation to give in to quick fixes and taking a more disciplined approach to parenting, youâ€™ll encourage your kids to develop habits, skills and coping mechanisms that will help them forge positive relationships with themselves, others and the world around them.