When your child is an infant, you may be warned that you can “spoil” her by holding and cuddling her too much. While experts like attachment parenting guru Dr. Sears insist that there’s no such thing as a spoiled infant, it is true that children can develop a sense of entitlement or a lack of gratitude as they get older. For many parents, avoiding the label of “spoiled,” which is often applied to children who exhibit signs of being self-absorbed, having an attitude of entitlement, or are patently ungrateful for the things they have is an important part of their approach to parenting.
Think Before You Buy
When your toddler is on the verge of a tantrum because he wants a new toy or an older child is pleading for candy at the checkout line, think twice before making those purchases. Sending your toddler the message that screaming and crying is an effective way to get what she wants will only reinforce that behavior, making it more difficult to correct as time passes. Letting older children know that they can purchase the candy themselves with their own money, take on extra chores to pay you back for the difference, or find a way to earn money for the candy on their own may leave them frustrated, but it will also help them to understand that material goods must be purchased with money that’s been honestly earned, rather than simply expecting them to be bestowed upon request.
Make a Point of Delaying Gratification
Even though a child may act like the world will end if he doesn’t get the new video game that all of his friends are playing the day it’s released, you can assure him that it won’t. Letting him know that he can, and will have to, wait until his birthday or a gift-giving holiday has arrived, or until such time as he’s earned the money to make that purchase himself, can help to prevent the sense of entitlement that kids can acquire when all of their demands are instantly met.
Don’t Concede to Demands for Immediate Attention
When a newborn cries, it’s because she’s in need of food, a diaper change or attention. Small babies should get the attention that they need immediately, but that doesn’t hold true as kids get older. Dropping everything to attend to your child’s demands for attention, such as putting a telephone call on hold or abandoning what you’re doing as a concession to your child can send the message that everything should be put on hold when he deems it so, an attitude that won’t get him far as an adult. Talking about the importance of waiting patiently for his turn to speak or being respectful of other people’s feelings and boundaries can help to reinforce this concept.
Talk About Sharing and Charitable Giving
Teaching kids to share typically starts during toddlerhood; earlier for children in center-based daycare or other group settings. The concept of sharing may be fairly well ingrained in your child, but it does no good if he refuses to practice it. Working on the importance of sharing, along with helping the less fortunate and charitable giving, can help to instill a sense of gratitude that’s missing in most “spoiled” children.
Set Limits, and Don’t Give In
Once you’ve set limits regarding acceptable behavior, gift-giving practices or completing tasks set before your children, it’s important that you adhere to those limits and refuse to give in. Sending the message that unpleasant tasks can be avoided by pleading, cajoling or throwing an outright tantrum does not help your children learn the skills they’ll need to be functioning members of the adult society, and will not help to curb a sense of entitlement or ingratitude in the slightest.
Give Kids Chores and Responsibilities
Instituting a policy of chore completion in exchange for a weekly allowance or simply giving children household tasks to complete as an exercise in responsibility are great ways to help your children understand not only how much work goes into maintaining their living space, but also that money and material goods must be earned through hard work and effort, rather than expected simply because they feel that they deserve them. Withholding rewards or allowances in exchange for failure to complete those tasks can also be an effective lesson about earning money and being responsible.
Overly permissive parenting styles can make it difficult for children to understand the importance of hard work, the disappointment of failure and the difficulty of managing their own problems.
As childhood turns into the teenage years and teenagers become young adults, their lack of real-life coping and management skills can be quite apparent. While it may seem a bit harsh to some parents to insist that kids earn the things they want and share them with others, it can make for stronger, more independent adults.
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