You are standing in line at the grocery and you see a child throwing a HUGE tantrum because they aren't getting what they want. Inside, you are secretly thinking, "Thank God that isn't my child!" And even though your kids might act the same way at times, you are probably thinking what a SPOILED brat that kid is! I know I have been there and I have had that EXACT thought but what do you do when it IS your child?! My husband and I have been doing a LOT of talking lately and we have to figure out how to undo years of spoiling to get our children back on track again. We have realized that we are not doing them any favors by continuing the bad behavior because sooner or later, they are going to be in for a rude awakening when they find out that the entire world is not going to bow down to their feet and give them what they want all of the time like we have. If we don't teach them to deal with small disappointments NOW, how will they ever cope with BIG disappointments in the future?
Shockingly, I read this week that 95% of parents feel that their children are spoiled but they don't know how to fix it! So it feels good to know, we are not alone!
So what is spoiling anyway?
There are 2 definitions in the dictionary for spoiling.
(1) To treat someone or something in an indulgent way
(2) To harm (a child, pet, etc) by the kind of over-indulgence that will lead to selfish behavior, unreasonable expectations of others, etc
So why do parents spoil their kids if it's going to hurt them in the end?
That's a good question. I know my husband and I try to give our kids whatever they want because we didn't get a lot of that stuff when we were kids. I rarely got new clothes because I had an older sister so I got hand-me-downs and my parents didn't have enough money for me to do a lot of the fun stuff our kids get to do so we sat at home a lot. When our kids ask for something I hate to tell them no because I don't want to disappoint my kids. And other parents are the same way. Even though we know they can live without it and it's not going to kill them not to have it, we still would rather not disappoint them so we just give in no matter what kind of sacrifices we have to make for it. I don't think parents WANT to raise selfish children who put too much value in material possessions but we do it to make up for things that were lacking in our own childhoods or even our adulthood and we don't want our children to do without. And sadly, as in the case of my husband and I, parents don't realize the damage it is doing until the kids are older and by then, I just wonder if it's too late to fix?
My husband and I have always mistakenly thought giving our children all of the STUFF that they want would make for happy kids but what we are learning now that our children are getting older is that it just makes them want more. We purchase them the latest and greatest in everything and it gets played with for 5 minutes and then tossed to the side and never touched again. We want our children to be liked, we want them to be able to keep up with their friends at school and we want to show others that we love our children so much that we will do anything for them. And THIS is what results in spoiling our children.
I think a huge step in the unspoiling process is figuring out WHY we are doing it! Do we do it because we are tired and it's a fix solution to avoid a tantrum? Do we do it because we are so busy today that we feel like we aren't spending enough time with our children? Maybe you are like my husband and you buy your children the toys that HE likes to play with too?! Whatever it is, figuring out the WHY will surely help fix things in the end!
So what do children really NEED?
While we want to believe that these things will make for happy children, there are really only a few things that truly will make a child happy inside and out and one of those things is unconditional love. Of course our kids know that we love them. We are very affectionate and tell them often but I can't help but wonder have we also taught them that material things equate love? In their eyes, if we don't give them the things they want, does that mean we don't love them? Of course not but that is the message we are sending to our children and we need it to stop. Today.
Children need parents who are willing to give them their most valuable asset, their TIME! Sit and read with your child(ren), teach them to climb a tree, plant flowers, make up funny stories. Material things will give your child temporary happiness but these things that you give to them will be long lasting, permanent and will result in self-sufficient, happy children!
Is your child Spoiled?
Go through this checklist and see if your child exhibits any of these traits!
•have frequent temper tantrums
•act very demanding and always want to get his own way
•get frustrated easily
•fight, protest, or say "no" to everything
•rarely follow your rules
•rarely listen when you say "no" or "stop"
•frequently try to control other children and adults
•frequently complain that he is bored and will not play on his own
•have little respect for what other people want
•not follow a schedule and just does things when he wants to, including choosing nap time, when to go to bed, and what to eat
•demand to have every new toy that he sees on TV
•frequently interrupt you (and not in the polite way by saying "excuse me") when you are on the phone, etc.
•not understand that there are consequences for not following the rules
•keep you from going out to dinner or doing other things in public because you are afraid of how he will act
•need bribes to get him to do anything
•frequently hit, bite, and yell when he doesn't get his way
•usually have trouble playing with other kids because he is always bossy and never shares
•scare away every babysitter within 20 miles of your home
•play with new toys for about 5 minutes and then wants something new
If so, your child just might be spoiled!
So can you UNSPOIL a child?
This is a great question because my hubby and I don't know what to do to fix this problem we have caused. Our children are 1, 6, 8 and 9 and we are afraid if we don't fix it fast, it's going to be too late. I think we still have a chance with our 1 year old, Aiden, so if we can "fix" the other 3, we will be good to go!
First of all, you and your partner must stand together in agreement. Don't be wishy washy. You must be committed!! This means even when your child cries and begs and screams, you are going to stand strong, be firm and DON'T change your mind! Even if you and the other parent are no longer together, you must still agree, even if it kills you! (If you want to turn things around, anyway)
Second, do NOT make threats. This is our worst enemy. My husband and I both are so guilty of this. "Don't make me tell you again! I won't tell you one more time. This is your last warning!" And of course it goes on and on and nothing ever happens! We have talked about it and we will no longer give idle threats. No more counting to 3. No more threatening consequences that we know we will never dish out. We are giving our children a list of our expectations so they will know what they are from the beginning and no more warnings will be given! Maybe your family can sit down and make a chart together of what is expected of them and what the consequences will be. Have your children repeat them back to you so you know they understand! I am working on one of these right now for our home and I hope it helps!
Third, we have vowed from here on out to be parents, not friends. We want our children to be able to come to us and talk to us but they also need to know that WE are the parents, NOT them! Even if I have to sound like my own Mother and say stuff like, "Because I said so!" then so be it! From here on out, we are Mom and Dad and what we say goes, no matter who likes it! I read that a survey by the Center for a New American Dream found that kids will ask for something an average of nine times before the parents cave. I have never counted but I bet that is pretty accurate. Emma wanted to stay up an entire hour last night to watch a premier that was coming on. I think she might have asked 100 times and that doesn't count the stomping, crying and yelling that she did each time I said no. But I felt good that I stuck to it and when I went to bed, I felt accomplished.
Fourth, there will be no more bribing. No more bartering. We will not bribe our kids to pick up the messes that THEY made. We will not pay our children to do things for us that they should be doing anyway. They will do it because it is what is expected of them and when they don't follow through, they will have consequences! Our kids are awful about this. Joshua wanted to stay up later the other night and I had already told him no. I was changing the baby and I asked him to grab me the baby wipes off of the step and he says to me, "If I get them for you, can I stay up later." And it infuriated me. Something so simple that I asked him to do was met with a "What will you do for me if I do something for you?" And I think it was at that moment that I really realized that we have a problem in our house.
Next, we are bracing ourselves for the meltdowns. We know it's going to happen. But the sooner we get it over with, the better. After our children see that Mom and Dad aren't going to give in, I think the tantrums will stop. I am expecting this the most out of our 8 year old daughter. Being the only girl, she's the Princess and used to getting what she wants.
And lastly, we will BUY less. There is no reason for Emma to have 20 pairs of flip flops. They don't have to get a prize every time we go to the store. Instead, I will be giving them the gift of teaching them the life skills of appreciation and patience. I will make them work for and earn the things that they receive and we will not be focusing so much on material things. When our children come home and they want something new, we will talk about why they want it and then we will suggest they save their allowance and purchase it themselves or they can add it to their birthday or holiday wish list. This is especially hard for us with our oldest son, Drew. I don't know what it is about the oldest child but we literally give him whatever he wants. Sometimes he doesn't even have to ask for it, we just will get it because we know he would like it. He has been looking at soccer goals online for a couple of weeks now. My first instinct was to tell my husband to get online and purchase it for him but I have resisted and I have been giving him suggestions on what he can do to save the money more quickly so he can buy it. I have even given him extra things to do around the house to earn extra money. In the end, as much as I want to buy it for him, I think he is going to feel incredibly accomplished when he gets the money to go buy it for himself.
I honestly think that increasing the time between the "I want" and "I get" will make for much happier children. If I bought Drew the soccer goal right now, it would be the normal instant gratification they always get...but now the excitement and anticipation will build as his piggy bank fills and he realizes he is getting closer to that coveted prize that he wants so badly! Also, I think making them wait sometimes might actually make them realize they don't want something so badly after all. Something they want RIGHT NOW they might want nothing to do with in 3 months.
Instead of shopping, maybe Emma and I will sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch a chick flick. Or maybe Daddy can make an effort to spend more time out back with the boys tossing the baseball and kicking the soccer ball. I am certain that THESE times are the times my children will enjoy and remember. Not when we stood in line at midnight to get them the newest video game that has just been released.
So what do you think?! Are your kids spoiled? What are your ideas for other parents to help UNDO the spoiling or are you on the other side of the fence and do you feel like it's ok to spoil your children? I would love to hear what you all think!