We asked experts to weigh in and tell us why some moms overindulge their children and what they can do if they're ready to make a change.
The recent article in The New Yorker about spoiled children in America resonated with many moms. Some because they saw themselves in it and others because they couldn't imagine having a child that behaved that way. But no matter what your opinion, no mom wants to think of her child as a spoiled brat.
Parenting coach and author Brandi Davis says she hates the word spoiled. "Once something is spoiled it cannot be unspoiled. Indulged children are not spoiled, they are behaving as they have been taught to behave."
Have you taught your child that it's OK to act out? To be demanding? Do you give him everything he wants and do everything for him? Davis warns, "Do not jump when your kids need things as if they are the Queen of Hearts about to yell, 'Off with Dad's head!' If they can resolve the issue, have them do so. If they need a spoon and can reach the spoons, have them get the spoon. That goes for napkins, water, books, clothes, and on and on. The idea is that if your kid can do it, have them do it."
Davis continues, "This may seem like a lot, but why are we not expecting these things? Just be sure that you are behaving the same way. No ordering. No bossing. No demanding. You must use your calm words too. Set the example for what you expect in your home."
So why have you been overindulging your child? Therapist Julie Hanks says one reason could be because you don't want to see him unhappy. And, really, what mom wants to see her child upset? But if you recognize that there might need to be a change in how you're parenting, Hanks says you'll need to learn to tolerate your child's unhappiness. "Somehow we've decided that in order to be a good parent our kids need to be happy all of the time (or at least appear happy in public)."
And what if your fear is that your child will be mad at you if you don't give him what he wants? Psychotherapist Christina Steinorth adds, "Parenting isn't a popularity contest and parents need to be secure enough in themselves that they need to be emotionally OK if their kids don't like them for a couple of hours, a couple of days or even a couple of weeks."
Do you parent from a place of guilt? Maybe you work too much or you're divorced.
No matter what your reason for having guilt, marriage and family therapist David Johnson says your child knows this and uses it to his advantage. "The reason parents spoil their kids is out of a sense of guilt. They feel they haven't done enough for their kids. Children have a sixth sense about this and know how to manipulate their parents' guilt meter. So step No. 1 for parents is to confront their own feelings of guilt."
Are you guilty of trying to be your child's peer instead of his parent? If so, this could be why you're reluctant to say no to your child's demands. Scott Caroll, MD, puts it simply, "Repeat several times per day like a mantra, I am the parent, not the friend."
If you're ready to change how much you give your child and how much you do for your child, but worried about how he will react, Steinorth says, "Quite simply put, if you want to make a change in how much you give your kids, just do it. Will your kids be angry, upset and throw a temper tantrum? Of course they will. Who wouldn't?"
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