We've all heard the phrase "spoiled rotten" and, unfortunately, it's true for many kids around the country. When parents coddle and spoil their children, the kids often become self-centered, rude and demanding. And these traits don't go away easily — they can stay with them (and grow) throughout their lives.
As parents, it's natural to want to give your children everything you can. After all, we want them to be happy. And most of the time, children equate fun toys and activities with happiness. In some cases, parents also feel that they don't have enough time to parent their children, so their answer is to shower them with gifts and other things they want. However, spoiled children grow up expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter and the reality is that — unless you are extremely wealthy — your kids will eventually have to work hard and "play nice" with others in order to get what they want as adults.
"Don't get caught up in the falsehood that giving your children everything equates to love," says former criminal prosecutor Loni Coombs. Coombs is a television host, legal commentator and regular contributor to TV shows like Dr. Phil, The Doctors and Dr. Drew. She is also the author of "You’re Perfect…" and Other Lies Parents Tell: The Ugly Truth About Spoiling Your Kids (December 3, 2012).
"When you hand your child everything, they grow up with the misconception that they can and should be given things for the rest of their lives — perfect scores, the most expensive car, a management position as their first job. This sense of self-entitlement sets your child up for a lifetime of disappointment and confusion. Instead, teach your children to be self-sufficient."
A strong work ethic is important for adults and for children. It helps build self-esteem and confidence in their strengths and abilities.
"Instill in them the belief and the ability to get what they want by setting goals, being creative and working hard," says Coombs.
"Support your child with encouragement and recognition of their focus and persistence. When a child realizes that they have the power within themselves to accomplish whatever they desire, their confidence grows and they feel the freedom of independence. It is also a great gift to teach your child that they will survive if they don't get everything they desire. Learning to do without develops coping mechanisms that foster maturity. Redirect your focus and move forward! My mother used to say, 'Tell me what you want, and I'll tell you how to do without it.'"
Children thrive on consistency and structure. From a young age, they should understand the rules and expectations of everyone living in your home. And they should also know the consequences of breaking the rules. We certainly aren't advocating any type of corporal punishment, but rather a natural set of consequences for those who don't abide by the values and rules of the household. Don't ever make empty threats. If your child knows you won't follow through on the consequences, he'll continue to break the rules. Eventually, they'll see you as a pushover and the child will be the one in family with all the power.
Believe it or not, your kids want boundaries and structure. When children don't have limits, it's difficult for them to grow emotionally. They develop a sense of entitlement and become bratty and selfish. When their spoiled behavior continues to be left unchecked, it can cause confrontation and/or rejection by peers (and teachers) in the classroom, as well as on sports teams, play dates and other group events. Bratty kids don't like being brats — they end up being alone.
It's critical to always show your children — and everyone else around you — respect.
"Respect, like most behaviors, is best taught by modeling," explains Coombs. "A parent can show even a young child respect by the tone of their voice, by taking time to listen, and by disciplining with firm consistency rather than out of anger or frustration. Communication styles are one of the easiest areas to show respect, or a lack of respect. Avoid TV shows where the young kids sass, yell and talk back to the adults. And just as important, avoid using criticism or constant negative judgments when talking to your kids. When disciplining your child, resist using embarrassment or humiliation. Such techniques, while attention-grabbing, can greatly damage the bond of mutual respect."
"Helicopter parenting" is when parents are always hovering over their children — interfering and micromanaging every single aspect of their kids' lives. Of course we all have the innate instinct to want to protect our children, but helicopter parenting can be very detrimental. We need to allow our children to face challenges, make their own decisions and, yes, sometimes fail. This parenting style can cause children to become spoiled, self-absorbed and far too dependent on their parents as they reach young adulthood. Avoid helicopter parenting and allow your children to spread their wings, problem-solve and eventually thrive on their own.
Coombs feels that children who are coddled by their parents tend to grow up to be unhealthy, self-absorbed adults who are often in trouble with their finances, drugs and alcohol, and even the law.
"Many parents want to show their love for their children by indulging them with constant praise, rewards and material desires," explains Coombs. "The danger in this style of parenting is that it robs our children of experiencing 'hot emotions' — frustration, failure, rejection, being told 'no', facing consequences. If we shelter our kids from these challenges, they never learn how to handle them. They miss out on developing self-control.
"Why is this so critical? Because kids who don't develop self-control turn into adults who have more health issues, are more susceptible to drug and alcohol addictions, have more difficulty maintaining relationships and financial stability, and are more likely to run into trouble with the law. I'm guessing that isn't quite the future you envisioned for your child[ren] as you smothered them with endless adulation, telling them they could do no wrong. There are healthier ways to express your love to your children, besides spoiling and coddling them, that will put them on the path to a happy and productive adult life."
Just because you stop spoiling your children doesn't mean you need to become a strict disciplinarian who never praises or rewards your kids. It just means that you shouldn't cater to their every whim, and you should instill in them a strong set of values. You want your child to grow up to be a sensitive, giving, moral individual who is also ambitious, creative, hard-working and successful.
Coombs' book teaches parents how to build a child’s “mental moral core” and offers parents real-world solutions for rectifying the “Me” generation’s woeful lack of empathy. It also explains how to instill in your child a desire to achieve and succeed and provides specific techniques for how to really connect with your child.
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