As parents, we will always want what is best for our children. We reason with ourselves that as long as our children are happy, it is worth the extra mile, time or money. Unfortunately, keeping a smile on their faces can quickly become a bad habit to all parties involved. In order to avoid seeing and dealing with the upset and tears, we may become too quick to please our children and give them exactly what they want. Before we know it, we have created an individual who is self-centered and only focused on, “Give me” and/or “I want”.
If you find yourself in these situations, use the strategies below to help take control and ensure yourself that you do not consistently spoil your children:
- Can’t always get what you want. When your child says he/she wants something, it does not mean that you have to get it for him/her. It is acceptably to not always buy or give your child what he or she wants. In fact, this teaches your children the reality of dealing with disappointment and the difference between “wanting” and “needing.” As parents, it is our job to set the rules and expectations. Let your children know that wanting something does not always lead to instant or immediate gratification. At times, you will need to be patient, work for something that you desire or learn how to get by without it. You can create wish lists with your children and let them know that they may receive a certain item for a special occasion or for an upcoming holiday/birthday.
- Make and stick to house rules. Not every parental decision in your house should lead to a battle. You should not feel as if you need to negotiate and bargain with your children when they want to watch more television or stay up past their bedtime. While, at times, it may just be easier to give in to your child’s requests, your house guidelines are helping them to grow and learn. Children may have a hard time understanding that these rules are for their own good. Try working on a few rules together. For example, let your child help you come up with an appropriate amount of television time or computer time. Discussing this as a team will help give him or her ownership to the decision and, in return, you will probably be surprised by how doable some of their suggestions actually are.
- Have household chores. Let your children be accountable for some of the household tasks. Do not feel that, because you are the parent, you need to wait on your children hand and foot. Chores can teach the benefits of hard work and being responsible as well as provide them with the building blocks to independence. Depending on your children’s ages, they can help with picking up their toys, putting away their clothes, vacuuming, dusting, taking out the garbage, feeding the family pet and setting and clearing the table. These are just a few examples. It may be motivating for them to earn some money to go towards something that they want, such as a special toy after completing chores.
- Be consistent. No matter the size of the tantrum your child throws at you, be sure to remain strong and stay consistent to not giving in to your child’s demands. The more often that you allow the rules to be broken, the more likely you will see the tantrums in the future from your child. If you give in once, the chance of you giving in again is very likely. Your child knows this and will continue to throw outbursts so that you feel badly and continue to cave in. If your child starts to throw a tantrum, wait the tantrum out and provide as little attention as possible. Repeat the instruction, using a neutral tone and minimal facial expressions, of what needs to be done. For example, “It’s time to turn of the television.”. If your child does not turn the television off, let them know that he or she can do it by her/himself or you will do it for him/her. Count to three and do whichever step is necessary. If your child throws a tantrum because he/she cannot have something, redirect and remove them from the desired item. Ignore your child until he/she calm downs and then discuss why they cannot have the item right now.
- No money needed. As a family, participate in different activities together that do not require money. Play at a nearby park, have a picnic, take walks through the nature center, camp-out in the backyard, play hide and seek or tag or go to the library and read together as a family. By partaking in fun activities that do not cost money, you can teach your children that it is possible to have fun without having to always spend money or buy things. Everyone makes their own fun; sometimes imagination is all that is needed! As parents, our children look up to us as well as learn from us. If we are constantly worried about material things and wanting/getting the latest new gadgets, it is only natural that our children will follow our ways.
As a parent, do not fall into the trap of always giving in to your children’s desires. Demonstrate to your children that there are more important things in life than always getting what they want. Teaching your children the value of working hard and earning the items or activities they really like will, by far, outweigh the action of just handing them over. Unfortunately, most things in life are not gained without hard work – a life lesson that the sooner our children are exposed to, the stronger character they will build.