There’s this certain cry that children do that makes a parent feel that if they don’t give that child exactly what they want, they will surely suffer from paralyzing pain. If it’s not a cry, it’s a look, all bright-eyed and bottom-lipped, that demolishes your defenses and makes you completely forget anything your little one has done wrong. As I see my thirties anxiously approaching, I am surrounded more and more by friends who are falling victim to that cry or that look. As the holidays approach they break their backs working overtime to afford Christmas presents so that their kids can live the holiday fantasy sold by Macy’s and Target commercials. Instead of implementing a routine of rewards and consequences, some children are being taught that any and everything is worth celebrating and regardless of what behavior they choose to display, in some way they will be recognized and rewarded. I’ll never forget a student I once had who received a party bus celebration to the Jersey Shore, despite the fact that she had been suspended from school several times during the year. When I asked how she managed to pull off still getting a Super Sweet Sixteen type of bash despite her disobedient behavior, she and her girlfriends responded, “But it’s her Sweet Sixteen!?”
In some ways, I understand the want for parents to provide their children with a lifestyle they’ve never experienced. Some single parents, especially burdened by the guilt of a “broken family” feel the need to make up for the absence of the other parent, and end up overcompensating for this absence materialistically ignoring the reality that all the Air Jordans in the world can’t replace an in-the-flesh father. What some parents fail to realize is that by buying and doing everything for their children, even when they are young, they are doing them a huge disservice in the long run.
I can appreciate that my parents raised both me and my sister with a healthy balance of comfort, work ethic, and responsibility. We had nice things and never had to worry where our next meal was coming from or fear being embarrassed by our clothing. But we also witnessed how hard our parents worked for all of the nice things we possessed and we had a decent understanding that our behavior had a direct influence over any “extras” we received.
It’s important to encourage your children’s independence and allow them to make mistakes because this is how they learn to make positive decisions and navigate the real world without you. It troubles me when I see mothers out job-seeking for their teenagers and filling out job applications on their behalf, but it explains why we have a generation of young adults who don’t know how to write a check, fill out a form or advocate for their wants and needs.
Many parents spoil children out of worry that their children will hold resentment or not love them if they don’t give them everything they want. They fail to find a balance and either give their children everything they ask for or giving them nothing at all.
So where do you draw the line between attending to your child’s wants and needs and not getting taken advantage of? It’s important to realize that children are needy by nature. You are not spoiling your child by showing them affection; there’s no such thing as too many hugs and kisses. A big part of being a nurturing parent is comforting your children when they are upset or in pain, feeding them and playing with them. You shouldn’t substitute these basic duties with money or material items.
Think you may be creating a monster? Here are few clues that you are spoiling your child rotten: