“Mama, why can’t I have the master bedroom? Why must it be yours?” asked a 20-year-old when her family moved to a penthouse.
“Papa, I want to change my phone. Everyone in my class has a smartphone. Why can’t I have one?” asked a 16-year-old.
Once upon a time, it was virtually unheard of for children to demand things from their parents. You know something is not right if a child is making unreasonable demands like the two examples cited above.
Raising children has never been easy. Poor parents have their own set of problems. So do rich parents. Poor parents face money problems as much as rich parents, although these problems manifest in different ways.
Poor parents agonise over how to settle the bills, getting an adequate salary to feed and clothe children and sending them to the best school they could afford. Rich parents worry about spoiling their children, especially when they have a lot in the coffer. How much is too much? How little is too little?
Needs Versus Wants
As parents, our job is to provide what our children need: decent clothes, food, a home, sound education. Most important is our children’s need to feel valued – something that tends to fall through the cracks in the mad scramble for success in modern life.
Children need to learn that their worth is not tied to the material things they possess. Rather, their worth lies in being who they are, what they bring to those around them. Sharing a beneficial thought, helping a friend, being kind and helpful to parents and grandparents, lending a shoulder to troubled siblings, doing the best they can in the field they choose: all these and more, are the real stuff that people are made of. But what if one day you realised that, despite your best intentions, the child you’re raising is spoiled, thanks in no small part to your own upbringing?
5 Tips To Unspoil Your Child
First: Recognise the behaviour. Whining, begging, pulling a long face all day, making threats, throwing cynical remarks, offering trade-offs – these are signs of a spoiled child. If need be, sit him down and have a heart-to-heart, matter-of-fact talk. Or, involve him in volunteer work with underprivileged children, so he could learn to be grateful for what he has.
Second: Know that you are in charge. True, as parents, we want to be approachable, be friends with our kids, but it only works to a point. How so? Parents are accountable for their children’s behaviour in a way that friends are not. Do not feel obliged to explain every little thing each time you say “No”. Our children might not have the maturity yet to see the reasoning, the wisdom behind your decisions.
Even in their late teens, some children do not have the readiness yet to understand why their parents say No. There might be occasions where a short explanation will do, but you do not have to give in to lengthy explanations every time just because. You know what I mean, right? Things like staying out past midnight or buying that branded shirt or driving his friends for a picnic at the beach in your new car?
Third: Be patient. Love for a child might have pulled us into raising them as spoiled brats, especially when money is not a problem. It’s easy to spoil children but it takes time to unspoil them, especially when it’s already ingrained in their system over the years. Just like it’s easy to tie knots but difficult to unravel them.
Fourth: Teach children early that in life, you do not need to impress anyone. Naturally someone might be impressed with the things you do or stuff that you have. But if you own or do something with the intention of leaving an impression on anyone, where does that path bring you? The person who seeks all their applause from outside has their happiness in another’s keeping, says a wise man. You’ll never be truly happy.
Fifth: Be gentle but firm. Children need to know their place. Make your expectations clear. Enforce clear rules. Making your expectations clear, enforcing clear rules are not about being high-handed, bossy or harsh. Rather, it’s about leading life in a dignified way. As a parent, you have done everything you could in the best way possible, to raise your child the best way you can. Give yourself credit for that, even if you have not done everything right.
Children making demands on parents is a form of entitlement. As I highlighted in Parenting Generation Y & Z, however, there are two kinds of entitlement: Positive Entitlement and Negative Entitlement. The trick is to know the difference, what you can do to minimise negative entitlement and nurture positive entitlement. Above all, be consistent.