Parenting lifestyle expert Jill Simonian discusses tips for unspoiling your children.
Here is some of the advice she offers.
Almost every parent does it at some point or another, and we all know how wrong it is. In this modern age of instant communication, constant social media engagement, guilty working parents and being able to access exactly what you want at the exact time you want it, our kids are becoming increasingly spoiled.
How to stop the cycle and make family life more enjoyable, meaningful and grateful? Un-spoil the kids now by trying these tips:
1. Don’t apologize for disappointments. Not able to buy that brand new iPhone? Don’t have time to head to the park today? Your child threw a fit that you made spaghetti instead of mashed potatoes? Do not apologize for circumstances that don’t require apologizing for. Katie Hurley, psychotherapist and author of “The Happy Kid Handbook,” regularly advises parents to keep communication open and listen to your child’s disappointments to maintain happiness on an ongoing basis. However, it is important to remember that honestly responding to said demands with “We just can’t afford to buy the brand new phone right now,” or “We don’t have time to go to the park today, but we can go another time,” or “I know you wanted spaghetti, but this is what our family is having for dinner today” do not disregard your child’s feelings. No one gets everything they want at all times. With consistency, children will eventually learn.
2. Don’t debate house rules. We have a few hard-and-fast rules that don’t get skirted around unless there’s a true emergency of some kind. Do you think my 5 and 4 year old girls enjoy taking their plates up to the sink after every meal? Ha. They whine and complain and roll their eyes every time a meal is over, but I stand there like a warden and insist that they do it anyway. (Should anyone run away, I also remind them that I’m not afraid to confiscate special toys). “This is what our family does,” I say. I also thank them and express what a great job they did and how I’m grateful for their help. Which leads us to …
3. Give encouragement instead of gifts. We all want our kids to be happy, and creating happy memories can also be associated with giving gifts, which is a good thing! Gifts should be recognized as celebrations rather than immediate rewards. Think of it this way: You encourage your child to work hard on a school project, they get it done, you praise them and point out how much their hard work paid off. (This lends to providing them with satisfaction and motivation, to propel them to continue such work.) Then, you suggest, “You were successful with your recent school project? Let’s celebrate!” rather than bribing the kid with “If you do this, you’ll get x-y-z in the end” from the get-go. It’s a tough concept to pull off, but the benefits are so much more impactful in the long term. For the younger set, resist giving a gift in response to a bad behavior. Do not get suckered into rewarding a tantrum, no matter how much easier it might make your grocery shopping that day. (This coming from a woman who has literally gone up and down the aisles with a 4 year old screeching about wanting a candy bar. It’s horrendous, but sometimes it must be done for the greater good.) Once the habit of rewarding bad behavior with gifts is established, it becomes extremely difficult to break and the child’s expectations get higher and higher. Your kid still wants the candy bar and is now screaming and throwing themselves on the floor in the cereal aisle? Don’t panic. Resist engaging and stick to what you know is the right thing to do. It’s worth it.
Think of the big picture: If children are conditioned to get everything they want, exactly when they demand it, how is that going to serve them when it comes time to cope with not getting into their first choice college, not landing their dream job right out of the gate, and on and on? Teaching kids to exercise patience, whether it be through good behavior, doing chores, keeping good grades or just playing nice with their sibling will keep them grateful, grounded and ultimately unspoiled. It’s a process that takes time and committed consistency, but everything worth doing requires hard work, right?