PARENT TO PARENT

This holiday season, do your kids a favor: Restrain yourself when it comes to shopping. Find a balance between the Grinch and Santa gone wild.

Giving your children too much hurts them over the long haul, says parenting educator Jean Illsley Clarke, one of three co-authors of a book on the effects of overindulgence, "How Much is Enough?" (Marlowe and Co., $14.95, 2003).

Here's one way to tell you have overindulged your child: Instead of thanks and joy, you get whining and demands for more. Often overindulgence can appear to meet a child's needs, it does not.

Overindulging is not just giving too many toys, clothes and sports equipment, the co-authors say. Parents spoil kids by failing to set limits and not requiring chores. Children need adults who will say over the years, you have enough toys, candy and presents, you need to do certain chores and here are your limits.

The more your kids are spoiled, the less what you give them will be appreciated, according to Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of "The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It — and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever," (McGraw Hill, $14.95, 2005).

Newman's tips for "deprogramming the spoiled child" include:

-- Role modeling is key. If you tend to buy impulsively, your children will notice.

-- Curb grandparent and other relatives' inclination to spoil your children.

-- Avoid competitive gift-giving between parents who are divorced, so you don't fall into the single-parent trap of trying to make up for the absent partner with gifts.

-- Set limits on what you are willing to do or spend and factor in presents coming from others.

-- Know your child's passions and interests. By paying attention, you'll be able to distinguish between when you're being manipulated and when you're being asked for something that will feed or nourish a child's genuine interest.

-- With your child, hold an annual pre-holiday clean out of toys and clothing to give away to charities in your area.

-- Avoid excess. Holiday splurging puts the emphasis in all the wrong places and encourages the spoiled child to want more.

Can you help?

Q. "My 8-year-old grandson wets himself during the day. It began when he was in kindergarten. I help take care of him, and we have tried all sorts of methods to help him overcome it. He doesn't seem to care if he wets himself, and doesn't change unless he is prompted to do so. His parents have tried removing privileges and using a watch with a timer to remind him to go potty. They also used a positive reward system. All this worked for a short time. He was fully potty trained at 4. He can go dry for many days and suddenly it begins to be frequent again. He does it at school as well as at home." — a grandmother in Olympia, Wash.