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Loving your kids doesn't mean giving in to every whim

Raising unspoiled kids

If a child can wash her own clothes, do the dishes, or make her own sandwich, let her.

My kids are spoiling my grandkids to death, but they won’t listen to me. Will you write about how parents can make sure they’re not doing this to their children? I always share your columns and this might help.

It’s a cinch for teachers to spot a spoiled child. Based on the glaring symptoms, it’s also fairly easy to diagnose what’s gone wrong. With many thanks from other teachers, here are some ideas on how parents can avoid common traps that lead to spoilage:

Stop comparing

Parents look at what others give their kids and feel like their kids have to have it, too. It’s okay if your kid has to propel his bicycle without an electronic motor or wear shoes that cost less than $150. The gauge of what your kids need is what they actually need, not what other kids happen to have.

Don’t negotiate

Does this sound familiar?

Mom: “You can’t leave the table until you eat your squash.”

Kid: “How much?”

Mom: “All of it.”

Kid: “What about three bites?”

Mom: “Okay.”

This teaches your child that in his world rules are negotiable.

Pitying doesn’t equal parenting

It’s fine to feel sorry for your kids because they’ve got an old gaming system or have to use last year’s designer pencil pouch, but resist the urge to always act on such pathos. Getting over small disappointments is a learned quality; let your child learn it.

Never tell a child you’re going to punish him and fail to follow through

Teachers hear things like this a lot:

Monday: “I got my phone taken away for a month!”

Tuesday: “I got my phone back!”

That’s how to grow kids who think consequences are just mirages.

Don’t do things for them they can do themselves

If he can wash his own clothes, make his own sandwich, and walk his own dog, let him. A lot can go wrong when kids view adults as their personal servants.

You’re not a concierge

Because he left his homework at home doesn’t mean you have to interrupt your life to take it to him. Dropping what you are doing to meet their immediate requests teaches kids that their needs are more important than everyone else’s.

Whining should be a toxic behavior

Teach kids to ask for something respectfully. If your response is “no,” teach them to accept that as the final answer.

Make them earn it

Gifts are great, but they should be balanced by earnings. If your kid breaks his phone, make him raise the money to fix it himself. If he wants a new bike, let him appeal to Santa or save up for one. Otherwise he’ll never learn the value of a dollar. Besides, deferred gratification helps kids learn patience and appreciation.

Be a united team

Mom says yes. Dad says no. Dad says he’s grounded for a week. Mom lets him go skateboarding. Such division teaches your child that not getting his way is just a temporary setback because someone nicer will always give him what he wants.

Put them to work

With on-call landscapers, robot vacuum cleaners, and automatic dishwashers, has there ever been a period in history when kids have had to expend less effort? Finding physical chores for your child to do helps keep him from getting lazy and entitled.

The easy way is usually the wrong way

If you find yourself continually saying, “That’s fine,” while sighing, you might be surrendering when you should be standing your ground. Don’t give in to kids to avoid conflict. Why do you think certain people grow up believing that “no” doesn’t really mean “no”?

Be a parent, not a pal

Being a pal is easy. Just do everything in your power to please your friend. Being a parent is difficult. It means having to say no, instill discipline, and put a child’s character ahead of his cravings.

It’s really not hard to raise unspoiled children. You don’t have to love them any less. You just have to know when you’re crossing the line from proper attention to overindulgence. But act soon or it will be too late. Like milk, the “expiration date” on childhood tends to come sooner than you think.

Jody Stallings has been an award-winning teacher in Charleston since 1992 and is director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. To submit a question, order his books, or follow him on social media, please visit JodyStallings.com .

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