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How to Unspoil Your Kid

toy-791265_640It makes me feel terribly old saying this – but this new generation of kids; they don’t behave like we did when we were growing up!!

Most of us have succeeded in raising spoilt children. Trust me, it’s not their fault, it’s entirely ours.  In addition to our parenting styles – globalisation, international TV programs and video games have all contributed to a generation of children who don’t act respectfully to their parents. Factor in that we overly indulge our children and we have a generation of kids who at most times act like their entitled to their iPads, Mac and those Beat things they wear on their heads. We are arguably the weakest generation of parents to date!  I’m not at any point going to tell you that technology is the evil that has got our kids behaving like this or that our international schools are a cause or that our kids are more influenced by the West. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t let your child have a mobile phone or shouldn’t be allowed to wear those branded sneakers. What I am saying however is that we need to make our children understand the value of money, appreciate our efforts and make them value more than material things. Cutting off our children from modern things is not the solution; the solution is parenting better so they simply become ‘un-spoilt’.

Let’s retract a bit. What is a spoilt child? Children, at most times, nowadays act entitled. They assume they are entitled or it’s their right to get a new toy, access to Wi-Fi or even hog the TV. In other words, they don’t appreciate the fact that they are given these things and they don’t understand that these are extra things we as parents give them and they certainly don’t have a right over them. Children nowadays are also comparatively less respectful of their parents. In our quest to become ‘a friend’ to our children, we may have possibly crossed that fine line. Being friends with your children is definitely a way to go, but being spoken to like a same age friend is not.

Our children are further spoilt by the fact that most of them do not do household chores. Our culture of having help around the house makes them used to it to. So simple things like cleaning up a room or carrying groceries from a car is perceived as not their ‘job’. Frankly, there are so pampered that if we get them to clean up after themselves when they do a painting or when they have finished playing, they are bound to come back and use that as leverage and ask for something else. ‘But Mum, I put away my toys after playing, can I watch some TV and do my homework later?’ – you’re bound to hear a line similar to this one. Somewhere along the way, kids have not received that all important Memo that said that cleaning up or doing chores is not leverage to get something else but is fact is a non negotiable thing they have to do! In addition to this if you ever heard something like ‘Do I get paid to do these chores?’ you would remember the fireworks you saw!

Nowadays, I see a lot of children that behave this way. They come from various family backgrounds so it’s hard to pinpoint and isolate kids belonging to certain demographics, instead it’s more to do with how we parent our children than socio-economic factors.

What we need to do is quite specifically un-spoil our children. While we un-spoil our children, it is important that we do not restrict our children. Peer pressure will affect them and the last thing we want is for them to grown unhappy and remember a rigid childhood. Striking a balance is important and it can be done.

Here are some tips that will help you un-spoil your kid:

  • Start addressing the issue – once you have identified that there is an issue, speak with your partner. From here on, the two of you need to be on the same page. If your kid’s have grandparents who spoil them too, keep them informed with what you plan to do. Do not at any point think that your child is beyond a point of change. Whether your child is 2 years, 8 years or a teenage, it is possible and the start is important. We need to raise responsible adults and there has to be a start.
  • Set house rules – lay down house rules. You will find resistance, especially if your child has been having a free hand. Let them know that things around the house are to be shared by all members. Computers and TV’s are to be shared and when using priority needs to be given to the parents. Explain that these are in fact the parent’s property and that you are happy to share it! By doing this, children learn that it’s important to share things as well as that they too need to work when they are older to able to have a good life. It makes them not take everything around themselves for granted.
  • Assign Chores – all children, even toddlers can do age appropriate chores. So let them. From picking up after themselves to cleaning up a room, taking garbage out, carrying their plate and cup to the sink or even arranging a DVD rack, let them do chores. Doing chores is an important part of making them feel responsible and it gives them the idea from earlier on that work is an important part of life.
  • Teach them Manners – I know that this is something that we all have done but I also know that Thank you’s and Please’s are hard to come by and sometimes if they do come, they sound like hurried after thoughts. When children do get gifts, they are more focused on opening it up or playing with it and their focus is not on the thank you, but always bring their focus to these important manners and teach them to say it with feeling rather than a hurried phrase.
  • Reward Children by encouraging them – do not always buy your children gifts. If they have achieved something, a good grade or something like, speak to them and let them know how proud you are of their achievements. Break away from the habit of materially rewarding them. We seem to have somehow made our children quite material by always rewarding them with toys and games.
  • Gifts – We live in a very commercial world. With TV advertising and add in peer pressure, your children are going to always want something. Do not rush in and buy what they ask for, also do not be quick to say no or say things like ‘You have enough of these things”. Toy makers and big companies always have different kinds of things constantly available in the market and little hearts are always going to want these things. It’s very disheartening to the spirit of a child to be told that they would never get something that they are looking forward to getting. Instead tell you little ones that within reason, they can get what they want, but they need to wait for a birthday, good report card, Christmas or New Year. By the time one of these events have come by, they’d want something else and meanwhile you have not indulged your child and neither have you broken his spirit!
  • Teach your child the value of money – talk to your children about the habit of saving and explain that you always have to work to earn money. During the holidays, you can make some little crafts to sell amongst family and friends or ask your child do additional chores for which he can get pocket money so that he can appreciate how hard it is to earn money.
  • Teach your child to give – teach your child to recycle things and give things to people who are less fortunate or to give things away when he can no longer use them. Involve him in charities. Not always giving things that are used but in raising money for the less privileged. He can bake some cookies and sell them or do some handcraft and hand over the proceeds to the less fortunate.
  • Be consistent – with whatever rules that you have implemented in un-spoiling your child, you and your partner must be constantly consistent. I know you might be tempted to indulge your child once in a way, but remember, you were the cause of your child being ‘spoilt’, you need to control yourself and your child will be fine.
  • Be a good Example – are you ‘being spoilt’ yourself? Children behave as their parents do. So say your Thank You’s and Please’s and appreciate everyone around yourself!

Un-spoiling your child is not about bringing up your child in a rigid environment that may very well stifle him. Un-spoiling your child is about a parenting style that will bring up a child who is rich in values, ethics, less materialistic but very happy and hardworking. Take things slow from the start without being harsh but be consistent and draw your child’s attention to core values that are more important that constantly buying things. It will not be an overnight job, but soon enough you will get there!

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