Having the "gimmes" is reaching epidemic proportions in our country and parents are both contributing to this disease and falling victim to its symptoms. Parents often incorrectly believe that if they don't give their children everything they want, they are depriving them. Loving authority figures want their children to be happy. It is essential, however, to think of your child's wants as entirely different from her needs. She needs the things covered by Principles #1 and #2—touch, eye contact, dedicated time, and appropriate discipline. Give her as much of this as you can. Wants are another issue entirely. Give her something when you believe she has shown you the goods and you think it is appropriate to grant a goodie. This does not mean, though, that you are obligated to grant every one of her wants when she behaves well. In fact, if you do this, your child's personality will suffer.
Parents sometimes believe that they owe their child whatever they want. This is wrong. To be a good parent, we actually "owe" our children what I like to call BASIC parenting:
□ B (basic nutritional foods adequate for good growth).
□ A (absence of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse).
□ S (safety and secure base love—Principle #1).
□ I (instruction in schooling and home discipline—Principle #2).
That is all. Anyone providing BASIC parenting to his or her child can look herself in the mirror each morning and know she is being a good parent.
Everything beyond BASIC parenting is a goodie. Do you see designer clothing on this list? Do you see popular fast food meals or expensive specialty food on this list? Do you see select pricey private preschool attendance here? Do you see sweets, countless toys, endless parties, continual organized sports activities, innumerable lessons, etc.? No. They are things our children might want and which we might love to give them. However, since giv ing them things is so much easier and more pleasurable to our souls than teaching them about consequences, reality, self-denial, self-restraint, and self-discipline, we must be very cautious that we are not giving them more than what is good for them.
Overindulged children have been given too much or have been given into too often. Giving your child extra time as a goodie (an entire day at the pool, playing with them for an extended period in the backyard, time with them at the movies, playing their favorite board game, etc.) when they have shown you the goods rarely leads to overindulgence. However, giving them too many material things (particularly when you have set the bar for showing the goods too low) can be terribly destructive to their personalities.
Overindulged (a.k.a., spoiled) children are extremely vulnerable to emotional problems. A spoiled child is an anxious child searching for limits and relief from his own demands. Spoiled children:
□ Are difficult to be around because they tend to be self-centered and unaware of others' feelings.
□ Use the powerful words, "I'm bored" often because they received so much in their childhood they lack creativity and resourcefulness.
□ Lack an accurate perception of how they are coming across to others.
□ Rarely take responsibility for their actions.
□ Believe that the value of human relationships is dependent upon money and things.
□ Have trouble making and sustaining true relationships with others—they tend to relate to others in a very superficial way.
□ Get "used" by others a lot because they are so unaware of themselves and others.
□ Rarely follow through on a project to its successful completion—they become addicted to the constant stimulation of newness so that when a project requires time-consuming work they usually want to move on.
□ Are terribly insecure about themselves and their own worth and tend to have a deep need for acceptance and approval by others.
□ Tend not to learn how to take care of things and property responsibly because they have gotten used to just getting a replacement or something better when something breaks or needs upkeep; they often apply this cavalier attitude to others' property.
□ Tend to be very deceitful since they are rarely held accountable for their actions; as they get older they tend to use half-truths, omission, obscure excuses, passive manipulation, and outright lies to get away with things.
□ Often eschew the future as not worth worrying about.
□ Are frequently very angry as older children and adults when the real world doesn't continue to give them whatever they want.
Sometimes parents buy their children whatever others have. This is a terrible curse, because it teaches conformity rather than the development of more important character traits (such as self-restraint, self-control, humility, generosity, empathy, self-assurance, etc.). After all, your child will encounter those with "more" her entire life. If you raise your child to believe she always deserves the best immediately and/or she always deserves whatever others have, she is doomed to be continually disappointed and/or have less regard for the blessings she already has.
If you find your child demanding whatever others have you might say something like, "Honey, I see that Johnny always seems to have the latest and greatest toys. But he is missing something big that you have. Mommy and Daddy love you so much we are willing to help you learn about the real world. All your life others will have more of one thing or another than you do. That doesn't mean they will be happier than you will. Look at all the wonderful toys and people you have in your life. Oftentimes people who get whatever they want are unhappy because they do not appreciate what they have." I once said something like this to one of my kids who responded, "Mommy, could you love me a little less and give me what I want?" I laughed and hugged her, and though she was unhappy with me for a while, I was confident that she would grow up to appreciate that she was getting what she needed from me.
Just a short word about spoiling and the role of grandparents: while it is the role of the parents to never spoil their child, it is the grandparents' main role to always spoil the child. If your child's grandparents elect to load her up with toys and she comes home "wild" from the freedoms she encounters with them, you should not rage against this—especially within your child's earshot. Instead, use this as an opportunity to discuss the real world with your child. Say something like, "Honey, your grandma and grandpa love you and you all have a great time together. When you are at their house, you get to have a vacation from the rules and responsibilities of life. But when you get home, your vacation is over and you have to adjust to the rules here at home. Do you need to spend time in your room to have a chance to chill out?"
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