Well-meaning parents who give their child virtually whatever he wants are not raising a child with the values and skills neces sary for a successful fulfilled life. Such children often suffer tremendously from culture shock when they leave their parents' artificial home environment (where they are required to contribute and achieve very little) and enter a real world that demands a tolerance for frustration and perseverance that overindulged children lack.
Being "real" means you teach your child that he is not the center of the universe. If you have a child who demands too much, ask yourself, "Is he this way because I am afraid to have him not love me?" Parents must not expect that their children will like them every minute of every day. Parents who need approval, acceptance, or adoration from their children all the time are in for real trouble. These parents are often afraid to deny their child's requests for fear of angering or hearing the dreaded words, "Then I won't love you." Love begotten through bribery or blackmail is not genuine. Parents should never beg for their child's love, or try to placate their child by being overly permissive "just so he won't be mad at me." If you think this might apply to you, read Chapter 10 about healing your own wounds.
Remember that there are two types of love: fundamental love and affectionate love. Remind your child that your fundamental love for her is forever, solid, unwavering, and unconditional. At the same time, though, remind her that your other type of love, your affectionate love for her, is conditional. To give a child the message that you love her affectionately without her having to meet any obligations of returning your love is to raise a child who will be self-centered to the point of being miserable to be around. Self-centered children grow up to be adults with serious relationship problems. After all, who wants to be with a spouse who is so in love with herself that she is unwilling to alter her behavior to make herself more lovable?
Toddlers and preschoolers must learn that there are obligations in love; that love is given but also earned. Teach your child that sometimes he has a chance to undo a mistake and solve a problem by making amends. In some situations when your toddler or preschooler has erred and not shown you the goods, you may want to allow him to earn a special goodie he can receive after he has finished living out his consequence. If you choose this path, let him help you problem solve on how he can earn a special freedom or favor from you. For example, you might say to your child, "Honey, when you didn't show me the goods by having a tantrum, it drained a lot of energy out of me, even though you lost your goodies. What ideas do you have to fill my energy level back up? If you can figure out how to fill Mommy's energy level, then maybe Mommy will feel good enough to let your friend have a play date with you this afternoon." This is real world stuff. Adults are sometimes able to "fix" problems in their lives (pay fines, apologize, repair broken things, etc.), so it is good practice to allow your child the opportunity and experience of fixing their mistakes to your satisfaction.
This feels good to your child because she feels a sense of pride and self-respect that she is able to fix her problem. A caution here: do not let her earn back the goodies you took away as a consequence or she will figure that the removal of her goodies is always a temporary state of affairs that can be undone by being good, begging, or acting unhappy. Help your child understand that after she experiences her loss of goodies that you told her would happen, that she may be allowed to earn a special treat afterwards only in those special circumstances when she has expended a lot of extra effort. Do not give her a special treat every time she loses a goodie or she will think she has you "all figured out" and become manipulative.
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