Is Your Child Spoilt?

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Are you raising a spoilt child? Here are the signs to look out for and what you can do about it

Do you have a friend or neighbour who has that one kid you swear is spoilt? They come to your place and jump all over your sofa, breaking things and yelling the house down and when you tell them to stop the racket, they tell you they won’t or just ignore you and keep breaking, jumping, yelling. Or maybe that’s your child I just described? You’ve probably also seen them in supermarkets, screaming for a treat their parent won’t pay for. My friend’s child threw a spoon at me during lunch one time because I refused to let him use my phone. I almost reacted and yelled at him but caught myself in time. My friend apologised and said he was just a child. I disagreed, not out loud though.

Like my friend, you might be thinking the same, that it’s just children being children. Whining, throwing fits, talking back. It’s true that children do throw tantrums sometimes, but when does it cross the line? When they rarely ever consider others, throw fits regularly, commonly ignore your authority and that of others like teachers, and always want to have everything their way, then your child might be spoilt. This usually happens when parents don’t set limits, or when they do, they are not clear enough or are not consistent. So, how do you undo or prevent it?

Keep Your Emotions Under Control

Children learn by example. Most of the time, they will do what you do, not what you say. It is easy to lose your cool in the face of unruly behaviour from a child, but that will make it harder for them to regulate their own emotions if they watch you failing at regulating yours. Instead of acting out of anger, pause and breathe. You’ll respond better when you’re calm. Try to understand what your child is feeling; this will help you connect with them. This connection will help them calm them down as well.

Be Present

Sometimes unruly behaviour develops because you’re never present. Yes, you might be having dinner with your children every day, but are you really present? Keep your phone away during family time. It just doesn’t interfere and prevent proper engagement; it can also breed behaviour problems in children. That’s according to the results of a study in the journal Child Development. When they analysed more than a hundred households made up of two parents, they found that in the households where there was excessive use of technology (therefore interruption), there was a high chance of a child showing behaviour problems such as throwing fits.

Don’t Overvalue Them

We’re sure you don’t want to raise a little narcissist you don’t want to be around, let alone the rest of the world. But that might be the case if you overvalue your child. Your child is special, agreed. Showing them love and affection is a necessary part of parenting. But if you overdo it by telling them they are the best and, in fact, better than other people, well, they will end up with an inflated sense of self. You might think this is vital to help them develop healthy self-esteem, but here’s the difference: while self-esteem says, “I am just as worthy to be here as the next person”, narcissism says, “I am the only one worthy to be here because I am better than everyone else.” The result is a child who disregards authority, violates rules, has no regard for others, and one who always wants things their way and has temper tantrums when they don’t get what they are demanding.

Set Limits

Set clear limits and expectations. If they are not clear enough, the loopholes will work against you. Do remember that there’s a difference between discipline and punishment. Punishments might seem to work, but that’s only in the short term. They will stop misbehaving then, but punishment can make them resentful or rebellious. It can also lower their sense of self, because they might believe they deserved the punishment because they were bad. Discipline on the other hand, helps them learn proper behaviour. And be consistent, as consistency promotes learning; and involve them when setting the rules.

Create A Routine

There is great power in daily routines for children. Daily routine lets them know what to expect. If the routine is that they do their homework and then have dinner, chances of fits from them are low, because expectations are clear. Just like in setting rules, involve them when creating routines. Get their input before you set homework time or bath time, etc. This will make them feel valuable and create a sense of responsibility. Also, to make them feel more responsible, give them chores. Be clear about your expectations and let them know what the consequences will be if they skip chores. Remember, be friendly but firm.

Praise Them the Right Way

Praise can motivate children to be or do better, but it can have negative effects when done wrong. Various studies show that praising their efforts is the best way of motivating them to try harder next time and cultivate what Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Standford University, calls the growth mindset, that is, the mindset where the child believes that no matter how hard a task is, or no matter how many times they fail, they can always improve. The common mistake parents and teachers make is praising their qualities. They are talented? That’s good, but it doesn’t help much praising their talents and saying, “You’re so talented” or “You are so brilliant”. Instead, when they pass that test, say, “Wow, you really worked hard for this test.” This will help them embrace challenges when they face them.

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