We were at the store and I’d told the boys they could pick out some candy, when my oldest spotted a toy boat.
They were very simple little boats. The kind of play-outside toys that are almost made to be disposable. With a price to match.
You know how that works, right?
They’re simple toys, but with bright colors and they remind your child of playing in the sand / water / mud and the price is so low you’re tempted to think, why not.
Apart from the fact that you’d be lured to spend money on something you didn’t intend to buy and don’t need, there’s another reason why not. Giving into a child’s every whim spoils them. And we want to give to our children, but we don’t want to spoil them.
Un-spoil your child: Prevent your child from becoming spoiled and entitled
So today, I want to talk a bit about how to give to your child without spoiling them. Prevent your child from becoming whiney and entitled. Not only because that makes your life more difficult, but also because a spoilt attitude has serious consequences for your child’s future.
Create space and balance by un-spoiling your child
This creates space and balance for the overwhelmed mom because un-spoiling your child means not only that you are doing the right thing for their future, it also means that you are making things easier for yourself (and them believe it or not) right now. After an adjustment period (sorry, you’ll have to go through that), you’ll no longer have to worry about what will happen when you get to the store or when you say “no”.
The consequences of spoiling your kids
Before we dive into what to do about it, I want to take a look at why you should aim to un-spoil your child. I firmly believe that if we have our WHY at the forefront of our minds, then doing the actual execution is easier. Being human, we do not need to be perfect, but it helps if we make success more likely
So what happens when we don’t un-spoil our kids?
First of all, they never learn gratitude. I was quite surprised when I first learned about this, but gratitude is something that we learn; it’s not something that naturally evolves (such as empathy, for instance). Instead, gratitude is a state of mind that your child needs to learn as it grows up.
Another thing that is a symptom of having been spoiled rotten is that these children often have no manners. They take things for granted, expect to get what they want and it shows in how they treat other people.
The third thing to worry about if you don’t un-spoil your child is that it’s in danger of not acquiring a good work ethic. They are used to getting things without having to put in the work for it. This can breed trouble later on when society expects them to stand on their own to feet. If you don’t un-spoil your child, it’ll have no idea how to do this and never expected to have to work for their wants.
Fourthly, getting what you want, always without having to do anything for it, makes someone entitled. It makes people expect that they’ll get what they want. But real life outside of a parent’s caring wings doesn’t work like that and children need to learn to cope with the disappointment of not getting their way.
More perks of un-spoiling your child
If you un-spoil your child and don’t give it what it wants all the time then this will teach it (besides a work ethic and respect) a healthy dose of creativity. He will have to pretend play that this wooden train is actually the really awesome he saw at the train station (one of my oldest son’s current fascinations). He will have to learn to use his imagination to problem solve and make what’s in his head reality. Even if it’s not a castle, but a set of cardboard boxes.
Additionally, (especially) young children tend to be happier with boundaries, then they are without boundaries. So even though they whine about what they’d like to have, on a deeper level their little developing brains do appreciate the steady and sure hand that is setting down the rules. Little children need lots of love and regularity to feel sure enough to continue to explore the world and learn all the things they need to learn. See it as a secure base from which they venture into the unknown each day. You see this often most obvious in toddlers as they explore a new game or room, but then return to mommy for a short hug, checking that she is still there.
Also, as stated above, a spoiled child creates unrest and imbalance every time you step into a store, or every time you expect it to do something (or not do something). It’s uncomfortable if your child has no respect for you and raises his voice to state his demands. This is not pleasant. Un-spoiling your child means a smoother, more peaceful day in which you can go into a store without worry for what kind toy your child wants this time, without worry of what kinds of demands your child comes up with now.
How do I give my child what it wants, without spoiling him?
We all have that natural inclination to give our children what they want. I mean really, I’d do far more than buy a little, cheap toy boat to see a smile appear on the faces of my children. But I also have to remind myself that I’m not there to make them smile at every turn. In the long run, I won’t be doing them any favors with that. I need to teach them how to stand on their own two feet, or they will never become happy, independent adults. So here are 9 tips to un-spoil your child.
1. Remember your values and teach them (by living them) to your children
Do you need to buy everything you see? Do you always need to get your way. For your sake, I hope not. You don’t and to a large part that is because of the beliefs, principles and values you carry with you. They show in how you treat other people and in the decisions you make every day. Teaching your values to your children as a good way of instilling the behavior you’d like to see in them. And you do this, by living by example.
2. Let them play more
Play teaches children so very much! Play is also an effective method to un-spoil your child. You see, one of the things it teaches children is how to treat other people (that is, with respect). As a mom, you might be forgiving of your child’s behavior, even if it is a bit rude. You don’t want to see your child unhappy. But other children don’t have such qualms. If your child is rude, or doesn’t play together and share with the other children, the other children are just going to walk off, or tell them what they think. Of course, your child doesn’t want that. It teaches children to curb their inclinations and use their manners when dealing with other people.
3. Go slowly when you un-spoil your child
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and people don’t change their behavior in a day either. If you find it difficult to go cold turkey when you un-spoil your child, it’s totally fine to take it one step at a time. Focus on the thing that you find more important and that you see as the biggest issue. Is it that your child demands things (I want milk!) instead of asking politely for them? Is it that your child doesn’t look after his own mess (and leaves the plate on the table). Or is it that there’s no way to go into a store without whining? Focus on that area first. And once you have success there, let that inspire and strengthen you to move onto the next improvement. Slow change is far more easy to live through and maintain, both for you and your child.
4. Don’t let your toddler take charge
How many decisions is your child making in a day? Are they dictating what the whole family is eating? Are they dictating whether or not you go out of the house? Don’t let this happen. In doing this, you’re basically allowing your child to be in charge and making the decisions (in their favor) is what they’ll come to expect. Remember that you are in charge and that you make the decisions, no discussion from the Tot required or expected. Please don’t underestimate the importance of this tip if you want to un-spoil your child.
Here, it might help to have daily rituals that teach your child what to expect and to give you space to dictate the rhythm of the day without any protests or objections from the kids.
5. Prepare yourself for the trip where they won’t be getting anything
If you’re choosing to un-spoil your child and it’s behavior in relation to always expecting a toy when you go shopping, then it’s a good idea to prepare yourself before you go shopping. What will you and what will you not allow your children? It might be handy to (if possible) not take them on any shopping trips where you really need to do the groceries today. In that way, if they act up you can tell them you’ll all go home if they don’t behave. Make sure, though, that you don’t threaten with consequences you are not prepared to follow through on.
6. Announce that there’s a new rule
Don’t ask, don’t negotiate, just announce. When you un-spoil your child it’s important to be very clear about what you expect of your child. If you do any explaining, do it to make sure the rule is clear. The other day I told my children that there was a new rule: they would clean up their toys before they went to bed and anything mommy found after they’d gone to bed would end up in the trash. I didn’t yell, I didn’t make a big deal out of it, I just announced it. My oldest son asked why they needed to clean up, so I told him that mommy and daddy wanted their house back in the evening. Expect that question, explain just once, but don’t go into a discussion. Remember that you’re the one in charge.
7. Teach them that privilege requires work
Nothing is for free and for every privilege we have someone has put in the work. Most of us believe that doing the work yourself for the things you then earn is a fair way of doing things. This lesson very directly helps to un-spoil your child. Teach your child to work for what it wants, either by doing little chores or really earning pocket money. This way, he doesn’t just learn that you have to earn things, but he’ll also learn to be proud of himself for having finished his chores.
8. Be as consistent as you can
When you un-spoil your child, try to be as consistent as you can, because I completely understand that it’s near impossible to be consistent all the time. Just remember, that the more consistent you can be, the easier things will get for you. If the rules for going to the shop or cleaning up toys vary from day to day, you can never expect your child to stick to them. The rules need to be the same day by day. (Which is a good reason to have only a few rules!)
9. Just STOP everything and give the situation your full attention
When things do go off kilter (of course that will happen) then don’t try to fix it on the fly as if nothing is happening. Whenever things threaten to spiral out of control and your child starts using the whiney voice, stop. Simply stop what you’re doing, stop what they are doing, and take a few moments to breath and let everybody calm down. Then repeat the rules. There’s no guarantee that this will always work, of course, and tempers might still flare. But you’ll find that very often simply stopping and focussing your full attention on the issue at hand in a calm manner stops things from getting worse.
Let me know how things are going! And do you have any extra tips to un-spoil your child? What worked for you? And what didn’t?