We Need to Say No to Our Kids
Friday, March 16, 2018-An Anonymous Educator
Just the other day, I was treated to an appalling display of behaviour during dismissal at my school – and I mean appalling from the parent, not the student. Granted, the five-year-old girl had been behaving badly; she had snatched a toy from another child and pushed him.
However, it was the mother’s behaviour that I found to be most shameful. Instead of telling her daughter that what she did was wrong, the mother made excuses for her daughter’s behaviour and even shifted the blame to the other child.
The most shocking part was that instead of teaching her daughter not to snatch, she promised to take her to the toy store to buy an identical toy!
Toddlers act up, parents react
I’ve had hundreds of children in my care over the years and one thing is for sure: children will misbehave.
Tantrums, whining, talking back and refusing to listen to instructions are normal behaviours for children who are learning to test their limits and assert their independence.
What makes the difference between a child who occasionally has “bad” days and one who is overindulged is how parents react to misbehaviour. If you don’t set and enforce rules for your child’s behaviour now, you are enabling a long-term pattern of bad behaviour – and it won’t be so cute when your spoilt tot grows up to become a spoilt teen.
SEE ALSO: Are You Unknowingly Raising a Bully?
Feeling guilty? You’re not alone
I’ve heard it many times before: parents confessing that they give in to their children’s demands because they feel guilty for spending so little time with their children.
Who can blame them? With both parents usually working full-time and fewer extended family members around to provide support, we over-compensate when we are with our children.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in our children becoming the boss of us. They are allowed to call the shots and do not see their parents as figures of authority.
My child isn’t spoilt…just headstrong
When I sit down with parents and gently but firmly tell them that their child has an attitude problem, I usually get two reactions. Half of them are dismayed, while the other half are in denial.
It’s hard to admit that your child is spoilt. It’s easier to blame other children (they are the naughty ones, not my child), teachers (it’s your job to teach them manners) and even the grandparents or carers (I’m at work all day, I don’t know what happens at home).
But if you answer ‘yes’ to the scenarios below, then it’s time to admit that you may have a spoilt member of the household:
You cook separate meals for your child, because he/she refuses to eat what the rest of the family is having.
You make excuses for your child’s rudeness, like interrupting adult conversations, smacking you or talking back.
You use bribes like buying toys to avoid tantrums, especially in public.
You avoid taking your child to the supermarket or playground because he/she always makes embarrassing scenes.
Un-spoiling a child
It’s not my intention to alarm or frighten parents that spoilt behaviour is irreversible. But I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s far easier to teach young children to change their behaviour, rather than teens who are stubbornly set in their ways.
Here are some things I have observed about reinforcing good behaviour in young children:
#1: Be consistent
Every parent has rules for their children. The most common mistake is in not enforcing them consistently. For younger children, stick to three or four non-negotiable rules that are simple to understand.
#2: Say no…and say it often
It horrifies me when parents can’t say “no” to their children. You are not making their lives any easier if you don’t teach them how to handle disappointment.
#3: Teach gratitude
The truth is, you can fulfil your child’s material needs without making them feel that they are entitled to everything whenever they want it. The key word is gratitude.
It’s not just about saying “thank you” by rote. Instead, teach them the value of patience and how to consider the needs of others. That way, when they finally get what they want, it is because they earned it, not because they threw a fit for it.
The rules are simple. Parenting isn’t. But what happens if you continue spoiling your child until adolescence or university age, when their demands evolve to something you can no longer fulfil?
What happens when your spoilt child grows up to be a mean and unkind adult who cannot cope with the realities of life?
Are today’s children becoming too spoilt?
As a kindergarten teacher of 15 years, I often ask myself this question. Increasingly, the answer seems to be “yes”.