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How excessive attention and goodies spoil your kids
Rupal Patel
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June 19, 2007

The behaviour of a spoiled child is usually unsettling for his/ her parents. Spoiled misconduct may involve one or more of the following characteristics:

~ The child does not obey -- for instance, he/ she will keep right at what he/ she is doing, in spite of being told to stop or discontinue a particular activity.

~ The child does not co-operate with parents, or heed their advice and suggestions.

~ Very often, spoiled children back-answer and defy their parents, to prove their assertiveness.

~ Spoiled kids don't understand the difference between their needs and their wishes.

~ They insist on having their own way under any circumstances, and make unjust and excessive demands of others.

~ They are always seeking attention, and don't respect the rights and wishes of others.

~ They try to control people.

~ They have very low tolerance levels, and frequently complain of boredom.

~ Spoiled children whine or throw tantrums often.

If your child exhibits one or more of the characteristics mentioned above on a regular basis, it is very likely that he/ she is being spoiled, and that there is a flaw in your disciplining methods. So what do you do to prevent or reverse such a situation? Here are a few pointers on how to handle a spoiled child:

~ Set your child rules and limits as per his/ her age and level of responsibility:

Just as parents have a responsibility to keep their child's environment safe, they also have a responsibility to take charge, set limits and lay down rules for the child. Youngsters thrive on rules and limits. Hearing 'no' occasionally is good for them. Parents need to let their children know the rules in advance, and follow through with them. Your child will still love you, even if you say 'no' at times. Explain why your child isn't allowed to do or have something, but you don't need to provide a reason for every rule. Sometimes, it is just because 'that's the rule'.

And rules are not open to negotiation. Some examples of rules include going to bed on time, not hitting anyone, eating meals at the dining table, etc. Children need external control until they can develop self-control and self-discipline. Remember, as your child grows older, reduce the limits imposed, and increase the freedom.

~ Offer choices where possible:

In situations where there are no fixed rules, give your children opportunities to make a choice -- for instance, which book to read, which toys to take to the park, which clothes to wear etc. Make sure your kids know the difference between areas in which they have choices, and areas in which they do not.

~ Understand your child's upsets:

Distinguish between your child's needs and wishes. Needs include relief from pain, hunger, fatigue, and fear. The best thing to do at such times is to hug your child and respond to his/ her crying immediately -- for instance, if it's hunger that's the problem, provide food immediately, and if it's fatigue, put the child to bed at once.

When crying is part of a child's tantrum, however, ignore it.

~ Never give in to tantrums:

 Children throw temper tantrums to get your attention, to wear you down, to get you to change your mind, and to get their own way. Crying is used to change your 'no' to a 'yes'. Tantrums may include whining, complaining, crying, breath-holding, pounding the floor, shouting, throwing things, or slamming a door.

As long as your child stays in one place and is not too destructive or in a position to cause any harm, you should feign ignorance during a tantrum. If you are not able to handle the shouting, leave the room. But don't give the child extra attention by lecturing or nagging, and don't give in to the tantrum either. Don't punish children for crying, call them crybabies, or tell them that they shouldn't cry. Accept what they are feeling, but don't give in to their demands. If you give in, the child will learn that throwing tantrums is a way to get things done.

~ Teach your children to cope with boredom:

Assuming that you talk and play with your children for several hours a day, you do not need to be by their side constantly, nor is it necessary to provide them with structured activities or a constant companion at all times. When you're busy, expect your children to occupy themselves with art and craft, toys, books etc. Even one-year-olds can keep themselves busy for 15 minutes at a time. By the age of three, most children can keep themselves entertained for half their spare time. When you tell your children to find something to do on their own, you are doing them a favour. A lot of creative development, thinking, and imagination stems from coping with boredom.

~ Teach your child to be patient:

 Waiting teaches a child how to deal with frustration. All adult matters in which they have no part to play hold some degree of frustration for youngsters. Learning to be patient is something children must learn gradually, and it takes practice. Don't feel guilty if you have to make your child wait a few minutes now and then (for example, when you are having a chat with a friend in person, or on the phone). Waiting awhile doesn't hurt children, but teaches them perseverance and patience at the same time.

~ Let your child face normal life challenges:

Changes such as moving home and starting school are normal life pressures. These provide kids with opportunities for learning and problem-solving. Always be available and supportive, but don't help your children with situations they can handle themselves. In short, don't overprotect them. Their coping skills and self-confidence will benefit them in the long run.

~ Know when to encourage your child:

Children need encouragement, but don't overdo it. Encourage them for good behavior and obeying the rules. Encourage them to try new things and work on difficult tasks, but teach them to do things for their own satisfaction too. Self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment come from completing tasks that they set themselves. Giving children excessive attention whenever they accomplish something, however, can make them praise-dependent and demanding. Avoid the tendency to overpraise commonplace achievements.

~ Teach your children to respect the rights of adults:

A child's needs for love, food, clothing, safety, and security are obviously first priority to the parents. However, your needs are important too. This is especially true of working parents -- their time with family is limited.

Both the quality and quantity of time you spend with your child is important. Quality time is time that is enjoyable, interactive, and focused on your child. Children need some quality time with their parents every day. But spending every free moment of your evenings and weekends with your kids is not good for them, nor for you. You need a balance to preserve your emotional wellbeing and mental health. Spending time with your spouse or friends will not only nurture your adult relationships, but also help you return to the parenting role with more to give. Children should learn how to accept separations from their parents. If they aren't taught to respect your rights, they may not learn to respect the rights of other adults either.

~ Don't buy your child goodies as a means of bonding with him/ her:

If your parent-child relationship is based on a supply of material goods, your child won't have the chance to experience unconditional love. Instead, spend time with your child. Do things together that both of you enjoy. In case you haven't been able to spend time with your child lately, don't take him/ her shopping to make up for it and lessen the guilt you may feel. A better option is to take your child on an outing, and catch up on the days that you have missed.

Rupal Patel has done her child psychology from the National School of Health and Sciences, London [Images]. She also holds a diploma in early child care and education ORT India and Oxford. Rupal has been holding workshops for parents for the last five years.


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