Let's face it: Sometimes your kid is the bratty kid. No parent is exempt from the tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, or shrieking and foot stomping when you ask your child to leave the park before they're ready. And every parent has relaxed the rules every now and then to save their sanity. But when do you cross the boundary between a bit of rule bending and being way too lax? And how does spoiling your kids affect them later in life?
"Many parents feel as if being permissive allows their children to learn and grow freely," Kryss Shane, a licensed master social worker, tells Romper in an email interview. "Others fear that saying 'no' will make the child hate them. However, children need to learn about boundaries and respecting others, including their parents."
To do this, Shane says parents should give their children clear directions and reward them for positive behaviors rather than "for simply existing."
"You are preparing your children for growing up and for adulthood," she says. "As your children age, they will find themselves becoming additionally more independent which means they will be interacting with teachers, friends, parents, and later with romantic partners and bosses. Children who learn and practice respecting and listening to others grow up to become teens and adults who respect and listen to others."
Dr. Fran Walfish agrees with Shane and the notion that spoiling is often the result of parents wanting to be liked by their children.
"Parents come home tired and don’t want to fight with their kids," Walfish, a psychologist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, tells Romper in an email interview. "So, instead of staying consistent, clear, and firm on structure, rules, and boundaries, parents are cutting their kids too much slack, giving dozens of warnings and chances, and inadvertently over-empowering the next generation to believe they have an equal or stronger vote than the authority of their parents."
But what exactly does "spoiling" entail, right? According to Erica Wollerman, a licensed clinical psychologist at California Thrive Therapy Studio, parents are spoiling their children when they will, for instance, buy their children anything they want and/or generally not set many boundaries in terms of bedtime, snacks, toys, electronics, and so forth.
"Unfortunately, the skills of managing frustration, understanding limits and cause and effect, drive and motivation, and accountability are often crucial to being successful in life," Wollerman tells Romper in an email interview. "It can almost be impossible for a person to develop these skills when most things in life have been handed to them with little to no work on their part."
The long-term results? Low frustration tolerance, poor understanding of cause and effect, little drive and ambition (coupled with a general lack of success in one’s career or job), and lack of accountability, Wollerman says.
"Without this training while young, children can grow up to become students who get kicked out of class for disrespecting the rules or the classroom," Shane says. "They can become teenagers who do not listen to the boundaries that their romantic partner gives about dating and about sex. They can become adults who cannot maintain employment because they cannot function in a regimented environment."
Want to nix spoiling before it becomes a full-fledged problem? Start with boundaries, Shane says, and explain them to your child. "For example, [say] 'you can get out of the car before your sister but you must keep one hand on the car at all times,'" she says. "Then, if the child disobeys: 'your sister is being taken out of the car first because you did not listen to my instructions last time. We will try again tomorrow and see if you can improve.'"
Other boundaries include those related to privacy, like asking them to allow you time alone in the bathroom or not interrupt phone conversations. "The boundaries and rules should change as the child does, focusing younger kids on black and white rules and that they do not get to question these, whereas older kids can learn more about grey areas and you can add discussion times in so that children can learn to understand the thought process and begin to implement this into their own lives," Shane says.
Also important? Try to avoid handling these situations with anger, Walfish says. "Stay with your child until they master what you believe is a genuine correction," she says. "Then, it’s over. No punishment, no consequences, no lectures. You are behaviorally interrupting your child developing a bad habit. They will soon self-correct and eye-rolling will be a thing of the past."
Oh, and that sounds glorious, am I right?
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