When you love your kids, it’s only natural that you want to show them. Giving your children presents, from toys to trips to the zoo, is part of communicating that you care. The only problem is: The desire to show love can easily cross the line into overindulgence. When a child always gets everything he/she wants, that child is likely to grow up spoiled and self-centered.
As a parent who wants to love your kids without turning them into ingrates, what can you do? How do you show your children affection while also teaching them gratitude? How do you shower them with kindness while also preparing them for the real world? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at some principles to keep in mind:
- Remember What Love Is. Love is about more than what always feels good — so if you feel guilty for not giving your children everything they ever desire, ask yourself why. Are you thinking love means seeking their best, or are you thinking it means getting their approval? Remind yourself that truly loving your kids sometimes looks like telling them not to run in the street, and sometimes it looks like buying them ice cream. Both matter.
- Don’t Teach That Possessions Satisfy. New toys are fun, but they don’t meet our deepest emotional desires. They can’t replace presence and time —so be careful about teaching your child the opposite. “Often when we feel guilty that we aren’t spending enough time with our kids, we buy them things,” notes an article at Aha! Parenting. Instead of giving your child more stuff when you want to show love, try spending time together. “As the old saying goes, children thrive when you give them half as many presents and twice as much of your presence,” the article adds.
- Give Them Responsibility. Protect your kids from thinking money falls from ATMs and credit cards, and teach them the value of good, hard work. Whether you use an allowance system for chores completed or simply put each of your children in charge of something like taking care of a pet or cleaning a room, when you give your kids responsibilities, you keep them from being completely entitled.
- Let Your No Be No. When you have decided not to give your child a certain toy, snack, party or something else that he/she wants, don’t change your mind because of a temper tantrum. “No parent likes listening to a tantrum, whether it’s from a child who refuses to leave a playdate or an 8-year-old who slams her door over your refusal to buy her a cell phone. But giving in is far worse,” says contributor Denise Schipani from Parents Magazine. “The main reason a kid will continue to have meltdowns is that they’re successful.” When you say “no” about something your child asks for, stick to your guns. If your child knows whining wears you down, your child won’t stop.
No matter how old your children are today — whether they’re starting high school or still in diapers — you can still take steps to un-spoil them, now. Use the tips above to guide your efforts and be consistent. The more you stay firm in your convictions, the more your kids will notice.