In an age when children easily pick up the how-to of just about any new electronic gadget, it can be tempting for parents to confuse tech-savvy with wise. For the most part, wisdom isn’t user-friendly. It takes effort. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes Mom and Dad avoiding the trap of confusing “loving them” with “spoiling them.”
But, at first glance, spoiling is so much easier. Here are some ways you can spoil them:
1. Let them make their own rules. What to eat when they’re 5, when to come home on a Friday night when they’re 15. At 5, because “he makes such a fuss about fruits and vegetables it’s just not worth it.” At 15, “because all her friends stay out and we don’t want her to be some kind of weirdo.”
2. Take their sides in all things. Is your little darling acting up in class? Impossible. What is wrong with that classmate, teacher, principal! Why is that classmate being so mean, that teacher being so rigid, that principal being so narrow-minded?
3. Never stop telling them they’re perfect. Healthy self-esteem is based on constantly hearing “you’re the best,” and not on experiencing the satisfaction of completing a job well done, right? Of course it is. What better way to help them prepare for a job and career than hearing “you never do anything wrong.” Bosses are well-known for saying that to rookie employees, aren’t they?
4. Be willing to endlessly debate. Let them learn at an early age that if they just keep talking (pouting, screaming, stomping their feet) you will cave in and give them what they’re asking for. Your every parenting decision must be negotiable or you may fall into the trap of declaring “because I said so.” This, of course, scars a child for life.
5. Make excuses for them. OK, yes, maybe they did something that was less than ideal, but they only did that because they’re high-spirited, intelligent, tremendously creative, suffering from the sniffles, and on and on. Just put your arms around them and assure them that no one should be, or could be, expected to get that assignment in on time, treat others’ property with respect, follow clearly posted rules.
6. Do their work for them. Finish that long-ignored collage that’s due tomorrow. Drag that box of candy bars to work and complete her fundraising project. Complete their household chores because, honestly, it’s just faster and easier if you do it yourself.
7. Spend money on them like you had all the money in the world to spend on them. Their wish is your desire, even as that wish quickly fades once that desire, that item, is purchased. Do this especially if you, living in the real world, and can’t spend as much time with them as you’d like to and you feel guilty about that.
8. Assume that anything that causes them even a bit of discomfort can’t be good for them. Simply ignore the second half of the adage “no pain, no gain.”
How can you avoid those silly mistakes? Make sure Mom and Dad are on the same page. Find and be encouraged by like-minded parents. Remember it’s the spoiled child who’s likely to become the spoiled adult. That’s a terribly sad thing to see, and a horrible way to live.
Bill and Monica Dodds are the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver and editors of My Daily Visitor magazine. Their website is www.FSJC.org.