Parent's, get your priorities straight!
the needs of your mate priority. One parent
I challenge you to recognize what the world scoffs at, that
All you have taught your children is, "Get 'A' grades and become
children, not dependent children.
It is your duty to speak the truth to your children, and stand to it.
When we give too many choices to our children, they become confused.
Children are born with intrinsic leadership traits that prepare them for life.
tell parents how to decode the spoiled child.
When Junior and his mother walk into the doctor's waiting room, there are two seats available: a big chair for grown-ups and a stool for kids. Junior takes the adult seat, and starts to throw a tantrum after Mom asks him to move. With resignation, she squats onto the little seat.
This scenario is not so uncommon, says Barton Schmitt, MD, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital in Denver. In his office, he sees kids wield power over their parents at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes it's a preschooler who's emptying out his mother's purse, taking out all of her credit cards. Another day it's a tot who's stretching out her father's glasses. In each instance, the kid gets his way, even after some parental protest.
Some people may call these children spoiled.
Schmitt suspects that about 5% of kids are spoiled in that they
lack discipline, are manipulative, and are generally bothersome.
His estimate, however, may be far too generous, if one author's
research proves accurate.
Kindlon did not ask his subjects what they thought the term "spoiled" meant, but he believes that they would all have different answers -- as did many of the child-development experts interviewed.
"A spoiled child has the 'I want, I want, I want' syndrome," says Charles L. Thompson, PhD, professor of educational psychology and counseling at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "His philosophy of life would sort of be 'Life is not good unless I'm getting my own way.'"
The word "spoiled" has many different meanings in different cultures, says Lane Tanner, MD, associate director, division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Children's Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, CA.
"Very often a grandparent will shake her head with a grin, and say 'My daughter is spoiling that baby so bad,' and that's praise," says Tanner.
A spoiled kid is someone who sits inside on a cold day -- sipping hot chocolate and watching TV -- while her dad shovels snow in the driveway, says Kindlon. He notes that such children often feel entitled not to have to contribute to responsibilities. They also usually have parents that emotionally indulge them -- for example, excusing them from chores because they already have a tough school schedule.
"What's spoiled for one parent may not be for another," says George Cohen, MD, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on the psychosocial aspects of child and family health. "Many parents think what their kid is doing is okay. Others are much stricter."
Whatever one's primary definition of spoiled is, arguably, there are children who could use a bit more discipline. They usually find it hard to share, wait their turn, appreciate what they have, and accept that they cannot always get their way.
Life, for these kids, is often difficult, says Schmitt. "They are constantly in a tug of war with their environment," he explains. "They keep smashing into walls because they are living in a world that's different from the real world."
CAUSES OF SPOILING
Many experts agree that most moms and dads love their children, and simply want the best for them. Their efforts, however, can sometimes have the opposite effect if they're not mindful.
"There are parents who don't want their kids to experience hardship or emotional stress of any kind," says Schmitt. "In the process, they teach the kid to have a personality that gets into all kinds of emotional stresses,because their behavior is unacceptable."
Pressures from the outside world can also make it tough for parents to exert enough discipline, says Kindlon. With a greater consumer culture than ever before, more demanding academic and extracurricular requirements for children, longer work schedules for parents, less family time, and a generally more lenient society, many mothers and fathers feel more inclined to go easy on their kids.
Plus, some moms and dads may use their kids as "Prozac," says Kindlon. "In past generations, the parents didn't care whether their kids liked them or not," he explains. "Now, given there are other things in our lives that aren't that satisfying, having good relationships with our kids is something that makes us feel good."
Then there are the persons who simply do not know how to be firm with their young. "There are people who cannot tolerate anger from another person, including their child," says Constance Katz, PhD, a psychotherapist based in New York City.
There are, indeed, many obstacles to the proper disciplining of kids. The bottom line is, however, that children need parents to raise them to be responsible and social adults.
"Kids need to know that there are firm limits out there, because it's not very secure to know that the limits change everyday," says Thompson. One way to teach children boundaries, he says, is to actually give them choices, beginning at 18 months old -- the age when people are capable of making simple decisions about right and wrong.
Choices may involve things like "Do you want orange juice or tomato juice?" or "Do you want to wear this outfit or that one?"
It is important to give kids options that you, as a parent, can live with. "You don't come home and say, 'Okay, you three kids, what do you want for dinner?' You might have three short orders,'" says Thompson.
As the children grow older, the list of options obviously becomes more complicated. But, if kids have practice with making simple decisions, they can be more trusted to make more difficult choices later in life, adds Thompson. "If you take the time [to present options to kids] in the first 11 years of life, it will pay off in dividends in the teen years. The child doesn't have to be a rebellious teenager."
Consistency is also key in preventing a child from thinking he can get away from following the rules. This means moms, dads, and whoever else is caring for the child are in agreement with each other on rules and discipline. "A unified front is so important," says Schmitt. "A child knows when adults don't come from the same position."
Steven Adelsheim, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, says one way
to keep kids from becoming spoiled and self-centered is to expose
them to diverse environments. "It's important for children
to have experiences with others who have a wide range of needs,
and people with different challenges, so that they can be more
sensitive to the diversity of people in the world," he
If there are extenuating circumstances -- such as an extended vacation, divorce or a major crisis in the family -- it's even more vital to enforce the rules. Structure helps children adapt to stress, says Kindlon.
Yet moms and dads also need to be sensitive to the needs of the child.
"Parents have a job of figuring out what is behind the pleading and demanding," says Tanner, noting that kids' desires might be momentary -- such as if they saw something appealing on TV or in the toy store -- or the child might be signaling a deeper need, such as time with a parent.
UNSPOILING A CHILD
If parents find themselves always angry at their child, because the kid doesn't answer to them, or if they feel their rules have become too excessive in response to the child's bad behavior, then it may be time to make changes, says Ross Black, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Family Physicians.
"Moms and dads who want to do something about spoiled children need to do the basic things that need to be done to prevent spoiled kids in the first place, including setting firm limits, being consistent, and providing choices.
The process of unspoiling, however, may be a lot harder because it would be like breaking a bad habit," says Black.
He suggests having an initial conversation with the spoiled child, laying down what is going to happen to avoid confusion.
"You can approach it by saying, 'I don't like what has happened with what we've been doing, so we need to change. I still love you as my child, but when you do these kinds of things, I feel concerned and I would like to change that,'" says Black.
The child may say she does not want to change, but parents need to stand firm and say things will change, and to present options of how the change could take place.
For more help with disciplining a child, Black suggests the following resources: self-help books, courses that offer a special technique called Parent Effectiveness Training (PET), pediatricians, and behavioral psychologists. --
RAISING KIDS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Parents these days. They plan everything from the most optimal month in which to conceive a child, to precisely what activities they should enroll their kids in -- from infancy through adolescence -- so as to facilitate their acceptance into an Ivy League school. They sacrifice sleep, time with their spouse, time with friends, and even unstructured time with family to provide their children with a wide range of opportunities in the hopes that this will produce well-rounded individuals with "successful" careers and financial security.
Part of the reason for this type of behavior, according to a recent Newsweek magazine feature, "The Parent Trap," is that the current generation of American parents is "the richest and best educated in history. "They are therefore more inclined to seek out expert advice on child rearing and are better able to afford the programs recommended. But combine this with the fact that today's parents also live in one of the most uncertain periods ever, where clear cut answers rarely exist, and you have the makings of some seriously stressed-out families.
THE PARENT TRAP
Newsweek's article revealed that not since the early 1800s has there been such anxiety among parents about how to raise their kids: "Today's middle-class parents are reacting to the aftershocks of the seismic shift to the digital economy, just as blacksmiths and farmers in the 1820s worried that their kids wouldn't make it through the Industrial Revolution."
To compensate for their lack of certainty, parents are scheduling more and more extra-curricular activities for their kids, often from early morning to evening and on weekends, too. Sometimes this is at the request of a proactive child, but most often parents are the ones urging participation in the hopes that their son or daughter will learn teamwork, discipline, coordination, critical thinking, creativity, appreciation for others and the environment, or simply that the activity will assist in academic performance.
In an interview with National Public Radio, psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld, co-author of Hyper-Parenting: Are You Hurting Your Child by Trying Too Hard?, suggested that what ails today's parents is a fundamental lack of trust -- in the existing public school system, in strangers, in their kids, and especially in themselves.
According to Rosenfeld, "Golf is no longer the most competitive adult sport, parenting is. "What drives this competition is fear that perhaps they may not be doing the "right" thing for their kids. So parents find themselves closely observing and often copying their friends and neighbors.
Unfortunately, the end result is that every minute of their child's day, from the instant the afternoon school bell rings to the time their child goes to bed, is being controlled by over-anxious parents. And it is taking a toll.
LIVING IN FAST-FORWARD
" … years of resume building can backfire when talented kids, often to their parents' horror, just walk away from soccer or put down their violins and refuse to play. Junior year, with college looming and the SATs on the agenda, can be especially pressure-packed. "Kids become overwhelmed, and they shut down … They can no longer keep up the pace." -- Mark Kuranz, president of the American School Counselor Association in Newsweek, "Stop Stressing Me."
Before it gets to the point of burn out, parents need to assess whether it is ultimately helping or harming their kids to live life at such a frantic pace.
Inevitably some adults will argue that modern times require constant motion, but other parents are starting to question the necessity and the efficacy of all their efforts. Are the countless hours spent in the minivan driving from soccer practice to ballet school to computer class to choir rehearsal, all the while feeding your kids dinner in the car, really worth it? --
Mrs. Jones: I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I
ever been, an exotic dancer. I work at Home Depot and I told
my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard
hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had, and
then I found one more in the back room, and that several people
were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn't show
me dancing around a pole. It's supposed to depict me selling
the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot. From now on I will
remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns