Many a parenting expert has waxed philosophical about how to raise a civilized child. Many a parenting expert has blamed the latest generation for failing to properly teach basic etiquette, not to mention gratitude to their children. Many a parenting expert has thrown the blame around. Some of it is justified and some of it is unfair.
What is certain is that children need guidance to grow physically and emotionally healthy. They also need parents to set a good example, to show them how to behave. Pundits and analysts have often spoken about how social media and other modern conveniences are corroding the character of a generation. So, what's a parent to do?
The challenge is greater because there are so many conflicting messages out there. On the one hand, parents want their kids to have what they never did. They want their kids to measure up to their classmates and cousins. They don't want them to be wanting for anything.
On the other hand, they want them to appreciate what they have and really understand the value of a dollar, and the value of having supportive, caring people around you. Teaching those kind of values isn't easy. What is important to realize is that this is not just about one's family. The future of the greater society is reliant on parents raising honorable people with great character.
"The world is being run by irresponsible spoiled brats," P.J. O'Rourke has said, according to BrainyQuote. No one wants that. "Spoiled brats" could run the world into the ground. Parents have the power in their hands to change all that and make the future brighter for everyone simply by avoiding creating a little monster that will become a big one. Here are the ways parents mess up and end up raising a kid with a bad attitude:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand," said former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who led the country through its Civil War. The words are as true today as they were then, and they can easily be applied to one's own family. If mom and dad are fighting and not presenting a united front to the kids, they will be ineffective.
For one, their attention will be placed on the arguments with each other, rather than whatever the children are up to. Secondly, the kids will be left to their own devices. That's always a scary prospect because children don't usually have the best judgment, and they require some guidance. Finally, the instability of that house divided can lead the kids down a dark path.
They might act out to gain attention or expect everything to come to them as a way for their parents to make it up to them. In other words, they could leverage the instability to their advantage, and that's a bad precedent.
Parents - especially in the modern day - feel guilt about so many things. Some feel guilty for the tension in their marriage and how that's influencing the kids. Some feel guilty about working too much. Some feel guilty about not working enough. When the guilt piles on, there's a tendency to want a quick fix.
Sometimes, even without meaning to, parents end up trying to buy the love of their kids. They replace material items with quality time and love. What is all too easy to forget is that most kids just want a piece of their parent's time. They want attention. They want to talk or even just cuddle up for a few strong hugs. They don't need another piece of plastic with which to play.
By trying to buy love, parents send the message that materialism trumps the presence of people and affection. Of course, if you ask moms and dads if that was their intention, they will probably tell you it wasn't. It's hard, however, to see what's happening objectively. That's why parents should really reflect and try to look at each situation as an outsider.
When the impulse to buy something surfaces, they should think twice about whether it's necessary and why they are really buying it. Love is the best gift, after all. Nothing - nothing at all - can replace it.
This is a big mistake for a variety of reasons. It's not just going to breed a spoiled attitude. It could also lead to raising a child, who does not understand that there are consequences for bad behavior. Ultimately, children, who never get any discipline, might not learn how to define bad behavior. If children can't define it, they don't understand that it's wrong.
Yet, many parents hear a whine or a cry when they begin disciplining a child, and stop in their tracks. "Don't put me in time out," is a plea almost every parent has heard at one time or another. Or "Please let me play the video games even though I trashed the den and didn't clean up after myself."
Relatable, isn't it? That's why parents have to follow through on their promises to show the consequences exist, to help children remember next time they behave badly what they will have to give up. Worse, of course, is ignoring bad behavior all together and not even attempting to discipline in the first place.
Still, parents have to enforce positive discipline. Consequences that are too harsh for the crime, warns the U.K.'s Supernanny, can lead kids to lie or be sneaky about their behavior to avoid punishment. If parents go too easy on children, of course, they can end up spoiled, she adds. "Positive discipline is about helping your child to learn positive values and develop social skills for life.
It may help to think: what am I aiming for as a parent? Getting your child to do what they’re told right now may seem critical in the heat of the moment, but unquestioning obedience is probably not on your list of top adult qualities you aspire to," writes the Supernanny.
"Instead, most parents aim to raise a young person who is responsible, but also adaptable; adept at compromising and negotiating, skilled at communicating and able to flexibly think their way out of problems."
Let's face it, parents don't always like to play bad cop. Sometimes, it's a lot more fun just trying to be your child's friend. Besides, it's hard to say no to that face with the gaze that makes a parent's heart melt. Been there, done that. If parents constantly cave and let children do what they want whenever they want, they will lose credibility.
Children, whose parents always indulge them, will learn that life is always unicorns and rainbows. Of course, mom and dad know it isn't. The children will also learn to believe that everyone will simply cater to their needs. When they get out in the real world and learn differently, they will be unprepared and maybe even a little angry.
Certainly, letting a child stay up late when a relative is visiting or having breakfast for dinner every now and then is not indulging every whim. But letting a child constantly do these things is comparable to trying to buy love. It does not send the right message and actually does a great disservice to the child, the family, and later on even society, one could argue. Who wants to do that?
As Kermit the Frog has taught us it is tough being green. So, do not fall into the trap of teaching jealousy to your child. The idea of keeping up with the Joneses is pervasive nowadays. People peer into their neighbor's yards and see an expensive car, a prettier home, or fancy jewelry hanging from Mrs. Jones' neck and start to feel green with envy.
Essentially, they are showing their children to covet what others have. Little Johnny might start noticing the toys little Robbie is bringing to school. They are shinier and newer and more expensive. Suddenly, those pangs of jealousy are there. And Little Johnny wants just what Little Robbie has - but only better and bigger and more.
Much like mom and dad, Little Johnny is letting jealousy get in the way of what makes sense for them as a family. Perhaps, Little Johnny's family has a budget that doesn't allow for those material items. Or, perhaps, they have the money but would rather focus on valuing people over stuff. Experts don't talk about this subject enough.
But teaching children to be happy for others who do better than them, financially or otherwise, without becoming jealous or bearing ill will is an important lesson. It's a hard one to convey. Parents have to check their own behavior, so they can be good role models. But they also need to reinforce the message by talking about materialism and jealousy.
One effective way to teach this is to help the child focus on what he or she does have - a loving family, a roof over his head, other toys he or she enjoys, etc. Make gratitude an everyday priority, and the jealousy may vanish on its own.
Just as parents must check their resentments about the Joneses at the door, they also must manage their anger. If spoiled parents are kicking and screaming about whatever isn't going right in their life, then children will learn that's how they must deal with challenges. If parents yell and scream and make demands, the child will think that's all right.
Instead, parents should confront whatever challenge they are facing with quiet strength and dignity. Again, they must set an example for the right kind of behavior. Rather than shielding their children from these obstacles, they should share what's happening (when appropriate) and show them the ways in which they can properly handle such a problem.
Falling to the floor kicking and screaming, cursing, treating others badly, or just wildly acting out are all inappropriate ways to react.
Any parents who find themselves constantly embroiled in arguments with authorities, such as teachers, coaches, or even police, on behalf of their children, should recognize there's a problem. The pattern is easy to recognize. The children come home and tell their parents that so-and-so is making life tough for them.
They might mention getting a failing grade on a test, being left on the bench, or getting detention. Then, mom and dad head to the school or field and have it out with whatever authority figure is being "hard" on Junior. On rare occasions, parents are justified in sticking up for their kid. But if this is a common occurrence, then they should reevaluate the situation.
Take each on a case-by-case basis. Make sure the authority in question is actually being unfair or singling out the child. Parents should never defend a child just because he or she wants to win or get a better grade without having merited such a distinction. This is the argument many make about the generation of Millennials, who grew up getting trophies just for participating.
The fact is that children must learn to both compete and fail in healthy ways. Digging them out of the hole every time things don't go just their way is not going to help them handle the realities of adulthood.
Life is inevitably hard. Certainly, it's harder for some than others. There is a fair argument to be made to give children an idyllic childhood if possible. But parents help their children gain the necessary tools for success by allowing them to problem solve and face heartache and suffering head on every now and then.
Parents who shield children from every problem or never let them make any of their own mistakes think they're lending a hand. Really, they are failing to prepare their children for the future. There will come a time when one's babies must be go off and be grown ups. When the harshness of the world slaps them in the face, they will not know what to do.
So, let children clean up their own messes, cry it out, and fall down every now and then. Don't do everything for them. Let them do for themselves.
"While I find it great that today’s parents are more invested in their children’s lives than previous generations, our involvement can go overboard," writes Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis, an author and blogger, on Huffington Post. "What we may justify as 'good parenting' can hurt our children later. Unless we’re mindful of that, it’s easy to handicap them by making their lives too easy."
Children learn from parent's behavior. Those who never give up anything teach children that things can and, perhaps, should come easy. The truth is that it's simply not so. In life, people usually have to make sacrifices. There's hard work but also the act of giving up stuff.
Single people might go out to eat every night or stay out partying until all hours of the night. Most parents can not afford those luxuries, not to mention the fact that they have their children to whom they must tend. Of course, for some families there are greater sacrifices than some of the joys of singled.
There might be a sick relative, so someone has to give up a job to care for him or her. Mom might have to take a safer, better paying job opportunity, as opposed to the dream job, to make ends meet. The list goes on, and there are sacrifices big and small. But if parents are unwilling to give up something for the family, they can not expect children to ever do that or learn those ways for the future.
When children are young, they need to learn the difference from right and wrong. It's not always black and white, so they need thoughtful, caring, responsible adults to guide them. One of the ways to do this is by showing them there are consequences for bad behavior. Parents need to be serious about this and follow through on the punishment.
For instance, if a child hits his cousin, he should have to sit in time out and then apologize for what he did wrong. Even if the child puts up an argument, his parents must make him sit in time out with no toys, no TV, no fun, no attention. The idea is to signal that hitting is wrong, and those who hit must face punishment.
Of course, parents have to clearly explain why the child is in time out and explain that hitting is unacceptable, too. The child, especially if he is little, might not learn the lesson the first time around. But if he keeps getting put in time out every time he hits, he will begin to understand that this is bad behavior and it has consequences.
This is a way for parents to show they mean business and to teach the lesson that everyone pays for their crimes so to speak.
Sometimes, friends are a bad influence on kids. Parents need to know details about their children's lives. They should know who their friends are and what kind of character they have. If parents find that their kids' friends are spoiled and their parents are lax in disciplining them, then no one should be surprised when Little Janey comes home with the same attitude.
If one of her friends is entitled and expects mom and dad to cater to her, then Little Janey might start exhibiting the same kind of behavior. Kids are still figuring out who they are. And they look to their friends to try on different personalities and attitudes. Their friends matter. Parents are wise to get to know the friends.
Invite them over, ask questions, meet their parents. In addition, parents should ask their own children what appeals to them about their friends. What attracted them to these friends? When parents see a problem with a friend, they should communicate their concerns to their child.
When kids are young, they do not always realize that toys and clothes and food and everything else costs money. They have no idea what goes into earning a living or what a living even is. They ask for anything they want without understanding that their parents might not be able to afford it.
Once children are old enough to comprehend these concepts, parents should start teaching them about money and its value. When they fail to do this, they invite children to continue to expect everything and anything.
Failing to teach a child about money - how to value it, earn it, and save it - and never disciplining them or ignoring them or doing any of the other things on this list could lead to a spoiled attitude. Worse, it could lead them to have no work ethic.
"It's actually easy to teach kids about money," says Jayne A. Pearl, an Amherst, MA-based author of Kids and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially, according to Parents. "Turn your day-to-day activities into learning experiences." She suggests parents talk about how they spend money and their values on the way to the ATM.
They can also give, even young children, the money for a treat at the dollar store, so they start to see what it takes to get something.
Parents are busy nowadays. Sometimes, they're too busy to be parents. Work beckons. The laundry beckons. Other family members beckon. And the kids get left alone or put in front of a TV or tablet. When kids are ignored over and over again, then they start acting out to get attention.
Yes, they end up seeming spoiled, even if they are actually the opposite of spoiled. They are being neglected and the spoiled behavior is simply their shout for help. The solution to this problem is actually simple. Parents need to be proactive and spend more quality time with their children.
Sometimes, a tantrum or instance of poor behavior can be nipped in the bud by simply taking a few minutes to chat with the child or play a game. Parents have to make their kids a priority. They must pencil them in if that's the only way to get them on the schedule. After all, an absent parent will miss the warning signs and shouts for help that lead to spoiled behavior.
Parents have a tendency to put off those difficult conversations. But those are the most important ones to have. They must talk to children about the values they want to impart. Specifically, they have to explain what's right behavior and what's wrong behavior. They might start with the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you."
It is simple for younger children to understand that they should treat people the way they want to be treated. Parents might also demonstrate empathy whenever their child is having a hard time - when they are sick, fall down, or lose a game. Make all these everyday occurrences teaching moments.
Some parents, who are religious, might use the 10 Commandments as a starting point. As children get older, parents can move on to more robust discussions about what's right and what isn't, especially when the issue at hand isn't clearly one way or the other. What parents should aim to do is give their child a backbone and the ability to analyze situations to make responsible decisions.
Figuring out spoiled behavior is wrong can help to eliminate it.
The theme in each of the items on this list is that parents serve as role models. Kids learn from their parents how to behave. The best way to prevent kids from being spoiled is for parents to not be spoiled themselves. It behooves parents to take a cold, hard look in the mirror and reflect on their own character.
Children are good motivation to improve one's self. Make sure your heart is pure and sending out the right vibes. Parents should demonstrate positive behavior, such as civil conversation, asking for help, remaining calm and collected, sharing things with each other, and a loving attitude.
These demonstrations reinforce the lessons that spoiled behavior is unacceptable. Just as in business and government, parents should lead from the top. Their behavior should set the tone and trickle down to the rest of the family. Good behavior begets good behavior. Spoiled behavior begets spoiled behavior.