Monday, July 3, 2017

Pamper Your Kids The Right Way

By Amy K. Williams 

Amy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.

“I WANT IT NOW!” yelled my son as he pummeled his fists at the shopping cart.

Heat rose up my face, as other shoppers stopped and glared at us. By this time, he was in a full-fledged temper tantrum in the middle aisle of the grocery store all over a bottle of pop. As I took a deep breath, I tried to calm my nerves so I could deal with my littlest guy who was doing his best to channel his inner Veruca Salt. You know her, she’s the epitome of a spoiled “bad nut” child from Willy Wonka fame.

Now, here I was face-to-face with a demanding child who felt he was entitled to anything he wanted and I was left waiting for dancing Oompa Loompas to start singing. In that moment, under the unforgiving fluorescent lights of Aisle 3, I had an epiphany of sorts. My child was becoming selfish and entitled. And he’s not alone.

The Problem with Overindulging Children

In fact, 71 percent of Americans feel that our “millennials” are selfish and another 65 percent feel this generation of children is entitled. Within the last few decades there has been a shift in our society where we try to give our kids all of their wants and desires. Whether we are helicopter or tiger parents, it should be no big surprise that raising kids can be complicated. Those times where we get to spoil our little ones is often the highlight of our day.

We love our little ones and enjoy giving them a treat every now and then. After all, pampering our kids by giving them what they want is the fun part of parenting. Unfortunately, our gifting and splurging can actually do more harm than good. I witnessed this first hand as my milk grew warm and my tater tots defrosted among the bloodcurdling screams in Aisle 3. Somewhere, I crossed the fine line into overindulgence. Now I faced the consequences, forced to regain control over my spoiled child.

Education and child experts have long been stressing the importance of cultivating intrinsic motivation within our sons and daughters. They have warned for years that rewards, gold stickers, and bribery will do little to help instill a love of learning, or desire to behave for the long haul. This means that all of our treats, rewards, and praises may be backfiring, causing kids to assume they are entitled to accolades merely for doing what is expected. Unfortunately, these undesirable behaviors are often due to our own actions as parents.

Pampering Our Kids the Right Way

Far too often, we are overly concerned with giving our sons and daughters everything they want. This is especially true, when we want to make our kids happy as they wrestle with self acceptance and motivation. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily struggles and lose perspective of what our children really need: love, guidance, and us.

Listed below are 3 ideas to pamper our children without overindulging them:

Spend time with our kids. Our boys and girls might not want to admit it, but they crave our attention. We need to make a conscious effort not to squander these precious childhood and teen years shopping or pacifying children with electronics. Parents must strive to be involved, ask questions, and show a genuine interest in their well being.

Instill empathy by helping others. One way to help children learn to appreciate what they have is to show them the world beyond their front doors. Sign up to pack after-school backpacks with food, serve at a local shelter, or raise awareness for a cause they believe in. Teaching a child to help others might be the key to helping them find happiness in relationships and life's simple pleasures.

The Gift of experiences instead of material items. Any child can have the newest pair of name brand jeans or shoes. However, not everyone will get the opportunity to learn how to bake kolaches with Grandma’s recipe, hike a trail in the mountains, try a monthly food subscription, take a road trip, or zipline down a ravine. Instead of wasting money and time on things that will eventually be thrown away invest in their hobbies and build memories together.

Looking Ahead

Needless to say, after that meltdown at the grocery store, our family made some radical changes in how we use treats and rewards. We now carefully consider the true value of trinkets and gadgets, weighing the impact beyond the monetary cost. We try to choose experiences rather than items, and find ways for our family to give back to our community. 

Still, I worry about a repeat episode of our family's experience in Aisle 3.  

What tips do you have for other families who want to embrace a new way to reward kids and intrinsically motivate them?

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