5 ways to unspoil your child

Ways to put an end to bratty behaviour and help your child to appreciate everything he has in life.

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Everyone wants the best for their children. We want them to have nice things, exciting experiences, and simply be happy.

But in our quest to give them everything they want, we may not realise that they could be turning into ungrateful little people, who expect everything they want to be presented to them on a platter.

Admitting that your child is spoiled or disrespectful is challenging. No one wants to acknowledge that there’s a problem with the way their child is behaving.

But there may be signs that your child is becoming spoiled, says psychologist Daniel Koh from Insights Mind Centre. “When their behaviour starts to control you, they are never satisfied with what they have and want more, they are self-centred and don’t care about others, they are rude, demanding and aggressive, often whining and embarrassing you in front of others,” he describes.

You can also get a sense of entitlement when you hear the words they speak, “often words like ‘no’, ‘me’ or ‘I’, ‘I want it now’, ‘I don’t care’, and ‘If not, I will’ are some examples,” Koh notes.

Richard Bromfield, author of How to Unspoil your Child Fast, notes that parents often worry about the consequences of spoiling their children. He wrote that parents who think their child is spoiled may “fear for her future, knowing that some spoiled children can grow into spoiled adults unable to assume and manage the restraints, responsibilities and hardships of adulthood”.

Before you take the necessary steps to prevent a child from becoming spoiled, it’s also good to acknowledge that things are getting out of hand early, so that you can correct your child’s behaviour earlier. “It’s best to change early, when the signs are there. Otherwise, it will take longer and be harder,” says Koh.

Here are some tips on handling your child’s “spoiled” behaviour.

#1 She whines

Whining is common in children, but when it becomes incessant, it can get extremely frustrating for parents.

What to do: Dig deep as to why your child is whining. Does she feel like she isn’t listened to? Is it because you give in to her (buying a new toy, or using the iPad) whenever she whines? Find the root of why she’s whining and start there. “A child who perpetually pesters her parents is still searching for the limits she needs to grow straight,” Bromfield writes. In other words, you need to set limits.

Once you’ve figured that out, remind that she needs to stop the whining right away. Tell her that you can’t understand her while she whines and that you’ll listen to her when she talks in her normal voice.

“Some spoiled children can grow into spoiled adults unable to assume and manage the restraints, responsibilities and hardships of adulthood.”

#2 She demands

Expectations run high in spoiled kids. They expect dinner to be laid out for them, they expect to be taken to exciting excursions and holidays, they expect fancy gifts and toys, and they expect parents to pick up their slack where they’ve fallen short.

If you often hear phrases like “Give it to me, now!” and “I want!”, chances are, you’ve already got a brat on your hands. She has grown to expect certain things, so you’ll need to have an in-depth chat with her about being grateful for what she has.

What to do: It’s perfectly fine to give her a special birthday present, or take her out for fabulous meals, but don’t do this on a regular basis. Limit the amount of material gifts and avoid bribing her with things to get the right behaviour out of her.

“If she wants new things, get her to choose something else to give away, or make sure she shares, first. Expose her to certain events and situations in the world to instil empathy and compassion, and let her work for things, instead of getting them freely,” Koh suggests.
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#3 She throws public tantrums

Public tantrums are embarrassing, aren’t they? You feel the judgemental eyes of other parents fall on you as you watch your screaming child writhe on the floor, and you know you can’t really do anything except wait for your mini-me to cool it.

So, you do what will probably shut your child up for a bit ― you cave in to her demands. But you aren’t really doing her any favours ― you’re simply teaching her that if she makes enough noise, she’ll get what she wants.

What to do: You’re the parent and you’re the boss here. Try to ignore all the stares and tell you child that it isn’t appropriate to behave in this manner. If telling her off nicely doesn’t work, take your child away from the situation, or go home. Keep yourself from bribing her, or giving in to her, so she learns that tantrums simply don’t work.

You’re simply teaching her that if she makes enough noise, she’ll get what she wants.

#4 She talks back

Disrespect and rudeness comes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement. Says Dominic Yeo, a dad of two, “When they’re used to getting their way, and they suddenly don’t get it, they’ll naturally feel hurt and say things that can be rude.”

What to do: Take the child away and tell them you’re not happy with her behaviour, suggests Koh. “They can stay in their room to think about what they’ve done, then later, discuss what went wrong. Also set boundaries and consequences if you see such behaviour again,” he says.

Always make sure that you lead by example and teach your child the right way to speak to others, even when you’re angry or frustrated. Don’t forget that you’re her role model.

#5 She’s unwilling to do chores

If she throws a fit when you ask her to clean up her room or help out around the house, it’s probably because she doesn’t see it as her “duty”, because you’ve been cleaning up after her all this while!

What to do: You need to change that mindset. Talk to her about her duties at home, and why every member of the family needs to contribute. “Tell her that in order for you to give her things, she needs to do her chores and contribute to the family ― that’s what life is about,” Koh says.

You’ll need to set your expectations clearly, with proper consequences and boundaries. “Be consistent and focus on small positive progress,” notes Koh.

Photos: iStock

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