We’ve all seen them. They’re the kids who don’t seem to understand the word “no.” They interrupt adult conversations and use whining and tantrums to get their way. They demand constant attention from adults and don’t know how to entertain themselves. They can make life miserable.
Yet spoiled children are themselves miserable. With no adult supervision, they don’t develop the social skills necessary to get along with others. They don’t know where boundaries lie because they have never had to live within them. Quite frankly, spoiled children don’t live in a world in which rules and consequences apply.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which we can encourage children to behave and to develop a disciplined sense of self.
First, children need to learn to monitor their own actions. Consequences are a necessity, especially in situations that may be dangerous, destructive, or disruptive to others. Self-monitoring eventually leads to self-control. Children should be given limited choices beginning at age 18 months so they can learn decision-making, a companion to self-control.
Next, children need to understand that their own individual rights should not supersede the individual rights of others. Teaching respect for others is important. Don’t allow a child interrupt conversations, talk disrespectfully, or take advantage of situations. The child needs to understand that parents and siblings have rights too, as this understanding carries over to all other aspects of the child’s social interactions.
Children should also be encouraged to play independently and entertain themselves. Parents should, of course, spend plenty of quality time together with their children. But children also need time on their own to develop skills and interests in their own ways. Obviously the amount of time depends on age, but a three year old should be able to entertain herself for approximately half the day without needing adult intervention to do so.
Finally, parents need to be consistent in everything: schedules, discipline, rules, and consequences. Any break down in consistency can open a door to manipulation. Children need to know that rules have a purpose and that the rules will always be enforced consistently, and by everyone involved in her life.
Spoiled children have an unrealistic sense of entitlement that impedes proper social and emotional development. Parental firmness is not synonymous with cruelty. The sooner a child learns that the world will not yield to her requests, the happier and more well-adjusted she will be.