‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’ is a reasonably outdated parenting locution in today’s times. While most parents these days gladly forgo corporal punishment, many continue to spoil their children.
It is difficult not to empathize with them; working parents get to spend very little time with their children, and they want these hours unsullied by the trying task of discipline. Besides, giving in to a demand – be it candy at a supermarket checkout or dessert before finishing dinner – takes much less effort than saying no.
Yet allowing children to grow up in an environment that enables their self-indulgent behavior is a disservice. Spoilt children grow up to be entitled adults who are incapable of taking no for an answer.
If you realize that this behavior has been allowed to transpire in your home for too long, there are steps that can bring the situation in control.
Do Not Apologize for Disappointments
A father talking to his sad son
Parents should lead by example, and owning up to one’s mistake and apologizing is a good habit. That being said, we teach our children that a sorry is reserved for when someone has been wronged. So why apologize when they don’t get their way?
An apology offered when you are unable to entertain their request reinforces the idea that they have been shortchanged, and it causes them to feel outraged. Instead, express that you understand what they want, but are unable to provide them with it for whatever reason.
Some Rules Are Non-Negotiable
It is important to encourage critical thinking in children by not undermining their questions about how the world operates around them. At the same time, not everything should be open for debate.
If there are a set of house rules for sound reasons, do not allow your kids to negotiate or find loopholes to skirt them. Explain the need for these regulations if asked, but stay firm in your demand to enforce them.
Do Not Be Held Hostage by Tantrums
A mother consoling her crying child
No parent enjoys the dreaded temper tantrum – especially when it erupts in public. The sight and sound of your beloved child bawling their eyes out can be enough to coax even the strictest parent to bend to their will, simply to stop the meltdown. Unfortunately, this reinforced your child’s negative behavior and teaches them that a screaming fit is a secret tool for getting what they want.
Instead of succumbing to tantrums, let your child ride it out. If you are in a public place, escort your kid to a nearby car or other private space. Crying can be cathartic, so wait for them to exhaust all their angry energy. When they have calmed down, explain to them that such behavior will not be entertained, but you are all ears if they want to have a civil discussion.
Reward with Encouragement in Lieu of Gifts
Dad and son’s high five moment
In wanting to reinforce good behavior, parents sometimes go overboard. Rewarding every good grade, goal, and habit with treats and presents leads to a two-pronged problem, and your child will lose their natural drive to excel.
On the other hand, they will be imbued with the unrealistic expectation that the real world will be equally rewarding for every effort of theirs.
It is fine to motivate them towards specific goals with promises of gifts, opt for specific appreciation and praise in other instances. Commend their achievements and convey how proud you are of them with no strings attached. For most children, this is plenty of gratification in itself.
While many of us wish to be careful in avoiding the stereotypes of overly strict, controlling parents, we must also be cautious about disciplinary standards. Teaching them the important lesson that they may not always get their way in life will certainly help in the long run.