Spoiling a child takes time. It consists of a series of early life decisions and events which parents or guardians make for young children. The course of these early life decisions can eventually develop a child's preferences: his or her way of reacting toward individuals around him or her, study habits, eating habits, and social skills. Even before the child is ready, today's children have too many options.
Moreover, due to work demands of harried parents, the resulting guilt about time for and with the child can be a potent recipe for spoiling. Today's parent can opt to give in to tantrums and giving too many material things to keep the peace and assuage guilt. Likewise, there may be inconsistencies in the manner of dealing with the child among the adults. The result is a spoiled child.
Take for example these two extreme cases. The first is 10-year-old Chase who was unwilling to go to school and do any schoolwork if he were not to receive any compensation, like toys or electronic games. This young boy would force his will on his parents by banging his head on the wall repeatedly until his demands are met.
Giving in to such demands is not the answer, as they most likely lead to only bigger, unrealistic, and self-centered demands. Another case is 4-year-old Paul who was unable to appreciate his possessions, as he would be given new toys on almost a daily basis. When Paul's toy is broken, he would quickly ask, “Can we buy another one?”
Discipline is often associated with punishment. Actually, punishments and rewards are just aspects of it. Discipline, if applied consistently and with consideration of the child's level of understanding, is the best way of instilling a sense of responsibility in children like Chase and Paul. This starts with the parent being clear about what the child can and cannot do. Slowly, if the parents are clear and consistent, the child internalizes a moral compass to help guide him or her in decision-making.
In the case of Chase, there was inconsistency in the way the parents dealt with him. It was his mother who would set boundaries, like limiting the toys being bought and the amount of time he is allowed to play with his gaming unit. Chase's father, in an effort to spend quality time with his son, would inadvertently sabotage these rules by buying toys and allowing his son to play when they would spend time together.
Discipline is an ongoing process and cannot be done overnight. It requires constant compromise among parents and guardians attempting to instill it on their children. Other factors to take into consideration are family dynamics and personal values. These issues were very prominent in the case of Paul. Paul is the younger of two boys, both coming from different marriages. Paul's mother has difficulty spending time with her children, as she spends most of her time away from home. She also has a tendency to give in to Paul's demands in order for him to quiet down and refrain from throwing tantrums.
It is never too late to instill discipline. Sit down with your significant other today and list down the areas that need to be addressed in the life of your child, as the effort you make today will shape the man or woman your child will be in the future.
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I am a preschool and primary school teacher and mum to 3 children. I have been involved in education since 1997 and have trained in a variety of educational specialist areas. It is with this expertise that I write articles to help parents and educators provide quality learning experiences for the children in their care.