Most parents have vivid memories of their children having a fit if they didn’t get what they wanted. If you are lucky enough not to have this memory, you’ve probably encountered other people’s children melting down in the aisle of a grocery store, in the checkout at the fast-food chain, or at the local park. When your child is in the middle of a tantrum, it can be stressful for us, our kids, and even observers, not to mention how embarrassing it is if this whole scene plays out in public.
Far too often we give into our kids’ demands and desires just to maintain the peace. This problem is widespread. 71 percent of Americans admit to feeling that millennials are selfish and another 65 percent believe our children act entitled. However, if we take a step back and examine how we are reinforcing behaviors by using rewards, we can gain a better insight into our child’s perplexing conduct.
We want to raise kinder, less-selfish, unentitled boys and girls, but is it backfiring?
The Problem with Overindulging Children
We love to give our sons and daughters gifts and fun experiences, watching their eyes light up in excitement when we give them a treat. It makes all of our sacrifices and work worth the effort. Unfortunately, overindulging kids might actually be doing more damage than good. Education and child experts have been warning that rewards and bribes actually hurt a child’s long term intrinsic motivation to behave or learn.
This boils down to the idea that all of our rewards, treats, or praises are backfiring and reinforcing negative outcomes. Behavioral research has shown time and time again that humans become acclimated to this reward system, always wanting more. Over time, children grow to expect accolades. Soon, they will only perform or do something if they will get a reward in return.
5 Ideas to Pamper Your Children the Right Way
It’s easy for us, as parents, to get wrapped up in the daily battles of wills or demands. We quickly can lose the perspective of what our children actually need, not want. Thankfully, with a little awareness and mindfulness, we can help our kids break out of the reward cycle. Remember, they don’t need more stuff, our kids need our love and guidance.
1. Make it a priority to spend quality time together.
Most children won’t admit it, but they really do want a relationship with us. Kids don’t need the newest video games or name brand shoes to know we care. It’s important for us to make an effort to be involved and show them through actions that we care. In the end, our kids won’t recall how many fidget spinners they amassed, but they will remember spending time with you at the park, fishing, or riding bikes.
2. Help others.
We can instill feelings of empathy and compassion by exposing them to others who have different needs. Look for volunteering opportunities to help with this process. Sign up together to serve meals at a local shelter, pack after-school backpacks, walk dogs at the shelter, or do random acts of kindness.. By giving our children the chance to serve, we might just be giving them the key to finding happiness in relationships and the simpler things in life.
3. Gift an experience.
Avoid wasting our precious money and time on items that will only collect dust, instead invest in a child’s future by cultivating their hobbies and building memories“ Go out and ride bikes, bake homemade treats, try a food subscription service for a new cuisine, visit grandparents and tell family stories.”
4. Be more mindful of praise.
Instead of always telling a child “good job” or “that’s amazing”, be more specific and thoughtful. If a child used nice handwriting on their spelling test, mention it. If you noticed they tried really hard while practicing their math facts, make sure you let them know. One or two meaningful comments are worth more than any amount of unremarkable or insincere mutterings.
5. Offer kids choices.
Allow your kids some say in how they complete a task or what they want to participate in. This will increase their intrinsic motivation, let them feel ownership in the process, and reduce the chances a child will fight or be upset with us. To make this process easier, consider limiting their choices to two or three acceptable options that are all expectable to you. Giving you child empowerment can be more powerful than giving in later.
What tips do you have for pampering children the right way?
Photo credit: Rudy Anderson