If you have known me for a while, you might know I am a big fan in raising self-reliant and independent children.
I notice there is an unhealthy trend that today’s parents are over-spoiling their children. In the name of protecting the young ones, they deprive the kids of precious opportunities to learn to be responsible for their acts.
As pointed out rightly by this great article, one of the 10 most effective parenting practices is autonomy and independence – and it is ranked as #4 after love and affection, stress management, and relationship skills.
(Side note: This article outlines what really matters as far as parenting is concerned – mostly about parents themselves, not children – and why reading child-rearing books can lead you to confusion)
The best gift you can ever give to your child is he can stand on his own two feet when he grows up. I know every parent wants that. But are you doing something unknowingly (or knowingly) that can stop you from achieving this?
Nobody wants to take care of day-to-day needs of a child who is already 18 or 21 – he is supposed to be able to take care of himself!
I know parents instinctively want to help their children in every way they can. But before it is too late, let’s take a look at another superb article. It addresses my exact concern about today’s parents who tend to find every reason to do things on their children’s behalf – thinking that they are not ready just for anything.
Are you helping them or spoiling them?
Spoiling children can be hard to avoid
It’s tempting to do everything for your children, like buttoning up their jackets. But by not letting a five-year-old try to button up his own jacket – even if it saves some time – the mother is not doing her son a favour.
That’s because learning to do things oneself builds up confidence in one’s own skills – an important lesson later in life.
Developmental experts recommend letting children learn from their own experiences. But these everyday issues fall into a grey area between loving help and spoiling. Where does one start and the other end?
When conversation turns to spoiling a child, one usually thinks of people who shower a child with gifts at Christmas and birthdays and any time in between. Whether it’s an iPod or designer jeans, the idea is that one’s child needs to have whatever other children at school have.
All wishes are fulfilled, sometimes before they are even voiced. But materialism is just one aspect.
Spoiling is more than material things
“When you’re talking about spoiling, you can also be talking about parents who protect their children too much and don’t trust them,” says Frauke Worbs of the German Society for the Protection of Children.
Psychotherapist and parenting expert Juergen Detering fills out the definition: “Children are spoiled if they’re not given the chance to complete everyday work that they could actually do.”
That means, for example, organising the child’s life to a degree that the child doesn’t have to add any input.
“Too much is done for children these days,” says Trudi Kuehn, co-editor and trainer with the STEP parenting programme who notes that all parents in her courses want independent, responsible and self-confident children.
“Mum and Dad should ask themselves from time to time: ‘Am I accomplishing that goal with my parenting?’ That means sometimes letting a child deal with the consequences of a forgotten gym bag.”
Everyday life is full of opportunities for parents to “quickly take care of something”. There are numerous examples when there’s some time pressure – for example, in the morning.
Parents can help a child get on a sweater, make a sandwich, tie shoe laces. “We need to give children more time to do things themselves and, if that’s the case, to do them slower,” advises Detering.
Along with time pressures, the ease of doing something oneself, a guilty conscience or the need to be needed, all play a role in making people spoil their children.
Parents’ inability to manage conflicts also plays a role. To avoid nerve-wracking conflicts, parents will, in a sense, take time to spoil their children and, by extension, themselves, says Detering.
Why you should never spoil your child
Experts are concerned about the possible implications for children. “Spoiling works against development, since children don’t get trained for everyday life or how to learn new things,” says Detering. That means a chance is missed to build a child’s self-confidence and character.
“Think how proud small children are when they do something themselves. This pride is there to rouse and encourage them,” he says.
That’s the only way a child will get some idea of his own skills and abilities. That means parents need to let go and give their children a chance to learn the consequences of their actions.
Kuehn notes a typical parental reaction when a child knocks over a glass. “They complain, but they wipe up the juice themselves.”
It’s better to ask the child to grab a rag and clean up. “Children simultaneously learn that they can fix the problems they’ve created,” Kuehn adds. That’s a big step toward building self-confidence.
However, it’s impossible to spoil a child with too much time and emotional support, says Worbs.
She notes that discussions about “spoiling” confuse most parents. “Parents need to be clear what’s important to them in parenting and make decisions on that basis,” she recommends.
That gives them the strength to keep rules and provide children with security and continuity – another important building block in building independence and confidence.