‘Doormat’ Parenting: Dealing With Demanding Kids
Most parents know that any trip to the supermarket or mall with kids in tow can end up in a battle situation. The keywords here are ‘unmet demand’.
With middle-class incomes once again on the rise and the media feeding the flames of a highly commercialized mindset, we are raising a generation of children with a never-ending list of ‘gimmes.’
Parents tend to give in to these demands to avoid a scene, or because they are too tired to fight. On a shopping expedition, it does appear easier to give in to a child’s demands than to engage them in debate.
However, it pays to remember that while adults can make choices about wrong vs right, essential vs non-essential and affordable vs non-affordable, kids are not so enabled.
Should they, despite this lack of ability, always have the final say on their parents’ buying decisions? Reared on the concept of instant gratification, many of today’s kids never learn to appreciate the value of what they already own.
A Small Case Study
Four-year-old Aryaraj is his parents’ only child. He soon learned that it does not take much to get his parents to buy him a play station or a remote-controlled toy plane.
However, things changed when his parents planned for a second child and the new-born finally arrived. Most of the mother’s attention and time were now diverted towards the younger child, and she was unable to give equal attention to Aryaraj.
In a bid to assuage their guilt and placate their son, the parents started to overdo the indulging act. He only had to ask and it was his. Very soon the boy started throwing tantrums and said that he did not want to go to school.
He stayed at home and watched cartoons all day. The parents tried every possible way to get him to go to school – to no avail. When things got out of hand and the child ran away from school, the parents realized that they needed professional intervention.
They took him to a counselor, who told them that they should be more firm with him and to allot him a share of household chores if he bunked school. Aryaraj realized that bunking school for doing household chores was definitely not a good deal and things returned to normal.
More and more parents are buying into the popular media images of happy families shopping, eating out and buying expensive stuff. Marketers and advertisers reinforce ‘pester power’, knowing what a driving force kids can be.
Such parents need to realize that advertising is designed to sell, no matter whether the product is good or bad for the child. As a result, children have begun to define their self-worth in terms of their possessions and are competitive about their ‘economic clout’.
Psychologist Seema Hingorani says, “Children are an integral part of the family, and they can and do participate. For example, they are instrumental in decisions about where to go on a holiday or what car to buy. In this spirit, parents should talk with their children about ads shown on TV and explain certain facts of life to them.”
Breaking Our Kids’ Impulsive Buying Habit
Suparna Sinha, teacher and mother of a 10-year-old daughter, advises, “Give them more of yourself. With most moms and dads working for twelve hours a day, love in today’s world is becoming a scarce commodity.”
“The best way to substitute love is to buy them expensive gifts, but nothing can replace your time, affection and attention. No matter how much you shower your kids with gifts, they will not be happy, ” she says.
What every child needs is a loving, happy family. Give them more of yourselves and they will want less of other stuff to fill their lives with.
Do not feel guilty about saying ‘no’. Many parents believe it is a crime to deny their children, but your kids need to grow up knowing that your pockets are not bottomless. It is perfectly okay to refuse him the latest gizmo that costs the moon.
By doing so, you do not become a selfish parent, but a responsible one. If you rush to gratify his every whim and fancy, how is your child ever going to learn that there are things in life that may never be available to him?
When you say ’no’, mean it. For many parents, saying ‘no’ is just the beginning of a battle they eventually lose. If your child learns to see you as a pushover, he will always get things his way and learn the art of manipulating you quickly.
Seema Hingorani insists, “Teach them the value of earning. The most valuable lesson you can give your child is the value of working for something. If he scores well in his exam, you can reward him with something he has earned, and will therefore value. If you buy him something just because his friends own it too, you are sending out some very faulty signals.”
It is a good idea for your child to know how much things cost and how hard one needs to work to be able to afford something.
Learning To Handle Disappointment
Every child needs to know from a young age how to handle disappointments in life, and that he cannot get everything he wants. That is not how life works. By succumbing to every wish, you are giving your child the message that to have what he wants is his right.
This leads to a lack of coping skills when something becomes unavailable to him. Teach him how to handle disappointments that arise from not being able to have it all. “The message that disappointments are part of life has to be given to kids from early childhood,” says Seema Hingorani.
Do you love to shower your child with everything and not deny him anything in life? Do you love to see his face brighten when you gift him something?
You should also realize that as the child grows older, his demands will increase. Being strict then may come too late, since the child has already learned the art of manipulation by then.
Teach him necessary values such as to respect what he has. Take him to an orphanage or a free school and show him what those kids can’t get in life.
Teach him to count his blessings instead of focusing on what is missing. Reinforce your love when you say ‘no’ to something, and give valid reasons.
Also, be a credible role model. How many of us adults can say ‘no’ to a pair of expensive shoes or jeans? Only by exercising discipline in our own lives can we teach our children the value of self-restraint.
Copyright © Lachmi Deb Roy
Lachmi Deb Roy is a freelance writer and mother of a four-year-old son. She has written for and worked with several publications such as The Asian Age, The Week, Femina, New Woman and The Deccan Chronicle.
This article may be reprinted with the complete author bio and a live link back to http://www.lovingyourchild.com
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