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“Porter you are being whiny and you need to stop it.” my husband said in exasperation one evening after treating the children to a whole day of fun times, snacks, and even some souvenir t-shirts.
Spencer, my husband, had had enough. The funny thing was that this whiny moment of Porter’s was the first occurrence of whininess and entitlement all day.
I pondered the situation and realized that my husband had been set up to get to angry that night and Porter had been set up for whiny behavior too. He was behaving like children behave when they are spoiled and so was my husband. I started asking myself, “What could have changed this moment? Why are all of these normally self-governed people behaving this way?”
How The Spoiling Happens
No one wants to let their child down. Most parents thrill at the idea of doing something for their children that will create sparkling eyes and smiling faces. Since they love them so dearly parents have a tendency to spoil without realizing they are doing it. That is the way it occasionally happens with my fun-loving husband, Spencer.
He gives, spends, and shares his time, energy and fun. Somewhere in the middle of all that giving, sharing, and loving he creates expectations that the children will be easy to parent and not do anything wrong that he needs to problem solve or talk about.
I know this self-sabotage isn’t unique to Spencer. Multiple times, other parents have told me that their spouse gets angry when they have decided they are entitled to certain treatment from their children.
You see, in most adult relationships one adult [Susan] does something nice for another adult [Mark] and then Mark knows it is best to show appreciation to Susan in order to teach her what kind of treatment he enjoys. Mark is also likely to do something nice for Susan because her kindness and love filled him with gratitude which increases his love for her and inspires him to serve her. If the relationship is healthy, then showing love in this way will go and on uniting Mark and Susan in a deeper relationship.
Since parents feel inspired to do nice things for their children because they love their children so much, they naturally assume that children will reciprocate their love by serving them. Some mature children who understand give and take in relationships might do this but many children only view themselves in a position of taking, not in a position to be a giver in a relationship, and so they do not even think of reciprocating the affection by showing gratitude. These children just expect to be given whatever they want and to be treated in any way they want. Some children will even go so far as to tell their parents that they can’t say certain things to them or give them boundaries with electronics, games or friends, which is part of the role of parent as protector and teacher.
Spoiled, entitled children are undermining the roles in our society so that parents are not feeling like they know what it means to be a parent, and children don’t know what it means to be a child. This is the definition of dysfunction.
Raising An Unspoiled Child
As common as it is to hear that children need to fix these dysfunction problems by being respectful, the responsibility to solve this problem rests on the parents. Years ago, I made myself a recipe for raising an unspoiled child. These are the key ingredients.
1. Teach patience by making children wait.
This means sometimes they wait for your attention and sometimes they have to wait for that cool toy, to see that new movie or for a treat. Delayed gratification is a principle often employed by men and women of wisdom and good character. These people know that they are to learn to work for, plan for, and take responsibility for their successes and failures.
2. Give “No” answers.
Buying too much stuff for a child is often a burden for them, not a blessing. Giving “no” answers shows that the parent is really considering what is best for the child. Don’t give “no” answers all the time, but enough so that the child notices it as a blessing when the answer is yes. Children need to be taught how to accept no as an answer. The steps are: look at the person, with a calm voice, face, and body, say “okay” or disagree appropriately, and drop the subject. Learning these four steps help children to prepare themselves to be okay with experiencing no answers.
3. Effectively Correct problems.
When a child gets whiny or when they forget to accept “no” answers, parents can be ready to correct them instead of react emotionally to the child. Parents get trapped into emotionally reacting when they take the behaviors of the child personally. Having a set script for how to do an effective correction is so helpful for a parent who wants to steer clear of emotionally manipulating their child.
4. Understand roles and foster identity.
Remember that they are children and don’t often have the maturity to have gratitude on their own. Gratitude must be taught by precept and example. It is the parent’s role to be the teacher and the child’s role to be the learner. When parents look forward to magnifying their parent role by teaching and correcting the children then they foster identity and worth in their child. Children need to know where they fit in and know who they can look to as a leader. God established parents as the clear leaders for children in ideal situations.
5. Spend more time within the family group than without it.
Children become like the people or things they spend most of their time with. Understanding this can help parents kindly tell children no to excessive friend time or time on electronics. When children spend their days with family they are naturally more connected to their families and are blessed with gratitude for loving parents and siblings.
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