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I was just reading an article that definitely struck a chord for me in terms of parenting tactics. Parents sometimes have trouble knowing how much to help out their child at certain times in their life, mistaking material possessions for love and kindness. What I’m going to explore here is: is it really bad to “cushion” your child in everything they ask for? If your child doesn’t have to work for everything they get, could that be bad for the rest of their life?

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, children who are “over-indulged” have these problems: “too much stuff: materialism and activities, over-nurturing: too much assistance reducing self-reliance, and soft structure: lax rules, no chores, aimless.”

For example, I’ve know families who’ve given their children cars on their sixteenth birthday just because the child became “of age” to drive. Is that a good precedent to set: that the child was “entitled” to a brand new car due to their age? Personally, I’ve always seen parenting as a give-and-take: the child gets gifts once in a while if they do as they’re asked or if it’s a holiday, but in general, if they really want something, they have to work for it. It makes more sense that the child gets used to the prospect of earning money early on, so that they’re not shell-shocked when they have to find a job someday or if everything doesn’t go their way in the “real world.” Imagine one of the sixteen-year-old car owners is used to raiding Dad’s “money tree” to “earn” money: how will it feel to realize that they’re just going to be dropped on their own someday with no concept of earning a living? This might be a problem someday, so it’s better to start early in teaching children that “you can’t always get what you want.”

An over-indulgent parent is given a definition in the above article as: “often view[ing] themselves as loving their children unconditionally by permitting all requests and offering their youngsters free reign without restrictions. They also believe that being good parents entails supplying children with all of their wishes.” This might be okay for the early years of life for a child, especially if their grandparents want to “spoil” them a little bit, but shouldn’t a child learn their work ethic early on? Chores are important, as well as learning to share and other basic “group play” necessities that ensure that the child can take orders to be helpful and listen to others. If these general rules of working with others aren’t learned, then the child might become spoiled or not used to not being the center of attention.

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As well, “loving unconditionally” shouldn’t be connected to the extreme idea of “no restrictions” or “material possessions.” Love is a give and take, something that’s not tangible and DOES involve rules. The general idea of not taking advantage of someone’s kindness and making sure to not take them for granted is something that children should be taught from an early age. The “unrestricted” nature of this type of parenting could lead to the child only taking, yet not giving back to their parents or caregivers. Parents and caregivers are people, too, and children need to learn that people who care about them and help them out with important things deserve credit for what they do.

According to the article, being “taken care of” all of your life could have grave consequences. The statement reads, “They [children who are over-indulged] have great goals but because they are so accustomed to being catered to, they do not have the skills or drive for achieving their ambitions. Impulsivity, eating disorders and spoiled behavior all stem from needing control and having no ability to appropriately exercise it.”

In accordance to the above statement, the “easier” life makes for children who feel “privileged” and are actually missing out on some important social skills that drive friendships, working with others, and even ultimately achieving their dreams. Doing well in college or finding a job takes individual hard work to succeed in, yet if the child is used to not having to work for their money or interact with people in order to do well, their lack of determination might be the catalyst for their downfall.

One major statement that caught my eye is that over-indulged children don’t know “the difference between needs and wants,” which is something most children and teenagers struggle with. Ultimately, knowing what you want versus what you actually need is something that comes with maturity, but when a child is so privileged that they get whatever they want, it would be hard to know the difference. In general, children that are used to being the center of attention and not having to work for their share at life are disadvantaged as adults, according to this article, which makes me think that more parents should realize their place in their child’s life. Parents are supposed to get a good example and give kids a strong background in the “real world” so that they can succeed on their own someday. If children don’t learn early on that making a living doesn’t come easy and that there’s more to life than material possessions, their lives won’t be as fulfilled because they’ll have the wrong idea about “entitlement.”

Strong, independent mothers: make sure your child knows that in order to live is to work toward your goals. Life isn’t always hard, but when it is, there are tons of other people having problems, too. Don’t let a sense of entitlement rule your child’s life!

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