You’ve seen the warning signs that your child is getting spoiled. Don’t worry, it’s not too late. Learn 7 practical ways on how to unspoil your child.
For many parents, every day it seems like the kids are challenging them more and more. Children demand their way every time and throw a fit when they don’t get it. Parents can’t entertain them with simple toys anymore. And anything they need their kids to do requires a bribe.
They’ve seen the warning signs. And if you can relate, don’t worry, it’s not too late. Parents aren’t “stuck” with spoiling their kids for years on end. It’ll take a shift in thinking about parenting. Putting your foot down, firmly but with empathy. And encouraging values you want your child to uphold.
How to unspoil your child
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Many parents have admitted they see the warning signs of raising a spoiled child. And they asked, “What do I do?” Here are a few ideas:
Limit materials and focus on experiences.
Studies have shown that giving kids experiences over material items provides more happiness. From The Atlantic:
Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions.
If your child asks for the latest toy or extra Christmas gifts, give experiences instead. Rather than the latest toy, take her to a beach outing. And instead of 10 Christmas gifts, give a few and highlight holiday traditions instead (here are a few ideas).
But at the same time…
Even experiences can get out of hand. Your child gets bored with a trip to the park and wants to go to Disneyland to keep her happy. Here’s the thing: Kids don’t need a lot to keep them happy. Remember when they were babies and they’d bat the balls dangling from the play mat? Or sometimes they didn’t even need a play mat—you’d just sit them down on the grass and they’d be content.
Enjoy simpler pleasures as a family. The highlight of your day can be visiting relatives or going to the new playground. They don’t need to go to every new museum or see every show.
The best way to foster this gratitude is to practice it yourself. Say out loud how grateful you are to spend time with them at the new playground. That the best part of your day is picking them up and having a snack after school. These are the little joys that make life richer.
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘discipline’? Most likely, you thought punishment and consequences. Or it’s what we do when our kids misbehave. Or the parenting style you chose.
Discipline is more than that. Like I mention in my book, Parenting with Purpose, discipline is teaching. When we discipline our kids, our goal is to teach them many things. We teach them how to behave. How to regulate their emotions and calm themselves down. How to think of other people’s feelings. These are the skills we want our kids to have when they grow up.
Think of yourselves as being on the same side. Forget power struggles or parent-child battles. You’re teaching her how to behave as well as the skills she needs as an adult.
Ironically, two of our library books this week dealt with the golden rule. One is The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper and the other is Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller. Both talk about the importance of imagining what it’s like to be another person. Treating that person how you’d want them to treat you.
Maybe your child has been talking back, or rolling her eyes at you. Not listening or doing what she needs to do. Maybe she’s been hitting her little brother. Explain how her actions can make others feel. Tell her how you feel when she says hurtful words. Or that her brother cries because he doesn’t like getting hit.
Then explain even further that she wouldn’t want that done to her. Follow the golden rule by pointing out how others feel (whether by her actions or someone else’s). Label emotions you might see, both positive and negative. She’ll become more aware of others’ feelings as well as how her words and actions affect them.
How often have you given empty threats without following through on their consequences? Let’s say your child misbehaves despite acknowledging her motives and redirect her elsewhere. Let her know what will happen if she continues to misbehave, then follow through with it.
You told her to stop throwing the wooden blocks because she could hurt people or break things. You’ve even acknowledged the joy of throwing and redirected her to the foam balls.
Except… she keeps doing it. So then you say, “It looks like you’re not ready to play with the wooden blocks correctly. If you keep throwing them, I’ll have to put them away for today. You can have them when you’re ready to play without throwing.”
You’ll want to say all this in a matter-of-fact tone. You’re not holding anything against her. You’re just letting her know what happens if she does a certain action.
And of course, the most important part: if she does throw another block, put them away until tomorrow. Don’t let her have one more swing with a block, and don’t give them back to her after five minutes of crying. Explain that she kept throwing them so it’s time to find something she can play with that won’t hurt others.
Build a strong relationship.
The eye rolling, the name calling, the blatant disrespect.
Kids behave because they care about what their parents think. They won’t want punishment. Or better yet, they don’t want to disappoint us. But if that doesn’t convince your child, then you’ll need to build a strong relationship.
Steer away from power struggles and consequences and build a strong relationship. When she’s upset, don’t make yourself so threatening. Show empathy by kneeling down below her eye level and saying you’d be pretty upset too if the same happened to you. Acknowledge that times can be hard, and that you’re here to help her through them.
Make yourself an ally, not an enemy. Yes, you’re the parent, but parent and child should be on the same, not opposing, sides. You both want the same for your child, and she needs to see you on her side.
Remember, you are the adult.
As exhausting as your kids can be, remember that you are the adult. You’re the one who makes the best decisions for your family. Bowing down to your child’s demands doesn’t do anyone any good. After all, kids need an adult to guide them through these formative years. They don’t like feeling upset or throwing a tantrum and feel scared when they happen. After all, if even her parents can’t stand up to these tantrums, then who will?
Want a quick guide to handling tantrums? Download this FREE printable below:
Your job isn’t to make your child happy. Happiness is a result of the many factors that make up her childhood and something you’d want her to have. But that’s not your job. In fact, she needs to experience feelings beyond happiness—disappointment and humility, for instance.
Your job is to raise future adults. That’s it. One who won’t grow up to become an adult who feels she’s entitled to everything. An adult who knows hard work, not complaining, will yield better results. One who thinks of others, not always herself.
Regardless of where you are in your relationship with her, it’s not too late to unspoil your child.
Discipline is nothing more than teaching her how to behave. Foster gratitude and encourage empathy. Give less materials and more experiences while building a strong relationship. Above all, remember you are the adult who needs to make the best decisions, not to always make your child happy.
Get more tips on parenting and your child’s behavior:
- 9 Warning Signs You’re Raising a Spoiled Child
- The Benefits of Fostering Gratitude
- How to Teach Gratitude to Children So They’re Thankful for What They Have
- How to Stop Kids from Talking Back to You
- The Downsides of Having Too Many Toys
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tips on unspoiling kids?