When raising children, no one sets out to raise a brat. No parent thinks to themselves, “I want my child to be irrational and demanding.” No one purposely fosters unreasonable expectations. And yet many parents reach an unpleasant day when they look at their child and realize that somehow, they have. Their child may demand toys, lollies, particular foods, activities or just plain cash, but no matter what the demand it is a problem and a drain on the parent. What can be done?
Many parents, after this moment of realization, and a blow up at the child in question, don’t do much else. But that’s not going to solve the problem. The problem with a spoiled child is deeper than a surface correction. If you want it to change, you have to make some changes in the way you and your child think.
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Talk to your child
This is the most important thing you can do. Do not skip this step! Not even if your child is relatively young. Sit down with your child at a time when you’re both calm. Explain and identify the behavior you don’t like, without accusing or blaming. Make sure to have specific examples. Be ready to tell your child a consequence for continued selfish behavior.
Raising a child should not be like training a dog. Your dog doesn’t speak English, so when you resolve to train your dog to stop barking at night, you don’t sit down and explain. The training will go no faster. A child is different. A child knows what their world has been like, and can understand that things must sometimes change. Instead of being surprised and appalled by your sudden refusal to give them five or ten dollars, they will remember your conversation. This is not to say that they won’t give you a hard time, either in subtle ways, with whining or with outright rebellion. It just allows you to state “this change is about to happen, and this is how I expect you to behave from now on.”
Help your child see the value of a dollar
Sometimes children seem selfish because they don’t actually understand how demanding they are being. They don’t understand the value of money, or budgeting so they can’t comprehend why you won’t spend it on them. You can explain, without necessarily saying your exact salary, about how much you make and how much your bills are. If you’re at a clothing or grocery store, you can remark on what prices are ‘good’, how to save money, and what is expensive.
Give an allowance, and nothing more
Tell your child that they will get X number of dollars per week or month, and nothing else. Make sure they know what they’ll be expected to spend their money on: are they responsible for putting petrol in the car, buying clothes, etc? Remind them of this if you’re at the store and they won’t stop pestering you for a toy or candy bar, or at home when they want cash to go out with friends, and they haven’t taken the steps to save money.
Be ready to stand firm
Anyone who has been given what they want, nonstop, will resist that privilege being taken away. You’ll have to be ready for a struggle at least the first two or three times you enforce your new rules. This is natural: you child needs to test you to find out if you really mean it. So don’t give in! As a less selfish attitude becomes the new normal for your child, it will be easier.
Once you have put in a bit of work, you’ll no longer have to worry about your child becoming a brat you hardly recognize. Of course, all of this is not to say that you should never get your child anything they ask for. It is a constant attitude of entitlement or having requests that turn into tantrums that is a problem. The idea is to find a new and better balance of give and take that works for both of you, not just your child.