Some days I think my kids HAVE to be fucking with me. I mean, do I have to tell them for the 10,000 time that they need to put their bowl up to the sink…that they need to pick up the bathroom and hang your towel after a shower…to not grab and molest the dog? I half think they’re just seeing what I’ll do when they aren’t following the rules. They can’t possibly be that ignorant/forgetful of the rules, can they? I’m already off topic, but had to get that out there.
I see a lot of spoiled kids. We had my brother’s family over recently and his older kids are 7 and 10 I think. The 7 year old has a kindle fire and the 10 year old gets to set his menu. By setting the menu, I mean this scrawny, underweight and malnourished child will only eat tan foods: chicken nuggets, hot dogs and french fries… but it’s because he has “food allergies”. It’s a case of the inmates running the asylum. This spoiling isn’t so much about “having” so much as it is about power dynamic between parent and child. Like the Captain/Leader type dynamic for the father to grab onto, a parent (or both parents if in a nuclear-type family) NEEDS to have this role for their children. They can’t be friends with them. They can’t defer to their children on any topic or choice of consequence. It is their responsibility, as parents, to set the framework and rules for the children and to make their children follow that structure. The minute the parent allows for the children to set the rules, to set the relationship dynamic, is the minute they start spoiling their children.
It’s natural to want your children to be happy and to have things to make them happy. What I think we all forget is that it’s not the number of things that result in happiness but what they do with them. The typical American child has an ADD type home of suburbia with toys overflowing from every room, most plastic pieces of junk that get played with a few times before being discarded for the latest shiny object. I think it’s much better to have toys and activities that cater to creative thinking than it is to have a large quantity of junk. For us, we’ve more or less stopped purchasing toys except for Lego’s. They get used A LOT, along with tinker toys, lincoln Logs and paper/markers/crafty type things. I digress a little here, since again, I don’t think it’s the toys themselves that cause spoilage of kids, but they do contribute to expecting to get “stuff” which in turn contributes to lack of appreciation for said stuff (see gratitude vs. entitlement).
My parents grew up pretty poor, and for them, small presents meant a lot. Meanwhile, we’ve got nearly everything any family could want and our kids have desire for more “stuff” on their Christmas or birthday or even random holiday lists. This year, they’re not getting as many gifts, but the gifts they are getting are things they use all the time, like a bike that fits. I’ve had recent conversations with LoudBoy and Birdsnest to let them know they should be thankful for what they have. Birdsnest, who is 8, gets that we/she is really lucky and that hard work trumps having things given to you.
Try and plant that appreciation seed in your kid and swim against the tide of consumerism as best you can. Be a “doer” not a consumer, meaning have adventures outside, do things, make things, don’t just buy things and obviously limit the zombie devices. As a parent don’t try to make up for working or whatever by buying them more stuff. Instead, engage more, love more, do more with them. Commenter Chuck had some good notes on the Weird Neighbor post about how the neighborhood kids love messing around doing cool strongman stuff. That’s the type of thing they’ll remember when grown, not the fact they got past level 120 on Candy Crush on the iPad you bought your 6 year old. So set the example yourself by appreciating what you have and not drowning in consumerism and maybe your kids will follow your lead.