Houston businesswoman Anna Sykes says she felt neglected as a child. Now a mother herself, Sykes has gone out of her way to give her daughter Nia, 9, everything she never had. To her surprise, this approach has backfired. Nia’s not appreciative, says Sykes. She’s insatiable and feels entitled.
“Buy her a smart phone, she wants an iPhone 4,” said Sykes. “Buy her a DS Lite, she wants a DS3. Buy her a Nook, she wants an iPad. Buy her a DVD Surround for her room, she wants a Blue Ray. She is nine!”
Nia is typical of kids who don’t appreciate what they have, according to Albuquerque child counselor Melynda Madrid, MA, LPCC. “It’s an epidemic right now,” Madrid said in a phone interview. “We call these kids overindulged, and this unfortunate attitude will transfer into other areas of their lives as well.”
THE PITFALLS OF OVERINDULGING OUR CHILDREN
Overindulged kids don’t feel like they have to wait for anything, said Madrid, and that inability to work toward a goal can result in adults who will expect everything to be given to them just because they want it. Since life doesn’t work that way, such children could face a difficult, disappointing adulthood.
Madrid says it is very important for parents to understand that the fault for ungrateful attitudes among children does not lie with the children themselves, but rather with parents who have failed to provide adequate parenting. Instead of doing the hard work of making kids earn what they get, parents just give kids whatever they want in hopes of making everyone’s lives easier.
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“Parents mean well,” says Madrid. “They want their kids to have more than they did. They see that all the other kids are walking around with iPods or cell phones and they don’t want their kids to feel left out, so they get stuff for them. They don’t want to face the tears or tantrums that come from saying no. They don’t understand that children must learn that there’s value in working toward something. They fail to think about the implications for the child later in life.”
RAISING GRATEFUL KIDS
So, what can you do to avoid having overindulged children? That’s easy, says Madrid. Stop giving them so much stuff, even if your family can afford it. Make them earn it. Talk openly about the family’s budget, and teach children the difference between necessities and luxuries. Teach kids to save money for what they want.
“Recently, my son, who’s 13, wanted a new video game, and I told him he could use the money he’s been saving for a drum set, if he thought was best,” says Madrid. “He spent a day thinking it over, and decided not to get the game. He went without. Obviously, I could afford to get him the video game, but at what cost to his future?”
“It’s not mean to say no or demand responsibility,” says Madrid. “A lot of parents seem to think that ‘forcing’ your kid to work for things is cruel, when in fact the opposite is true. Self-esteem and self-sufficiency come from learning to work hard for what you want.”
This is a lesson Sykes says she has learned the hard way. After seeing what overindulgence had done to Nia, Sykes decided to take away everything except the most basic necessities.
Now, she says, if Nia wants something special, she has to work for it.