August 2016

Spoiled Rotten: Reality checks for your precious angels

Author: Ashley Trexler

Admit it. There’s a part of you that wonders if you’re spoiling your kids too much. You just want what’s best for them, but there’s an almost invisible line between providing for your children and spoiling them.

When you first bring baby home, spoiling him or her rotten is a good thing. It’s the best thing you can do for a child’s mental and emotional health—not to mention you get to show off all those adorable outfits and cool baby gifts. Babies deserve the best, and we’re thrilled to give it to them.

Then, slowly and not so quietly, spoiling your child ceases to be cute. The demands get louder and more expensive. Little Johnny turns into a tiny terror. Grounding doesn’t really work with younger kids and can spur further confrontational behavior in older children.

If your angels are showing signs of putting their own needs first a tad too often, here are some inspiring reality checks, both big and small.

Take a trip. A mother from Canada, takes her 13-year-old daughter on a summer pilgrimage through Spain—on foot—to show her struggling teen that the world is bigger than a high school complex. A father from New York flies his teenage son to an orphanage in Guatemala to show him a reality where air conditioning systems and private bedrooms don’t exist. Invest in showing your children that they are a part of something bigger: the world—and that life doesn’t begin and end with school. There’s a world out there where 3.5 billion people (half the world’s population) have a daily income equal to the price of a small cup of coffee at Starbucks. Go meet them.

Perform a not-so-random act of kindness. What’s the first name of your trash collector?
Who cleans the school every night? Who delivers your mail every day? From disappearing bags of trash to the people who make Amazon possible, encourage your children to stop and take note of others by performing not-so-random acts of kindness. Talk about what the person does and what he or she might like to receive as a token of appreciation. Then have your children create and deliver a gift. From handmade cards to freshly baked treats, the options are inexpensive and endless.

“Adopt” a grandparent. It’s estimated that 60 percent of seniors in nursing homes have no regular visitors. As many as 50 percent may have no visitors at all. Your children can help change that. From collecting and delivering magazines to eating a bowl of ice cream with residents, nursing homes offer an opportunity to connect with people who want nothing more than a little conversation. A child’s smile can make a senior’s day. Service to Senior is a year-long program for students that educators can implement to make the project part of the curriculum. Bonus: History lessons are always more memorable when told by someone who lived through them.

Give away your gifts (yes, yours). Gifts are fun to give and receive. But truthfully, most of us have more than enough stuff. And while everyone should experience the joy of unwrapping something extra special just for them, try something different by requesting friends and family donate directly to a charity of your choice. CharityWater.org is a global non-profit dedicated to providing safe, clean water for everyone around the world. The local Volunteers in Medicine can always use a donation. What’s your cause? Figure it out and then pledge your gift day away. Lead by example.

Revive the thank-you note. Where did all the stationery go? Give your child a personalized set of stationery, and do your part to help thank-you notes make a comeback. Yes, they’re time-consuming, difficult to write, and never fail to feel forced and psychotically happy. (No one can be that excited by a sweater. No one.) But you know what else is time-consuming and difficult? Gift giving. We do it anyway.

Commit to 30 tiny good deeds. We can’t all be superstar singer Taylor Swift, who helps children battling illnesses by delivering major monetary donations. Her actions are honorable and needed, but your children don’t need lots of money to do good deeds. What they need is to commit. Grab a notebook or calendar and commit each child to completing a tiny good deed at least once a day. Can they donate a few bucks to a GoFundMe.com campaign or someone struggling for financial support? Pay it forward with a smile and some door-holding? Petition a lawmaker? Write it down. They’ll need an accountability partner to make this work—maybe it’s you!

Do something—anything. Make good things happen. DoSomething.org is a resource website for young people searching for causes to support. Results can be sorted based on how much time they have to give. From sustainable seafood initiatives to creating a bully-free school zone, your children are sure to find causes they can get behind.
When having something is more important than being someone, it’s time for a change. So whether it’s 10 minutes to print out flyers or months of trip planning, getting your child to see the bigger picture will ensure that the words “spoiled rotten” disappear from your vocabulary—for good.

Ashley Trexler is a writer and the founder of the award-winning website, LiesAboutParenting.com. She is also a blog consultant and helps writers and businesses attract the online traffic they need to succeed. You can find her on Twitter @LiesAboutParent.

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