What to do about spoiled kids?
Question: “Since we’ve moved to China, our kids have become more spoiled than ever – our ayi picks up after them, so they don’t have any chores, and they attend school with wealthy kids so they often ask for expensive things. As their parents, we don’t want to deny them the luxuries and toys that they want. How do we teach them responsibility and gratefulness without hurting their feelings?”
Canadian International School of Beijing
Growing up takes place slowly over a lifetime. One developmental issue children and adults deal with is the choice between what we need and what we want. Children can learn the difference by watching parents make responsible choices for themselves and their children. Parents can model modest consumption and delayed gratification if they want their children to have those values.
Sometimes parents mistake purchasing “things” for their children as expressions of love or a substitute for parenting time. They mistakenly believe that quality time can replace a quantity of time in child rearing. Retiring business executives usually regret not spending enough time at home with their children. They seldom say they should have spent more time at work. By devoting a lot of time to parenting, we can get those special quality teaching and communicating moments that we remember for a lifetime. Hopefully we are not so stressed from everyday living that we become unable to hear our children telling us something important.
Love also means saying “No” in the right situations. For example, “No, you can’t stay up late,” “No, you can’t eat too much sweet food,” and so on. “No” can mean “I love you so much that I’m willing to battle you, the media, and sometimes a culture to teach you good values.” Children often don’t understand that concept until they become parents themselves. But they do sense the feeling of security that they need to grow and develop into decent human beings.
Parents should let their children dress themselves, clean their room, wash dishes and do other chores as would be developmentally appropriate. Parents can decide what activities the ayi does so children learn the life skills that parents deem important. Children will learn self-reliance and resilience by doing, failing, learning, doing again and finally succeeding. We do our children no favors when we give them expensive “things” when what they really want is free – our love and attention.
Beijing City International School
Responsibility is a value that most parents want their children to acquire, but it must be learned. Jim and Charles Fay in their Love and Logic books emphasize a five-step process for teaching kids how to be responsible. The Fays’ approach to parenting advocates the principle of helping children to own and solve their problems with parental guidance using questioning. There are no bad kids, just kids who make poor choices – and even poor choices are learning experiences.
The steps are: Be empathetic, ask your child what he’s going to do to solve the problem, offer suggestions and ask how each suggestion will work, allow your child to choose a solution, and help him learn from his choice.
I suggest assigning chores to children despite the presence of an ayi and build a reward system so they earn something by being responsible. Follow the five steps when children don’t do their chores.
First, pick the right time to teach your children values. Meaning, no one wants to be “taught lessons” in the midst of conflict (especially not teens).
Being a role model is the most powerful way of influencing values. When you’re respectful with your ayi, when you discuss the family budget, volunteer as a family, or share your gratefulness for loved ones or circumstances, you lead by example.
View children as “helpers” rather than “culprits” and include them in solving family problems. For example, they can come up with ways to organize the household, help cook, make shopping lists and do other chores.
Tell your family members and your ayi when you are grateful for things they have done. Use descriptive and encouraging feedback, rather than absolute praise such as “good boy.” For instance, say something like, “You really worked up at saving up for your toy when there was so much else your friends were buying.”
Above all, have fun sharing values with your children. It’s the best way to learn.