1. Bribing for desired behavior. Take a trip to your local grocery store and you’ll probably see at least one mom pleading with her child to behave, and it usually ends up with the mom telling the child that if she will be “good” she can have some candy. I’m all for rewarding our children when they succeed at something, but when we set up a system where there is no real standards for obedience, self-control, respect, etc. and then we use bribes to get the desired results when we are desperate, we have essentially trained our child to act like a brat and expect something in return if they don’t.
2. Giving your child too many options. Be honest, sometimes we give our child a choice simply to avoid the conflict that will ensue when we don’t. But this is a dead-end road. I’ll never forget the day we announced to our three children that we were eating out and they all piped-in with which restaurant they wanted to eat at. Really? When I was growing up we were just happy to get to eat at a restaurant every now and then. When we constantly ask our children “Do you want this one or this one? Do you want to watch a movie or play outside? Do you want to go now or later?”, we are teaching them that what they want is the most important thing, regardless of other people’s comfort, convenience or preferences.
3. Giving gifts to the non-birthday child at a sibling’s birthday. This one really confuses me. I’m not sure when this trend started, but I guess in order to make things “fair”, parents have started this practice and requesting that others do this for their children as well. Children need to learn that life is not always fair. But more importantly, they need to learn that the world does not revolve around them and that there are days where we celebrate someone else and make them feel special. Believe me, this will lead to sibling problems BIG TIME if you are doing this. Let the birthday child have their own special day in the limelight, and teach your children to be happy for the person being celebrated instead of jealous that they aren’t getting presents, too. This will also teach them the art of delayed gratification. More on that in #5.
4. Underestimating what your child is capable of. If you consistently do tasks for your child that they are physically and developmentally capable of doing, you are handicapping your child’s ability to be an independent, productive person. Chores are good for kids, and they need to do them because they are a member of the family, not just so they can get paid for them. Children as young as 2 can start learning how to clean up toys, put plastic cups in low cupboard, etc. Teach your children life skills as they become able to do them, and then LET THEM do it. When a child says “I can’t”, they are usually meaning “I won’t”.
5. Giving in to immediate gratification. As parents, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if our child wants something, and we have the means to do it for them, that we should. One of the best lessons you can teach your child is to wait for something, and work toward it. If you give into your child’s every whim, they will learn to expect that when they want something, they are not capable of waiting, and they will struggle with patience and self-control their whole life.
Entitled, self-absorbed people don’t make good spouses, they don’t make good employees, and they don’t make good citizens. They also don’t make good parents, either. Remember you are raising the people that will raise your grand-children!