by: Michael Kabel
One of the great joys of parenthood is that so many of a young child's accomplishments seem perfectly suited to celebration. But there's an old trap that parents are sometimes quick to fall prey, especially when they've got only the child's best intentions at heart. Too much affection, too much tolerance and too much rewarding inevitably leads to children becoming – to use the traditional term for it – "spoiled."
Parents can avoid spoiling their children by using effective discipline techniques but also by not going overboard on rewarding the child for good grades, doing all their chores, or other responsibilities that should be expected of them. Modern child experts now believe behavior patterns determine spoiled children more than possessions. Modulating the amount of emotional praise given will stop the child from developing unrealistic expectations.
Rewarding children for good grades.
Good grades are not cause for celebration – instead, they're something to be worked towards and encouraged as a matter of values. Improved grades or perfect grades (straight A's) may be cause for judicious rewards, but children should not come to expect a payout for a good-but-not-great report card.
You've probably heard it explained that, "The worst part about spoiling is that it ruins the child's expectations for later life." Experts believe that over-rewarding your children for meeting their obligations is tantamount to giving someone a raise simply for doing their assigned job. Overcompensating for meeting responsibilities can leave the child with overgrown feelings of entitlement. Instead, rewards should be given for exceptional work or improvement.
Rewarding children for doing chores.
This issue can be tricky, since parents often find a reward a powerful incentive for helping children to perform household tasks. After all, the argument goes, adults don't work for free, either. Instead, parents should set an allowance that gives the child money only after they've met a written-down list of obligations. This allows the child to know in advance what's necessary and to meet those responsibilities accordingly.
Remember the allowance is not a right, and it's not something to pay in advance. It's also not subject to adjustment just because the child wants something out of their allowance budget.
Parents should remain consistent.
Sending mixed messages to children – overemphasizing their good behavior or lavishing praise for mundane tasks – give children a skewed understanding of how you as parents will react to certain events. It also gives them false information regarding what's expected of them.
Parents should also not positively reinforce negative behavior. Perhaps the most archetypal example of such a mistake would be buying a child gifts or treats to get them to stop a tantrum. Another example would be holding or embracing a child who's begun acting up in order to get attention. Treating such negative behavior with warmth and openness sends the message that behaving as such is an effective strategy to win parents' attention.
Discipline should also remain consistent.
Punishments should not be adjusted because the child cries or throws a tantrum over being disciplined. Parents should agree on a discipline policy and work together to enforce it, so that the child won't see the "good" parent triumphing over the "bad" parent.