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Health & Parenting

Are Your Children Spoiled?

For all ages and a myriad of behavior problems, WebMD helps parents regain control.
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So where do you start? Here are steps you can take to regain control.

1. Commit yourself wholeheartedly to stop spoiling your children.

“You have to commit. If you do it halfway, it’s better than not at all, but it’s not going to work until you really do it,” Bromfield says. For example, a parent who wants a child to start cleaning his room has to make sure that the job gets done right. “If they pick up one crayon and a piece of clothing and that’s it, it isn’t going to work,” he says.

In Bromfield’s experience, parents who take their new mission seriously see fairly quick improvements in their child’s behavior, he says. “A 10-year-old spoiled child does not need 10 years of reversal. Kids are smart and resilient and they want to grow right, so it’s generally not too late.” 

2. Replace empty threats with clear, calm, concise instructions.

“Kids hear their parents say, ‘stop, no, it’s the last time.’ All the screaming and the counting to three and the threats -- we have trained them to ignore us for 11 hours because they know that in the 12th hour, they’re going to get their way,” Bromfield says. “I tell parents to say what you mean. If you just say the words and say what’s going to happen and stick to it, that’s what has the power -- the consequence. You don’t even have to yell.”

Also, avoid the trap of over-explaining or haggling endlessly over routine matters, such as tooth-brushing, turning off the video game, or bedtime. Your child will only argue with you like a pint-sized lawyer, Bromfield says. Think about it, he says: Does your 11-year-old son really need hundreds of nightly reminders about the benefits of dental hygiene if he’s smart enough to memorize 493 species of Pokemon?

3. Provide consistent discipline and consequences.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Bromfield says. Cut the chatter and provide concrete consequences, he suggests. “Is tooth-brushing a problem for your child? Try no treats for the entire next day. No warnings, no threats, just a total prohibition of sugar and sweets for the next 24 hours. Does he refuse to [pick] up his toys? Put them all away for a few days, period.” At first, your child may whine and cry, but don’t give in to tantrums. “Children need to grow used to handling reasonable limits without feeling devastated, rejected, and unloved.”

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