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Is Your Child Spoiled Rotten?

Experts tell parents how to decode the spoiled child.

Causes of Spoiling

Many experts agree that most moms and dads love their children, and simply want the best for them. Their efforts, however, can sometimes have the opposite effect if they're not mindful.

"There are parents who don't want their kids to experience hardship or emotional stress of any kind," says Schmitt. "In the process, they teach the kid to have a personality that gets into all kinds of emotional stresses, because their behavior is unacceptable."

Pressures from the outside world can also make it tough for parents to exert enough discipline, says Kindlon. With a greater consumer culture than ever before, more demanding academic and extracurricular requirements for children, longer work schedules for parents, less family time, and a generally more lenient society, many mothers and fathers feel more inclined to go easy on their kids.

Plus, some moms and dads may use their kids as "Prozac," says Kindlon. "In past generations, the parents didn't care whether their kids liked them or not," he explains. "Now, given there are other things in our lives that aren't that satisfying, having good relationships with our kids is something that makes us feel good."

Then there are the persons who simply do not know how to be firm with their young. "There are people who cannot tolerate anger from another person, including their child," says Constance Katz, PhD, a psychotherapist based in New York City.

There are, indeed, many obstacles to the proper disciplining of kids. The bottom line is, however, that children need parents to raise them to be responsible and social adults.

What Kids Need

"Kids need to know that there are firm limits out there, because it's not very secure to know that the limits change everyday," says Thompson. One way to teach children boundaries, he says, is to actually give them choices, beginning at 18 months old -- the age when people are capable of making simple decisions about right and wrong.

Choices may involve things like "Do you want orange juice or tomato juice?" or "Do you want to wear this outfit or that one?"

It is important to give kids options that you, as a parent, can live with. "You don't come home and say, 'Okay, you three kids, what do you want for dinner?' You might have three short orders,'" says Thompson.

As the children grow older, the list of options obviously becomes more complicated. But, if kids have practice with making simple decisions, they can be more trusted to make more difficult choices later in life, adds Thompson. "If you take the time [to present options to kids] in the first 11 years of life, it will pay off in dividends in the teen years. The child doesn't have to be a rebellious teenager."

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