Is Your Child Spoiled Rotten?
Experts tell parents how to decode the spoiled child.
What Kids Need continued...
Consistency is also key in preventing a child from thinking he
can get away from following the rules. This means moms, dads, and whoever else
is caring for the child are in agreement with each other on rules and
discipline. "A unified front is so important," says Schmitt. "A
child knows when adults don't come from the same position."
Steven Adelsheim, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, says one way to keep kids from
becoming spoiled and self-centered is to expose them to diverse environments.
"It's important for children to have experiences with others who have a
wide range of needs, and people with different challenges, so that they can be
more sensitive to the diversity of people in the world," he explains.
Adelsheim, himself, has four children, one of them a teen
daughter who coaches a Special Olympics basketball team. Since his daughter's
involvement with the team, he has seen her become more sensitive to the needs
of other people. He says she is able to get past differences, and observe more
similarities with others.
If there are extenuating circumstances -- such as an extended
vacation, divorce or a major crisis in the family -- it's even more vital to
enforce the rules. Structure helps children adapt to stress, says Kindlon.
Yet moms and dads also need to be sensitive to the needs of the
child. "Parents have a job of figuring out what is behind the pleading and
demanding," says Tanner, noting that kids' desires might be momentary --
such as if they saw something appealing on TV or in the toy store -- or the
child might be signaling a deeper need, such as time with a parent.
Unspoiling a Child
If parents find themselves always angry at their child, because
the kid doesn't answer to them, or if they feel their rules have become too
excessive in response to the child's bad behavior, then it may be time to make
changes, says Ross Black, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Family
Moms and dads who want to do something about spoiled children
need to do the basic things that need to be done to prevent spoiled kids in the
first place, including setting firm limits, being consistent, and providing
The process of unspoiling, however, may be a lot harder because
it would be like breaking a bad habit, says Black. He suggests having an
initial conversation with the spoiled child, laying down what is going to
happen to avoid confusion.
"You can approach it by saying, 'I don't like what has
happened with what we've been doing, so we need to change. I still love you as
my child, but when you do these kinds of things, I feel concerned and I would
like to change that,'" says Black.