WHEN YOUR KID WANTS MORE STUFF
With the holidays rapidly approaching, many parents are confronted again with their children’s endless requests for new gifts. We want to give our children what makes them happy; we don’t want them to feel left out or teased because their boots, phone, or brand name hoody are not the latest trend. At the same time, we want to raise children who are going to work hard to create what they want in the world. So, the question becomes “How do we raise children that feel deserving instead of feeling entitled?”
Here are a few tips to raise deserving kids:
1. Possessions should not replace emotional thirst. Too often, some parents buy things for their children because they feel guilty for not spending enough quality time with their children. When your child becomes demanding, it is then time to reassess your priorities. Ask yourself what you can do with your child to simply enjoy time with her. How can you modify your schedule so that you can spend time reconnecting with your child?
2. Empower your child to create her own abundance. If your child does want something that is not in your plan, then let her know and show some empathy by saying “No, we are not getting that today. I know it is hard on you and I am sorry about that.” If you child keeps insisting, then collaborate with her to find a solution. You may want to say “We can put this on your birthday list. If you want it sooner, you can earn money to buy it. How about doing an odd job that would allow you to buy what you want?” When you interact this way with your child, she feels empowered and learns that through hard work she can get what she wishes. The pursuit of a goal is a reward in itself.
3. Help your child wire her brain for a different type of reward. Show your child what emotional rewards are. For instance, a child who has a passion (e.g. basketball, cooking, writing, music) can practice, and it will build resilience. Then, her brain will be wired to find fulfillment in a different kind of reward that lasts. Material possessions are not satisfying in the long term, and often lead to crave more.
4. Live the values you wish to pass on to your child. What matters to you the most in life? The people you love? Volunteering to help others? Following your passions and contributing to the world? If your attitude in life is to give back and to be grateful for what you already have, your child will follow in your footsteps. Your child needs to hear explicitly and to see you demonstrate the most, what matters to you.
As a parent, if we focus on emotional fulfillment instead of instant material acquisition, then our children will learn the values of emotional connection and contribution to the world.
HOW TO GIVE APPROPRIATE CONSEQUENCES WHEN YOUR CHILD MISBEHAVES
Consequences should follow naturally a child’s careless action or poor decision. However, as a parent, you may wonder how set up consequences effectively and how long to give them.
Here are a few tips to establish them:
1. Create a menu of consequences. When you and your child are calm, take this opportunity to sit down and create together a menu of consequences and rewards for your child. Having your child participate in this process will help her accept the consequences when facing the misbehavior. Examples of consequences and rewards based on child ages: consequences for a 5-9 year old may include loss of video games, for a 10-14 year old, it might be loss of cell phone, and for a 15-17 year old, it could be losing access to the car. Rewards for a 5-9 year old may include getting a treat, for a 10-14 year old, it might be having a sleep over with a friend, and for a 15-17 year old, it could be gaining later curfew.
2. Consequences should be time-limited and task-oriented. If you tell your child who misbehaved “No playdates for 3 months.”, chances are it will not work and your child will get angry and develop resentment toward you. Instead, tell your child what privilege he loses, for how long time he loses it, and what specific behavior you expect from her to earn the privilege back. For instance, if your teenager was verbally abusive toward you, you may withhold her cellphone and say that you expect her to talk to you appropriately for two hours. Once she practices the desired behavior, she gets back her cellphone.
3. One consequence at a time. Often, in the heat of the argument, you may say “No video games for a week. Now, it is two weeks. Three! Nice going, you have lost them for a month now.” Stacking consequences is indeed counterproductive as it undermines your authority by mirroring your child’s emotional level. Instead, you should wait until everybody is calm before choosing and implementing one effective consequence.
4. Remember problem solving. Giving consequences is only one step. This will not teach your child the appropriate behavior. Problem solving with your child is the key if you want your child to act differently in the future. Please refer to my blog of October 2016 if you want to read more about problem solving.
Dealing with misbehavior works best when implementing appropriate consequences for the offense. Then, working collaboratively with your child will help her learn desired behaviors.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.