No one wants to admit they have a spoiled child. I certainly don’t want to admit it. But after listening to The Boy complain about “having a bad day” because Cute Husband or I refused to let him do something, I started considering that, well, yes, it’s quite possible that I, too, have a spoiled child. I mean, I know The Boy isn’t as spoiled as a lot of kids that I’ve seen, but complaining about having a terrible day at the Magic Kingdom because Cute Husband wouldn’t get him a fruit pop? (Cute Husband ultimately relented, by the way.)
I found How to Unspoil Your Child Fast by Richard Bromfield among a list of free books for my Kindle and decided to see what it had to say. It’s a quick read and full of sensible approaches that seem kind of “No duh!” to those without kids but served as a nice reminder. After all, it’s one thing to know how to respond when you aren’t faced with your own child’s sweet face on the brink of a meltdown; it’s another thing to step in and actually be the “mean parent”.
The book begins with a self-assessment to help determine whether you have a spoiled child. Below are the ones I marked with a check (and my thoughts in italics):
- Your child ignores you. Not all the time, but sometimes.
- You rationalize your child’s behavior. Yes. Especially when he’s particularly cranky.
- You rescue your child from consequences. Yes. I haven’t replaced anything he’s broken, but I’ll save him from Cute Husband taking a privilege away.
- You yell and nag. Guilty.
- You cajole and buy every bit of cooperation. Not every bit, but some. And that’s some too much.
- You explain yourself repeatedly. Maybe not repeatedly all the time, but there are definitely times I’ve had to explain myself more than once.
- You feel like a terrible parent. Don’t we all?
So it goes without saying that I continued reading this book with a bit of dread.
There are some great approaches in this book and some wonderful ideas. I particularly liked the anecdote of the mother who turned around, went back to the toy store, and returned the child’s toy – with her son in tow, no less – because he was behaving rudely. (Cute Husband and I have purposefully left each of the Disney World parks at some point with The Boy screaming in his stroller as we wheeled him through the exit, so this little story made me smile.)
I’ve noted a few techniques that I need to implement immediately, and (thankfully, though not surprisingly) Cute Husband is behind me all the way on this. Here’s my own recent example:
Last night at dinner, I asked The Boy if he wanted apple cider or orange juice. Twice I asked, and both times, he responded that he wanted lemon. I asked once again, this time issuing a warning that if he didn’t answer me, I would get him a glass of water. He responded, “Lemon!” before I was able to say the entire warning, so I got him a glass of water, anyway.
“No!” he screamed, tears already rolling down his face. “I don’t want water! It’s disgusting!”
Cute Husband backed me up. “Mommy asked you what you wanted to drink, and you decided to be cute. So you can drink water.”
“But I don’t want water!” he wailed.
This went on for a short while, quelled once Cute Husband reminded The Boy that he had already lost his TV privilege for the evening and was in danger of losing his lullaby. Dinner proceeded as usual, and once The Boy decided he was thirsty, he reached for his cup and took a sip.
“I don’t like water!” he insisted.
“Okay,” I said, taking the cup from him. “You don’t need to drink anything.”
But later that night, as I was tucking him into bed, he asked for the cup of water I keep near his bed and drank quite a bit of it.
So he won’t be dehydrated, after all.
It’s a small victory, and only persistence will quash this once and for all, but I felt really good about it.