The other day I was out shopping, and I was floored to hear how a youth about six or seven was talking to his mother. He didn’t get his way so he started pinching and kicking her. What! Some children seem to be uneducated when it comes to manners and respect for elders. They lack basic etiquette and don’t say please, thank you, or excuse me.
Parents and kids always presented with opportunities to be considerate and do kind things for others. But, the harsh reality is that many think only of themselves. We don’t have to look too far to see evidence of this fact everywhere we go, from aggressive drivers, to crude language, to disregard of property, to explosive tempers. Kids mimic what they see and experience.
This me-first mentality may start in the home. Some parents may unwittingly initiate the seeds of a me-first spirit. How so? By overindulging their child’s every whim, while hesitating to administer any kind of discipline. We’ve all seen this. Kids will have a tantrum and parents will relent and cave into their demands. So how can we teach our children to be kind and avoid being contaminated by the self-absorbed culture that surrounds them? There are many topics that could be covered; the list could go on forever, but let’s touch on three areas.
Overpraising – Adulation
Children seem to have a sense of entitlement. How do they get this way? Some parents may feel that in order to build their children’s self-esteem they have to praise them for everything. If a little praise is good for kids, a lot of praise is better, right? Not really. Many parents will lavish a constant flow of praise upon their children, even when they did nothing especially praiseworthy. Each accomplishment, no matter how insignificant, was celebrated. On the other hand each indiscretion, no matter how large, is overlooked.
These parents believed that the secret to building self-esteem was to ignore the bad and praise everything else. They may believe that making children feel good about themselves is more important than teaching them to accomplish things that they could actually feel good about. Some may also feel that showing any kind of disapproval will discourage their kids, but that’s not how life works. There is a difference between making kids feel bad about themselves as opposed to feeling bad about what they’ve done.
These kids grow up and enter the workforce with a marked sense of entitlement; an attitude in which they expect success, even if they have done little or nothing to earn it. It’s a disturbing trend. Some just assume that they will be promoted quickly, even without mastering their craft or trade. Others are convinced that they are special and deserve to be treated special, and then become dejected when they realize that the world does not share their view. Reality can be brutal sometimes.
Before it gets this far, we can make it our goal to give our kids correction and discipline when it is needed and commendation when it is genuinely deserved. It’s not healthy to dole out praise just to make our children feel good about themselves.
Overprotecting – Coddling
While it’s only natural to want to protect your children, overprotecting them can send the wrong message; that they don’t need to take responsibility for their actions. Kids need to know that they may have to deal with pain and disappointment, and there are ways to handle it properly. If they don’t, children can grow up extremely self-centered and convinced that the world and their parents owe them big time.
What are some examples of overprotecting your kids? Parents may feel compelled to protect their children from any type of adversity, regardless of the intensity. Did your child fail to make the team? Some parents have intervened and demanded that the teacher put them on the team. Your kid received a traffic ticket, so you paid the fine for them. Did your child do something wrong, but you defend their innocence because they would never do anything like that? Seriously? How about a reality check?
What can we do as parents? First, we need to take into account the maturity level of our children. If they receive a traffic ticket, it might be best to let them pay the fine out of their allowance or salary. If they didn’t make the team, then perhaps they need to practice more with you or a friend. If they’ve done something wrong, they need to learn to own up and make it right. Kids who work through their problems the right way build self-confidence and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. These are assets kids will not develop if someone is constantly rescuing them. If your kids are struggling with something, talk to them and help them work it out.
Overproviding – Spoiling
Some children may be raised in materialistic families, so they expect to get what they want. Parents want to make their children happy, and children want stuff, lots of stuff. The trouble is the happiness only lasts so long, then they want more stuff. Of course, companies know this and eagerly exploit the situation with phrases like, ‘you deserve the best, you’re worth it, be the first to own, hurry they’re flying off the shelf, or image how good you’ll look. These messages have encouraged parents and young people alike to buy, buy, buy and land in debt. Now they can’t pay for the things they ‘deserve.’ Kids may feel that things and money are far more important than kindness and being a genuine person.
So what can we do? We need to examine your own attitude toward money and the stuff it can buy. Get our priorities straight, and help our kids do the same. Be balanced and buy one item at a time. Encourage kids to shop for sales and save up for a special item. When they invest in an item, they appreciate and value it much more. They also need to understand that being thankful for gifts shows gratitude.
Kids learn from us by our conduct. If we show respect, gratitude, kindness, and gentleness toward people, animals, and property, our kids will follow our pattern.