7 Ways to Avoid Raising a Spoiled Brat

7 Ways to Avoid Raising a Spoiled Brat

Top tips for preventing your kid from coming down with a full-blown case of the gimmes.

By Heather Chaet

I call it an “I-want-itis” attack or a case of the “gimmes.” It’s what happens when a child watches too many commercials or enters a toy store. It’s the condition that makes her look at those toys around her and say, with that crazed look in her eyes, “I want that!”

As parents, we want to provide for our kids and give them things that they love and want, but there’s a line that can be crossed when kids expect they will get whatever they ask for. How do we teach our kids to have a healthy relationship with money and material items? Some experts chimed in on seven ways we can prevent a full-blown case of the “I want-itis” and offer our kids positive life skills.

1. Help them practice gratitude daily. Instilling a sense of gratitude for what they have is one of the most essential ways to prevent your children from becoming spoiled. It sounds like a lofty task, but actually, there are small habits you can encourage that lead to big changes in attitude. “Every evening, ask your child for three things they feel grateful for,” says Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell School of Medicine. “They can be small, like being grateful for an ice cream cone for dessert, or big, like making a new friend at school.”

Another way to get into the gratitude habit? “Have your kids write thank you notes when they receive gifts,” suggests parent educator Sherlyn Pang Luedtke. “Let them do the writing in their own words. In crafting thank you notes, you are training them to be grateful.”

2. Show them the money (and teach them about it). It’s never too early to talk to your children about money. “Parents can teach their kids from a very young age that things cost money,” says parenting strategist Natalie Blais. “Start teaching your kids the cost of things right from school age.”

Saltz agrees: “Show them what many things cost, and how it's not easy to afford them,” she says. “Don’t guilt them, but explain how you work, and what it takes to buy things and what things cost.”

3. Have them save up for something they want. We all remember that first time we bought something with our own money. It became our most treasured possession, right? Whether it’s the holiday money Grandma gives every year or a few weeks’ allowance saved up, working with your child on budgeting and evaluating how to spend her money is a huge element in combating the spoiled child pitfalls.

A weekly allowance takes the concept of money management one step further and empowers them to make decisions with their own money. “Give them practice in managing money by giving them a small allowance from which extra things come,” says Saltz. “Have them budget their own allowance, so they can understand that it takes saving to get stuff you want.”

Luedtke encourages parents to make savings fun and tangible. "Set them up with a savings jar,” says Luedtke. “Cut out a picture of what they want and paste it on the jar. Mark their progress, so they see themselves getting closer to their goal.”

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4. Tell them to make a list. “I recommend parents respond to the I wants with, ‘Make a list,’” says Blais. “Every time a child asks for something, have them write it on a list on the fridge. This enables the parents to judge big gift purchases for birthdays and holidays. It also gives them something to plan for budget-wise with kids. If your kid wants a new tablet, and the cost is $300, then begin to show your kid exactly what $300 looks like. How many hours you must work at your job. How much groceries can $300 buy? How many trips to the movies or swimming pool does it equal? Give kids tangible ways to fully understand the power of money and what it means to earn it and spend it.”

5. Show ways to have fun without spending money. Going out to dinner or to the movies costs money. Tickets to a professional baseball game or going on a weekend beach vacation cost money. But there are many things in this world that can be fun that don’t cost anything (or very little). Teaching your children how to be happy doing something without forking over dollars is an important life skill.

Choose to spend a long weekend having a stay-cation at home rather than traveling somewhere. Create a tradition of a Saturday night family book club rather than going to the movies or the mall. “Have fun as a family without spending lots of money,” says Luedtke. “Show them that you can have love, fun, and happiness without spending a lot to get it.”

6. Be sure you are buying them items they want for the right reason. We’ve all done it. We feel a little bad about having to work late, so we buy them that video game they wanted. The kicker is, when we do this, it sends a confusing message on how and why you buy something. “Sometimes parents overspend on material things for their kids to compensate for feeling guilty about not spending enough time or being strict or harsh,” says Luedtke. “Recognize you are doing your best and be clear about what, if anything, you want to change. Approve of yourself as a parent and person.”

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7. Become a family of charity. Doing something as a family to help those with less and to make a positive change in the world is a great way to squash those spoiled-kid tendencies. Choose a cause you all feel passionate about and volunteer together. “Find ways to help others who are less fortunate,” says Luedtke. “Keep a balanced perspective on your own family’s needs versus wants, and make a difference to someone in need.”

Also, encourage your children to donate a portion of their savings to those in need. “Kids should learn the principles of charity,” says Blais. “Take 10 percent or whatever breakdown you want, and show your kids how to donate it or use it for the greater good.”

How to you combat the “I want” whines?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/danr13

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