Five Counterintuitive Ways of Spoiling Your Kids

This is a list of some parenting mistakes that are essentially good but bad when overdone. Watch out for them! Many a good kid has been spoiled by overdoing these things.

  1. Giving the kids too much attention. Everyone is constantly told that kids need attention. It’s true, too. If you don’t give kids attention, they will take attention by misbehaving, since kids need attention as much as plants need water. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. An old parental wisdom says that kids should be in the middle of everything, but not the center of everything. They need action, people, and attention, but they shouldn’t get the impression that the world revolves around them. It doesn’t.
  2. Praising the kids. This is another one that we’ve been brainwashed to believe in Self-esteem 101. Kids need to be praised, right? Research has found that this might actually be detrimental rather than good. Kids do need appreciation, but when a parent becomes a “well done” automaton, it’s a problem. Kids who hear “well done” too often are actually discouraged from keeping on with the activity. They stop enjoying the activity for the activity’s sake, and start doing it for the praise. What should you say then? Draw attention to the enjoyment the child derives from the activity. Say something like: “Drawing’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?” This way the child is encouraged to keep drawing instead of focusing on the particular merits of that one doodle. If you do praise a child, try to do it for something that they actually worked hard on. Again, it’s best to praise them for the effort, not the end result. “You worked really hard, that’s great.” It’s much better to praise a kid when he or she tried and failed rather than praising a kid at succeeding at something that comes easy.
  3. Helping the kids too much. Sometimes parents, especially ones with only one kid, rush to help the child whenever they’ve got a problem. I’ve done this myself with my first one, but it was a mistake. Children need to be left to their own devices on occasion. You should help them, but not too soon. After I realized this, I’ve had many an occasion where I sit on the sofa drinking coffee, a child asks for my help, I tell him I can’t come right now, try working it out yourself. At first the child usually protests. Often the initial protests are followed up by happy exclamations of: “Mom, I did it!” or “Mom, it was under the couch!” Just think of the effect this has on a child’s self-esteem. Of course, if they really can’t do something, then you should help them.
  4. Having too much entertainment lined up. Children love to have cool things to do. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, they say. Children can get up to mischief if they’re bored. Does this mean that parents should constantly load them with entertainment, visits to friends’ houses, hobbies, homework, etc? Personally, I think not. I think children need to learn how to deal with being alone and bored on occasion. Boredom is great for creativity. Parents should probably schedule in some boring time at least twice a week.
  5. Watching the kids too closely. Some parents don’t let their kids do anything because they might injure themselves. They think that their job as parents is to protect their kids from harm. Again, that’s true up to an extent. Children should be protected, since they are still weaker and vulnerable in many ways. But this can go so far that new risks arise. The risk that they won’t learn how to protect themselves once they’ve grown up, since the parents haven’t allowed them to practice. The risk that they become obese since they’re not allowed to move as much as they should. The risk that they start to treat other people as potential threats, rather than with an open, unprejudiced mind. No matter how much a parent works, you can never make your child 100% safe. So you might as well give them a good starting point for independence by allowing them to learn by doing.
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