Last week, my daughter was throwing a bit of a temper tantrum. It wasn’t a huge meltdown. We were at the store and she really, really, really wanted a toy that a bunch of her friends had. I told her that her birthday was coming up and she was going to have to wait to see if she got it. She didn’t start yelling in the store or anything. (Because she’s smart enough to know that will not end well.) But she was moody and rude as we finished our shopping and headed home.
Maybe we were tired or maybe the universe was aligned against me, but the argument seemed to escalate. She would not stop pouting about her lack of La La Oopsie doll to play with. Finally, I told my daughter that she was ruining her chance of getting the doll for her birthday, that I wouldn’t be buying her a new toy anytime soon if she couldn’t be patient and respectful and understanding that she can’t get everything she wants.
My beautiful, intelligent four-year-old little girl looked me in the face and said, “Fine Mom. Daddy father will get it for me. Or Mimi. Or Nana. Or Aunt Dian. Someone will get it for me whether you do or not.” Then she went to her bed, pulled out her tablet, and called her 7-year-old cousin on Skype to tell her just how upset she was.
It’s a scene that will give me nightmares for years to come. It’s a moment when I stood still and realized, “Shit. My kid is completely spoiled.”
I take plenty of responsibility for my daughter’s entitled attitude, though I have a feeling that this is an issue any parent of a young child might have to deal with. The fact is, I don’t like denying my daughter. I enjoy seeing her face light up when we do something special or take a mommy-daughter day. I completely buy into positive reinforcement and rewarding her for being responsible and well-behaved.
At the same time, my daughter has a whole lot of adults who are always willing to give a gift or organize a special event. My husband and I both have large families that live close by and we see frequently. My daughter’s biological father and his family dote on her. I have a lot of childless friends who lavish gifts and attention on my little girl. She is completely comfortable when an adult’s attention and she’s come to understand exactly how to get what she wants.
What I’m trying to say is that… I have a spoiled kid. There are lots of reasons and complexities and things to make me feel less guilty about this fact. But it doesn’t change. My precious little girl has the dangerous and unsettling possibility of turning into a brat. And now I have to figure out how to keep the Veruca Salt at bay.
I really hope that no one was coming to this piece with the expectation of an answer to my question. I hope no one thought I would be able to give them tricks to cure their spoiled kid. I’m just not qualified to dish out that kind of advice. I can share the myriad of ways that I plan to tackle this problem though.
My first thought is to immediately make sure my daughter understands just how lucky she has it. She’s been involved with volunteer activity with my and her grandmother for a while, but it seems even more vitally important to show her the joy you can get from giving back to others. Consider our spot working at the local soup kitchen booked.
My next idea to help my daughter understand just how lucky she has it is to introduce her to the concept of money. She’s just going into her fifth birthday, so it’s obviously going to be a while before she fully comprehends the power of a dollar and how much all of these toys and lessons and activities cost. At the same time, we can break open that piggy bank, let her see what she has and what exactly it will buy. It’s a small step, but it’s moving in the right direction.
Last but not least, my final step in dealing my daughter’s spoiled attitude, is to step back and take a deep breath. It’s to realize that kids go through spoiled phases. It’s to acknowledge that one argument in which my daughter sounds bratty does not condemn her to a life of entitlement and bad manners.
My daughter doesn’t just get a toy everyday because she asks for one. And the whole reason we were fighting is because she wanted something and I said no. By the way, no one will be buying her that toy. She’ll be earning it. And she’ll work extremely hard to earn that toy.
Spoiling my child is serious concern for me. Gratefulness is not an easy lesson to teach. But it’s one I’m committed to. I truly believe that if I keep that in mind, no matter how many ups and downs we have, we’ll turn out all right.