“Mama, I want this toy! Waahhhh!” (Child then proceeds to throw a tantrum.)
“Daddy, you really need to get this for me! I really need it!” (Child points to an non-essential item, like junk food or — yet another — toy.) “Give this to me… Now!” (Child demands, while stomping his or her foot.)
You’ve probably seen this scenario many times over, especially with the Christmas season upon us and you’ll agree it’s not the nicest thing in the world to hear children act in such a way. I certainly don’t! However, raising kids without an entitlement mentality can be challenging. I say this from experience as a parent of four kids, and also as a member of different parenting circles and communities. Of course, it doesn’t help that we live in a world that encourages “instant” everything — one of the potential “drawbacks” of modern technology. The good thing is we, parents, always have a choice. We can decide to raise our kids to be less self-centered and entitled.
Here are some useful insights from Michele S. Alignay, MA, RP, RGC on how to raise well-adjusted kids who know that no means no. Alignay is a registered family psychologist, family life specialist, and the co-author of Growing Up Wired, a book about raising children in the digital age.
Spoiled and entitled children
“In reality, there are kids who tend to be spoiled, but we don’t want to label them as ‘spoiled brats,’” Alignay says. “So, parents should move away from raising kids to be spoiled or too entitled.” She explains further: “‘Too entitled’ means kids ask for things even if they are not supposed to have them, or they disregard other people for their own desires. Such patterns make kids demanding, overbearing, and less empathic.”
Alignay believes in the crucial role of parents and other authority figures in a child’s life. “I love this quote by Ann Landers, which goes, ‘It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do that will make them successful human beings.’ With this, I believe in giving children a good life but not hovering, perfecting, or ‘sanitizing’ the world for them.” This is why Alignay encourages parents to see the importance of teaching kids to “do hard work, to go through difficulties, and to work for something as early as they are young.” The aforementioned are “life skills that will prepare kids for life.”
I actually agree wholeheartedly with Alignay in this matter. “As much as we love our children,” she emphasizes, “it is futile to make things too perfect for them and feed their system with the notion that they deserve everything.” Raise children who are not spoiled but are selfless instead because “parenting is a tough balancing act,” Alignay says. Parents need to “have a good heart and core, tapang ng puso at sikmura!”
‘Cool parents’ can come later
She also shares the following pointers:
1. Know your children. “Get to know your kids well. Knowing our kids well will allow us to know their motives, their character, their innate skills, and their ways of coping. We can assist them appropriately if we know where they need us and back off at times when we know we need to. We can also understand their whims, qualms, and bargaining patterns.”
2. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” “Being good parents is not about blindly saying ‘yes’ to everything our kids want. Say ‘no’ if needed. Gauge the long-term effects of the demands that they have.”
3. Let them cry. “Know that crying may make kids upset but it’s not detrimental to their health. If they get upset about a ‘no’ to one of their demands, let them manage their emotions. Do not fret nor be afraid that they might get angry. They need to learn to handle frustrations and rejections healthily. These are long-term coping skills that they need.”
4. Let them feel their feelings. “Do not fret when your kids cry, get upset, or get angry. This is part of allowing them to feel their emotions. Take note, though, that they need to express their emotions in proper venues. We should not allow them to do inappropriate things related to their unpleasant reactions. We should demand for respect in instances when they express their emotions. Talk to them when both of you have settled your emotions and are willing to work on better terms.”
5. Remember that you are their parent, not their pal. “Do not pressure yourself to prove that you are a ‘cool’ parent; nor should you become a ‘friend’ to your kids. Being friends and being ‘cool’ parents can wait until you have establsihed the proper discipline and have set the parent-child relationship founded on authority with love and respect. “Befriending your kids when they are little might diffuse your sense of authority — something that is so needed while the kids are growing. Be a positive parent first by building a better relationship with your children. Once you’ve done so, you can become good friends with them when they are older.” Yes, being a parent of responsible, selfless, non-entitled children may be difficult these days, but with the aforementioned tips, coupled with prayer, wisdom and discernment, we are sure that more and more parents will find themselves equipped for the challenge.