When your child is giving you a particularly rough time, you might be tempted to compare them to the infamous Veruca Salt.
In the beloved children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt embodies the cautionary tale of a spoiled child. One pony is not enough—she wants another one. As the Oompa Loompas sing:
Who do you blame when your kid is a brat?
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat?
Blaming the kids is a lion of shame
You know exactly who’s to blame:
The mother and the father
Many parents I work with are very concerned about somehow turning their kids rotten. But can being generous or indulgent to our kids really affect them negatively?
In order to tackle the issue of “spoiled kids,” we need to deconstruct the idea of a spoiled child. Here are some of the beliefs that often give parents the wrong impression about their own children:
Children are inherently bad. When a child has a strong reaction to not getting their way—stomping, crying, screaming or giving you a whole lotta attitude—a parent will often reflexively call them ungrateful, disrespectful, or even spoiled rotten. While this behaviour is something parents should consciously address, calling a kid spoiled feeds the notion that kids are somehow evil in nature, which is absolutely untrue!
The myth that kids + money = spoiled. Parents across varying income brackets, refuse to let their kids handle their own money because they’re afraid their kids will make bad choices or end up “spoiled.” On the contrary, allowing your kids some autonomy over their money can actually teach them valuable lessons about handling their finances in a healthy manner! Yes, they may make mistakes and spend some of their cash on a frivolous purchase—but that’s how they learn. Children are worthy of our trust and will only mirror what we teach them.
Children will take advantage of your generosity. Again, are our kids human beings we love or little gremlins out to get us?! Children respond to what they receive from their caregivers. If we shower them with love, they’ll learn to shower others with love in return. Of course, parents need to understand that sometimes loving your kid means helping them set boundaries! Being truly generous means you know when something is no longer good for your child (i.e. too much candy, too much screen time, etc.)—and helping them hone healthier habits.
So what can we do to raise empathetic, loving children?
Cultivate an environment of gratitude. An attitude of gratitude starts with you. Make it a habit to go around the dinner table and ask everyone to name one thing they’re grateful for.
Expose your kids to different perspectives. If you’re worried that your kids might grow up entitled, expose them to different cultures and backgrounds. Understanding unfamiliar mindsets and upbringings is crucial to developing empathy in children.
Encourage them to give. Finally, let them experience firsthand the fulfillment and joy of giving. Ask them to make cards or cookies for friends or family, or have them help you drop off items for donation at a local charity.
Showering your child with love and real generosity cannot bring them harm. If you model healthy, generous, and loving behavior to your children, you’re doing the best thing you can for them: helping them grow up to be healthy, generous, and loving in turn.