Kids don’t need parents who make them happy. They need parents who will make them capable, says Jill Rigby, author of Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World.
Sadly, our self-absorbed society has told parents to help their kids feel good about themselves, that it’s the parents’ duty to make their children happy. But underneath it all, kids don’t need parents who make them happy. They need parents who will make them capable.
Dr. Connie Dawson, co-author of How Much is Enough, writes: “When parents give children too much stuff that costs money, do things for children that they can do for themselves, do not expect children to do chores, do not have good rules and let children run the family, parents are overindulging.”
Here are some other signs of overindulgence. As you read them, watch for your weak spot:
- Overindulging children is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests. For example:
- Allowing a five-year-old to dress like a pop star
- Allowing a twelve-year-old to watch an R-rated moving
- Removing curfew from a sixteen-year-old with a new driver’s license
- Overindulgence is giving things to meet the adult’s needs, not the child’s. For example:
- A mom buying her daughter the trendiest clothes, because Mom believes it’s a reflection on her own style
- A dad giving his son the “stand out” wheels at sixteen, so Dad’s friends — as well as his son’s friends — will think he’s “the man”
- A parent giving his or her children the best of the best in order to make the parent look successful
- Overindulgence is giving too much and expecting too little. As pointed out earlier, doing and having too much too soon prevents children from maturing and reaching their full potential. For example:
- Not requiring your four-year-old to make requests using “please,” or not requiring “thank you” from your five-year-old for simple kindnesses
- Giving unlimited computer time to your tween without requiring duties to be performed first
- Funding your teenager’s weekends — giving him or her money for gas, movies, or other entertainment — instead of expecting the teen to earn his or her own spending money
- Overindulgence is neglecting to teach your children the life skills they need to survive in the “real” world beyond your home. For example:
- Tying the shoes and dressing four-year-olds who are perfectly capable of dressing themselves
- Not expecting tweens to prepare their own lunch during the summer months
- Doing the laundry for teenagers who are more than capable and need to learn to do it for themselves
Did you find your weak spot? I admit that I slipped into overindulgence in raising my sons in more than one area. It’s important to realize the harm this can do to our children. According to one study conducted in 2001, children who are overindulged are more likely to grow up to believe the following:
- It is difficult to be happy unless one looks good, is intelligent, rich, and creative.
- happiness depends on most people I know liking me.
- If I fail partly, it is as bad as being a total failure.
- I can’t be happy if I miss out on many of the good things in life.
- Being alone leads to unhappiness.
- If someone disagrees with me, it probably indicates that the person doesn’t like me.
- My happiness depends more on other people than it depends on me.
- If I fail at my work, I consider myself a failure as a person.
So, for the sake of your children, stop overindulging them.
Instead, teach them the difference between a need and a want, and then make them work for their wants. For instance, rather than buying that new video game for your children, give them two options: Tell them they can place it on a wish list for a birthday or Christmas present, or they can do extra duties to earn the money to buy it themselves. If your children are willing to work for their “heart’s desire,” they’ll take better care of it, be more grateful for it, and think long and hard before turning a “want” into a “need” in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jill Rigby, author of Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World (Raising Unselfish Children in a Self-Absorbed World © 2008 Jill Rigby), is an accomplished speaker, television and radio personality, family advocate, and founder of Manners of the Heart, a nonprofit organization transforming homes, schools, and communities across the country. Whether equipping parents to raise unselfish children in a self-absorbed world, encouraging the education of the heart in our schools, or training executives in effective communication skills, Jill’s definition of manners remains the same — an attitude of the heart that is self-giving, not self-serving. She is the proud mother of twin sons who testify to her contagious passion.