When my kids go to their friend's homes, they often come back proclaiming the "luckiness" of so & so - after all, they have a T.V, computer, DVD player, Nintendo, wii, DS, etc etc in their own rooms! Not to mention a cell phone at age 10......ugg boots, Lucky jeans, and Hollister sweatshirts. Beyond the material items, are the stories I hear about kids that only go to school occasionally, that are allowed to stay home for any flimsy excuse. Or, much to my surprise, adults I know that do their kid's homework for them because "it's just easier!".
I believe overindulgence is a plague of the modern-day family, and in turn will plague our society. Overindulgence is not just buying too much stuff, it's also being too lenient, or being too nurturing. Lack of structure, inconsistent rules. Parents that can't say "no." Consequences given that are easy to "get out of." There is never a firm line drawn, it's always in sand with the wind blowing! Kids that don't learn to do for themselves, ever.
Overindulgence is more than spoiling, though the giving of too many material things is certainly a part of it. Spoiling implies behavior that is annoying to adults - begging, whining, expecting gifts to show love, etc. An overindulged child may or may not appear spoiled. Spoiled kids expect everyone to love them, overindulged kids may not feel loved at all...they may be insecure, lack confidence, and reliant on others.
Many of us have the desire to give a "better life" to our children than we may have had. Whatever our plight may have been - poverty, abuse, strict parents, etc, we want our kids to "have it better." However, many of us cross the line and take it one step further. We do so much for our kids, that our kids miss developmental milestones. According to the experts, that's when true overindulgence occurs: doing so much for your kids that they miss their developmental milestones. For example, carrying the 4 year old into school everyday rather than deal with the dawdling behavior, putting her lunch away for her, hanging up her coat for her....or hand holding a 15 year old to get them to school, allowing your 23 year old to live at home without a job.....
What are the consequences of overindulging kids?
According to the book "How Much is Enough?" by PhD authors Clarke & Dawson, there are "7 Hazards of Overindulgence:"
- trouble learning how to delay gratification
- trouble giving up status as the constant center of attention
- trouble becoming confident in everyday skills, self care skills, & skills for relating to others
- trouble taking personal responsibility
- trouble developing a sense of personal identity
- trouble knowing what is enough
- trouble knowing what is normal for other people
Ok, we can all agree now that this overindulged thing sounds like a problem - but what do we do?
Well, i'm no expert....and I like to think my kids are not overindulged, but I do believe I have been on the line, and probably have crossed, on more than a few occasions. So, here's my best educated advice:
- Set limits - and stick to them
- Require your kids to have household responsibilities, and expect them to be done! Have clear consequences for not doing them.
- Expect your kids to do for themselves at a developmentally appropriate level. My teens can wash their own clothes, make their own doctor appointments, schedule extra help with their teachers, etc They do a lot of sports, but I still expect them to have their gear together, remember permission forms, etc. Even our 10 year old is independent in this respect.
- Make your kids do their own homework! Create a place for them that has the supplies they need, offer interest and help - but that's all! Obviously, if your child is struggling more help may be needed, but the worst thing you can do is to do it for them!
- Make your child wait or earn money for the items they want! I can ALWAYS find money-earning opportunities around the house.....if they are motivated enough, they will do them. If they refuse what I offer, I feel assured they can live without the item.
- Don't buy them every gadget! Examine your own motivations for buying your kids this stuff.....why do you want them to have a TV in their room? why do you think they NEED a cell phone? what are the dangers of having these items?
- Lastly....this may be the most important.....allow your child to experience the frustrations of life! Be supportive, offer suggestions......show them their resources.....but don't solve their problems for them. When my kids come to me with an issue - whether it's a teacher issue, a friend issue, a sports issue, etc. I listen and I ask, "What can I do to help you with this?" - 98% of the time, my kids will say they want me to listen and give them ideas. They don't want me to get involved. Now, that being said, if my kids have come to me several times with similar issues with the same person, or if it is a safety issue, I will get involved. When they have found a resolution be sure to praise their resourcefulness!
- Character Counts! Expect and MODEL trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, fairness, caring, and citizenship! Show your kids the kind of person you want them to be.