We’re not talking “spare the rod, spoil the child” here so much as intro lessons to money management and a generous mindset so your child won’t become a spoiled brat.
Researchers have, in recent years, found that the so-called self-esteem movement has backfired. Because parents want to make their kids feel good all the time, they overparent and overprotect. The result: Young adults with inflated egos and little respect for a dollar’s worth – a.k.a a spoiled brat.
“Self-esteem certainly is important. But we’ve developed this misguided notion that parents should continually reward and praise their children. That doesn’t work either,” says Dr. Allan Josephson, chairman of the Family Committee of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in an article on WedMD.com.
The solution: Cultivate self-respect, advises Dr. Teri Noble, a leading educator and educational psychologist, who has worked with the Australian government on bullying and student well-being.
“If you think about it, you can’t have too much self-respect, but you certainly can have too much self-esteem, which fluctuates because it is usually very dependent on feedback from others. To respect something, on the other hand, is to accept it.”
Even in this age of instant gratification, here are 10 low-effort parenting tips to avoid raising a spoiled brat:
1. Make a daily effort to teach graciousness
Perhaps the most important foundation you can build is to make gratitude a daily practice.
Parents can inadvertently teach their kids to think only of themselves comparing them to others and their achievements. Concentrate instead on cultivating empathy. That could mean encouraging your kid to give up their seat on public transportation, volunteering your time as a family or rewarding considerate behaviour.
Tweens can handle talking about the different levels of wealth in society. Help them understand that some children live in much more difficult circumstances than they do. There is plenty of information on the Web that could help broaden their perspective; suggest ways to act on that knowledge. For instance, they could organise a fund-raiser in school with friends for a cause.
At the same time, show your own gratitude. Keep the focus on your family’s blessings by coming up with your own gratitude ritual, such as starting every meal by sharing what made each of you happy that day. A number of studies have found high correlations between gratitude and higher grades, life satisfaction and social integration, so even this small, daily moment can lead to an altruistic mindset.
2. Reward your kid with experiences rather than things
Buying too many toys for your child or caving in to their every whim can create real problems because kids become materialistic beings right quick. Instead, try giving them experiences and a bit of your time whenever possible. When junior aces an exam, take him to the zoo or amusement park instead of buying him an iPad. By holding off on lavish purchases, you’re teaching them to value time spent with loved ones over acquiring stuff, which studies show offers a longer-lasting happiness boost.
3. Watch what you say and how you act
The biggest parenting tip may not be directed at your children, but at you. Like tiny sponges, kids learn from the things you say and do…even when you’re not aware that they’re watching. Tune in to the messages you’re sending. If you don’t want them to grow up to be entitled, inconsiderate adults, you have to make sure you don’t act like one, either. Sure, we can be rushed and stressed, but make the time to say thanks and practice kindness.
4. Curb the urge to do everything for them
Make your kid help out around the house, even if their tasks are as easy as washing the plate they’ve just eaten off of. When your kids learn to be responsible for themselves and considerate towards the people around them, they’re indirectly being trained to have a better work ethic and greater independence, which will serve them well when they enter the working world. Homework can wait ten minutes for a lesson that important.
5. Help them learn the difference between needs and wants
Before making a purchase or acceding to a request, talk your children through the decision-making process. Help them to understand how much time or money something costs, then analyse together whether it’s worth it — an early lesson in return-on-investment, really. These are big opportunities to instill some common sense into your kid; don’t let them pass you by.
6. Keep life simple
As it entails, spoiled brats usually get everything they want. Bit by bit, try to reduce dependency on luxuries. Along with your children, take a close look at the high-end items in their rooms. Do they really need two tablets, that defunct cell phone and all those other gadgets they barely use or have already replaced with newer models? Over any complaints, donate what they don’t currently use. Then place realistic limits on the amount of time spent in the company of electronics. For instance, they do not need a smartphone close at hand during mealtimes or when you’re having a chat. Much to their surprise, they’ll find that the world keeps turning.
7. Want it? Save up
Encourage kids to contribute towards the next “must-have” item. Instead of buying everything they ask for, ask them to pony up towards its purchase, perhaps with the money received for a birthday, or by saving up a bit of pocket money each week. Once they have accumulated their share of the cost, you can match it. This way, they’re less likely to take the finer things for granted, because they’ll know how much it takes to get it. They might even value their new aquisition just a little bit more and take better care of it.
8. Use allowance as a teaching tool
Chores need to get done by all family members, so don’t pay your kids for helping out around the house. If your children don’t do their share, teach them a lesson by changing the Wi-Fi password or banning them from watching TV. In other words, pick something non-monetary that’s important to drive the message home.
Have them split up their allowance by setting up three jars they can put their money into. SPEND is about pre-planning and decision-making, as opposed to spontaneous splurging. SAVE teaches patience and self-control. GIVE is about fostering charity. These jars mimic a grown-up budget: Financially healthy adults will spend about 80 per cent of what they earn, save 15 to 20 per cent, and give away the remainder. Each jar serves as a stand-in for values and virtues that are the opposite of spoiled.
9. Let older kids work
Don’t worry that the time they spend earning a few dollars could be put to better use racking up achievements to shout about in a university application. Part-time jobs of less than 15 or so hours a week are actually correlated with good grade point averages. Younger kids can babysit or do the tasks you would ordinarily hire someone else to do, like simple filing.
10. Let your kids decide what to spend on
If you really want your kids to make smart financial choices, they need to experience autonomy — and its consequences. Sure, they’ll buy silly things…and regret them later when they don’t have enough for something else they need more. Around 10 to 12 years old, get your kids to try working within a budget for their school things. For instance, give each child an amount equivalent to what a school bag and two pairs of shoes costs, then hand over the entire amount. They get to decide what to buy. The most important rule: No bailouts! When their cheap shoes fall apart, they’ll have the chance (and maybe a little leftover cash) to better choices next time.
Making Dollars Make Sense
Pick up tips from these top international schools about how to instil money-management skills in kids.
Kinderland Preschool & Infant Care
“Have children imagine what they could do with $10! Instead of spending it all on toys, children can apportion the amount for different purposes, such as buying food (learning how to differentiate needs and wants and how to prioritise spending), saving an amount to buy a gift to surprise their siblings or for donation (teaching sharing and empathy), or setting aside an amount for savings in the long term (teaching delayed gratification).”
– Dr. Carol Loy, Director of Curriculum & Professional Development at Kinderland Preschool & Infant Care
Sir Manasseh Meyer International School
“Get young ones to engage in activities like fundraising. This provides opportunities for them to apply concepts related to worthy causes. At our school, in the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) topic on “Chocolate” in Grade 3, pupils learn how to raise money by baking and selling double-chocolate chip muffins at parent teacher conferences.”
– Ms Navvab, Grade 3 teacher at Sir Manasseh Meyer International School
Tanglin Trust School
“Ask your child to sketch out the journey of a $50 note – with the challenge that it must return to where it started. This is a child-friendly way to learn about expenditure, income and savings. The note could begin its journey as ‘income’, such as in the form of pocket money or a birthday gift. Where does it go first, next and after that? Children will gain insights into money circulation and the role of banks, but they may be shocked to learn ATMs are not magic money-making machines!”
– Nigel Rackham, Head of Enterprise at Tanglin Trust School
Some text adapted from Laura Shin, Simply Her, September 2015; Joanne Poh, MoneySmart, 22 July 2016; Richard Woolfson, Young Parents, August 2015 / Last updated by Brooke Glassberg