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The Despoiling Project

So, how did the kids do with Christmas? Did you strike that happy medium of introducing just enough Wow Factor so they would feel Christmas (or whatever you celebrate during winter) was wonderous and special, yet with enough restraint that they didn’t storm angrily around the room, lip jutting out and arms crossed, declaring imperiously, “Not Zelda Twilight Princess! That’s from last year! I said Zelda Skyward Sword!” Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

Or maybe it’s not.

I did hear a report or two from friends who witnessed evidence that their precious progeny have had it a little too good for a little too long. (Don’t worry; I won’t “out” anybody.) Luckily, this is pretty fixable if your kids are still young – or young-ish.  Here are some thoughts on what you can change to reverse the spoilage:

  • Do not buy regularly
  • Put them to work
  • Eat meals together
  • Delay
  • Demonstrate
Let’s examine each in depth:
  1. Do Not Buy Regularly.  How often do your children get a little extra something from you? Do you buy toys, game cartridges, DVDs, iTunes, stuffed animals, meals out, a box of donuts, PopTarts and so on on a regular basis?  I would encourage you to really think hard through this. Make a physical list if it helps, or go through your credit card statement. All of these extras should be rare. Give them an allowance; there is no better way to curb constant asking for things. Don’t give them an allowance that is so hefty that there’s really no need to delay getting anything they want. I have heard as a rule of thumb a dollar for each year of their age, per week. I think that is too much! By that measure, my 7-year-old would be $28 richer every month. That would defeat my purpose, because he would not have to wait/save for more than a few weeks to buy a fairly expensive game. So I keep it pretty small.
  2. Put Them to Work.  Even if you live like the Trumps and you have live-in servants to fold every towel and make every bed, I still contend that every child should work and assist around the house. Don’t connect this to the allowance! The allowance is training in using money. The household assistance is training in caring for the home and being self-sufficient. When people connect household work with allowance, the spoiled little children who have tons of stuff anyhow often decide that they don’t particularly care if they get their allowance or not and then they won’t help in the household. They do not have this option! They cannot opt out of household work because they aren’t really hard up for dough and if you break the first commandment and buy them things every time they blink, they won’t care about earning money.
  3. Eat Meals Together. Strange – why did I put something about eating meals together in a post about spoiled children? Because I believe that eating as many meals as a family as you can possibly manage decreases food pickiness exponentially. Fix a good meal and then expect the kids to eat it. Don’t make Chicken Nuggets for Connor, that he gets to eat while watching Toy Story in his bedroom, Uncrustables for Maddie in the kitchen and Pizza Rolls for Zack, who is on Facebook and can’t be bothered to come to a family table. I know it’s hard to get everyone together for dinner, but try, damn it, try hard. And when everyone is finished? They have jobs to do for dinner clean up.
  4. Delay. I know you know this one. Part of the trouble is that as adults, we don’t really delay much anymore. Remember Lay-Away? Remember when you had to pay a little bit for several weeks to own something in the near future? No one-click buying, no (GASP!) Book-In-60-Seconds, no Buy Now, Think Later?  Reinstate it. For yourself; for your children. Delay buying something for at least a little while. Consider if there is another way to have it without buying it. Consider if something else that you already have can meet the need (want?). Absolutely make your children wait to have something, especially if it is big and important.
  5. Demonstrate. Delay leads me right to demonstrate. Part of why some kids are spoiled is because their parents are. Do you always have to have the exactly, perfectly right or best thing? Or can you live with second-best, not exactly right, cheap, free or borrowed? They see what we do. Do you get a new phone because there’s a new phone to be gotten? Did you go LCD TV because you can? Thinking about getting a new car for no real reason but that this one is “old”? The kids do see that. They hear. They learn. If your kids constantly whine for upgrades, look first at the apple tree standing right here. (Not the Apple tree, as in iGreed.)

Despoil the children (and maybe yourself) for 2012. It is a project that pays both physical and emotional dividends for years to come and sets your kids on a path that I am positive you do want for them. Not one disadvantage could arise from taking on a despoiling project. (Well, they might not like it much, but that’s because they’re spoiled.) You will be happier, richer, have better relationships and a cleaner house if you stop spoiling the kids.

Something to consider, anyhow.