DAYTON, Ohio — I received many comments after a recent column about spoiled children, but one parent asked the key question in inquiring about whether such behavior can really be changed.
You don’t have to tolerate inconsiderate, entitled and selfish behavior. Try this.
1. Think long term. Spoiled children think differently than other kids, and their behaviors become entrenched habits learned over many months and years. Be persistent. Don’t get discouraged if your efforts don’t immediately transform your child.
2. Require household chores. Every school-age child should have some family responsibilities. Don’t pay for these chores, but make certain that they get done without constant reminders by making privileges (TV, computer, cellphone, etc.) contingent upon completion of these tasks.
3. Enforce manners. Set a high expectation for courtesy to everyone, not just family members. Pay particular attention to how your child interacts with waiters, salespeople and service providers. Correct any attitude issues, including having your child apologize to such workers for any inappropriate behavior. You are an important role model, so be mindful of your own behavior.
4. Write thank-you notes. Most parents think of thank-you notes as something one does to acknowledge a present. However, have your spoiled child write a note to their basketball coach or teacher at the end of the year. Help your child reflect upon the time and talent that such caring adults give to children. Your goal is to change the way your child thinks about other people, and to help your child show appreciation for the efforts of others.
5. Buy less stuff. I know it’s fun to give things to kids. However, be careful about buying too many gifts for your spoiled child. Most importantly, never give in to your child’s demands that they need or want something, as you are only rewarding bad behavior. Require your child to earn the money to help pay for any special toy.
6. Volunteer. Involve your child in some activity where they are helping others. This might be assisting at a church event, working at an animal shelter, or volunteering with you in a program helping disadvantaged people.
The goal is the same as the note-writing activity. Get your child talking about his experiences and reflecting upon his feelings about helping others.
7. Name it and blame it. Talk to your child about his bad behavior, and don’t be reluctant to call your child spoiled.
Carefully explain what you mean, and how such ways of thinking and acting are a problem.
Point out specific examples of spoiled behavior when you see your child acting that way. You’ll eventually see some progress, and be certain to verbally acknowledge how proud you are of your child.