Olivia Smith, educational and developmental psychologist at Northern & Hawthorn Centre for Child Development shares some insights for you…
It can be a confronting realisation for parents: you buy your child yet another toy, or clean up after them, and there is not one ounce of gratitude. You might reflect that your own childhood was completely different- why does your child not realise how lucky they are?
Changes over time mean that more children are (often inadvertently) spoilt than ever. Parents tend to be more time poor and lack the energy to ‘fight’ their kids; they want to give their child all the things they did not have as kids; and modern technology, in which everything is available at the click of the button, means this generation is not used to the idea of having to wait. And yet we know that children who are ‘entitled’ usually end up unsuccessful and unhappy as adults. So how do we address this?
- First, remember that you are your child’s parent, and not their friend. Your job is to prepare them for life as an adult, which may result in disappointments along the way. It is okay for your child to not always ‘like you’. In the long-term, children feel more secure when clear limits are in place.
- Be clear in your expectations of your child and stay firm. Do not engage in arguments with them, ignore ‘whining’ and stay calm.
- It is okay to say ‘no’. Experiencing some adversity allows us to grow.
- It is reasonable to expect your child to do things they can do themselves. If needed, you can put extra supports in place, such as helping them write a checklist or getting them to pack their schoolbag the night before.
- Implement some natural consequences. For example, if your child is too rough with something and breaks it, do not replace it straight away.
- Teach your child the life skill of delayed gratification (e.g. I must wait until Christmas for the toy that I want).
- Completion of certain tasks should be expected as a ‘contribution to the family’. You can however offer pocket money for additional tasks that go above and beyond this, but this only works if the pocket money is contingent on completing the tasks. This teaches your child that they must ‘earn’ what they want. Older teenagers should be encouraged to engage in part-time work for similar reasons, needing to ‘save’ for big purchases such as a new phone or their first car.
- Model expressing gratitude and encourage your child to engage in these practices, such as writing thank you notes for gifts. Regular giving to and participating in charity work as a family also teaches your child important life lessons.
Olivia Smith is an endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and is a strong believer in the importance of working collaboratively with families and other professionals to ensure a holistic approach to child wellbeing. She is passionate about advocating for and working with children presenting with anxiety and/or neurodiversity (e.g. ASD, ADHD and specific learning disorders) and their families. Olivia strives to make therapy sessions engaging, effective and applicable to everyday life, and views the relationship between child and therapist as key to success. She is also a certified SOS-feeding therapist.