Over-indulgence, Dr. Phil explains, is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse. Here is a perspective that might help you stop:
- Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your child for how the world really works. In the real world, you don’t always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you’ve experienced it as a child.
- If your parent/child relationship is based on material goods, your child won’t have the chance to experience unconditional love.
- Be a good role model. “We’re not the only influence in our kids’ lives, so we better be the best influence,” says Dr. Phil.
- Redefine what taking care of your children means. Are you providing for them emotionally and spiritually? You need not buy them material goods in order to create a bond. Instead of tangible gifts, how about spending some time together? Be careful that you aren’t teaching them that emotions can be healed by a trip to the mall.
- Don’t let your guilt get in the way of your parenting. “Your job as a parent is not to make yourself feel good by giving the child everything that makes you feel good when you give it,” Dr. Phil tells one mom. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child to succeed in school and when they get out into the world. “Kids have to be socialized in a way that they understand you work hard for what you get.” You don’t want to teach your child that they will get everything through manipulation, pouting, crying, door slamming and guilt induction.
- Make sure your children aren’t defining their happiness and their status in the world as a function of what they wear or drive. Sit down with them and have a one-on-one conversation about what really defines their worth — their intelligence, their creativity, their caring, their giving, their work ethic, etc. If you spent equal time sitting down and talking to them about what really mattered as you do shopping, you might be able counterbalance the countless images they see telling them otherwise.
- Understand “intrinsic” versus “extrinsic” motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when people do things because they feel proud of themselves when they do it. They feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Extrinsic motivation is when someone does something because of external motivation. For example, they will receive money, a toy or privilege if they do the task. If you are always rewarding your child with material things, he/she will never learn how to motivate themselves with internal rewards like pride. They also will never learn to value things because there are so many things and nothing is special.
- Make sure your child understands the value of hard work. For example, Dr. Phil explains, “I always told our boys, ‘If you make Cs, you’re going to have a C standard of living. If you make Bs, you’re going to have a B standard of living. If you make As, you’re going to have an A standard of living.'”
- Dr. Phil reminds one young guest who aspires to be wealthy that it’s not a bad goal, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there. “The difference between winners and losers is winners do things losers don’t want to do. And that’s work hard to get ready to be a star,” he says.
- If your child idolizes a celebrity, ask him/her why. Dr. Phil speaks to one young guest who looks up to rich girls like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. “What have either of them ever done, except spend money that they got from somebody else? What is it you’re looking up to?”
- Your child does not have to love you every minute of every day. He’ll get over the disappointment of having been told “no.” But he won’t get over the effects of being spoiled.
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- Help your child set goals. Teach him/her that striving to own nice things is fine if he/she understands how much hard work it takes to afford that, and then doesn't base his/her self-worth around what she buys.