Parenting from the Heart: Spoiling
Parenting From the Heart: Spoiling
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye,” said the fox in The Little Prince.
Parenting is a field over-populated with experts and with ideas that “everybody knows.” These essays will question widely held beliefs and propose other ways of looking at the problems those beliefs seek to deal with. The point here is not to substitute one dogmatic approach for another, but to get the reader to question common “knowledge” and to look with the heart to see if there might be another way of seeing that yields a truer, more loving approach to parenting problems.
I welcome your comments. And please feel free to write to me on FB about your particular parenting problems and I’ll try to respond to them.
Spoiling, Part I
In the last essay we addressed dealing with a tantrum in a store and offered a few tips on how to avoid this unpleasant situation. We talked about gentle ways to teach the child when we felt she was ready and suggested the possibility of not bringing the child along until she could gracefully accept not getting something. But if we have no choice but to take the child along, the last idea we considered was to buy the child something when we take her shopping with us. This, of course, goes completely against our belief that she has to learn she can’t have something every time we go shopping. Many, perhaps even most, parents may feel better to have a battle than spoil the child. But let’s look at the idea that getting a little something for the child is going to spoil her.
When we go shopping, just ourselves, we don’t have to buy ourselves something every time and often don’t do so even when we see something we like and can afford. Consider the possibility that this isn’t because we have learned we can’t have what we want, but the reverse — that we have learned that we can have what we want. We’ve had enough Christmases and birthdays and pocket money of our own and now a grown-up salary that we’ve gotten much of what we want. We’ve saved allowances or paychecks and understand what it takes to get what we want. We know we have a choice.
A very young child knows none of this. Developmentally, the child only knows what she wants and has only immature ways of trying to get it. We can teach her that it’s a tough world out there and she’s powerless to get what she wants. Are these the beliefs we want to become part of her outlook on life? We can argue, scold and punish and not buy the trinket. But what has been the cost in unpleasant confrontations between parent and child?
Or we can buy her a little something. It need not be expensive — little children’s treasures seldom are. Thus we teach her that it’s a kind world and that she can have something she wants because of her father’s generosity and understanding. Father and child have enjoyable shopping outings together and pleasant memories are collected.
As with any childish behavior, she can be weaned gradually and lovingly. She can be taught age-appropriate ways to get what she wants — a regular, predictable allowance is a big step in this process. (Allowances will be the subject of a future).