Why My Kids Are Spoiled

Recently I've decided that my children are spoiled. Well I better not kid myself, I've actually known this for some time. From the full-fledged tantrums when they hear the word no, to ridiculous tears if I even threaten to take away a beloved toy, my kids can be awful. And it can be embarrassing.

I don't think this is unique to just my kids; it seems like many children today act differently than kids acted when I was a child. Maybe I'm bias because I was young at the time, but it seems like parenting has changed, and probably not for the better.

I am sure I am to blame at least partially (there are still kids out there that display pretty stellar behavior, I suppose) but our culture, and society in general really, could also be a culprit.

For example, remember when it wasn't assumed that you'd get to pick out a treat when grocery shopping with your parents? My kids don't. They ask for treats the minute we pull into the grocery store parking lot. And every minute thereafter. And it doesn't stop. Sometimes it's candy, sometimes it's a bubble toy from the quarter machine, and sometimes it's just getting to pick out one item, any item, for the family to share. But they expect, without hesitation, that some kind of treat will happen. Unfortunately though, it's not just the grocery store.

Going out to eat, or even ordering pizza, was special when I was a kid. Even going out to eat at McDonald's was a treat- in fact, it was so coveted that we'd have our birthday parties there! They were awesome, too. Do you remember as a kid taking turns unwrapping the box of cookies that was wrapped in like 30 layers of hamburger wrappers? I don't know if old Ronald McDonald even offers those parties anymore, but my kids would probably scoff at me if I suggested it. Maybe it's because there is a fast food joint around every corner, but in my house, the novelty of eating out has been replaced with the normalcy of it.

Speaking of birthday parties, they have drastically changed too. You only expected one birthday party when I was a kid, not the week long party of celebrations with various groups, like one with your extended family, one with your friends, one with your immediate family, one at school... It is endless! And birthday parties today aren't just a sleepover with some homemade Betty Crocker cake either. Birthday extravaganzas parties cost hundreds of dollars, involve goody bags filled to the brim, bouncy houses, live characters, elaborate decorations, engaging games to entertain the minimum of 20 kids you've invited, and often occur at rented facilities. And your kids open up so many presents that they actually get sick of doing it. It is just unreal.

Kids are harder to entertain too, even though they have a plethora of technologies to select from. My children have 100's of TV channels to browse, Netflix and iPads loaded with games, apps and videos, and they still constantly complain about being bored! When I was little there were like 3 basic TV channels to watch. Period. That was it. If I hear, "What can I dooooooo?" one more time from my kids I might lose it.

You know what we did instead of watching TV or playing on our iPads? We actually played with other people. We played with our siblings. We played with our friends. We played with our cousins. We played with real people, in person, often outdoors. Now my kids just want to sit side-by-side-by-side on the couch and all join in on Minecraft. Yes, playing together has definitely changed.

And when we played outside, we played for long lengths of time. I don't know if our parents worried, but we definitely disappeared for hours. We were able to entertain ourselves too, something my kids have difficulty doing. They always want me to initiate play for or with them. Don't get me wrong, I love playing with my kids; it is fun and it is important for their development. But they do need to know that it is possible for them to sit and play with Lego's or Play Doh by themselves without me building a creation too.

When playtime was over, we ate our one choice of supper without complaint. If we didn't like it, we didn't eat. Or better yet, if we didn't want to eat it, we sat at the table for hours until we figured out a way to choke down the now cold, stale food. Sometimes we actually fell asleep at the kitchen table. My solution isn't any better. With my kids, I feel like a short order cook most nights. I try to make a healthy, tasty (often expensive) meal for my family to enjoy, offering the single option of PB&Js to those kids who don't want to eat it. I say try though because I find myself caving when my heart breaks after my very-picky-eater-of-a-daughter eats PB&Js 13 nights in a row.

I've also thought about how much parents spend on children's clothing. When I was a kid, children's clothes didn't cost more than parent clothes- seriously, Miss Me jeans for girls? And it's so competitive. I have just one girl, and she's only 4 years old, but she already knows about brands like Justice, Nike, Under Armour and Gymboree. My son isn't any better. He is also very selective about what he wears and he's just six! He has to wear name brand athletic apparel and all pieces of the outfit must coordinate. Lately he has to been insisting on neon colors or $60 jerseys.

All of this leads me to the kicker: discipline. When we were naughty, we were disciplined. And by disciplined, I mean we were spanked, among other punishments. Being spanked seemed a very normal way that most parents disciplined when I was growing up, and being asked to pick out the belt from your dad's closet wasn't unheard of either (I know this because I have a vivid memory of standing in front of dad's closet, wondering what would happen if I brought one of his neckties back to him instead of his belt!). Now I know that today there are many different theories out there on the pros and cons of spanking, and that is completely fine. Parenting is really hard and judging the ways that other people do it, as long as those people are truly trying to do their best, is generally not useful.

My husband and I do occasionally spank our children, and I stand behind that, but I don't think we spank as much as parents typically did of past generations. We have an agreement though that our decision to spank is just that, A Decision. It's not a reaction. Admittingly, I more often find myself trying to take away favorite toys or technologies, sending kids to their rooms, or making my children sincerely apologize to each other, than I use spanking. I honestly don't know if anything works though. Kids today lack a fear of their parents that I know I, and most of my friends, had growing up. All three of my kids have openly laughed at me after I have spanked them.

Raising children in the 21st century isn't an easy task. I find that parents are working a lot, we are relying on technology to entertain our kids, and out of necessity we are giving into our children's whims more than we probably should be. At this point, I am not sure if there is a sure-fire solution, but I know that being aware of the problem and openly talking about it helps.

I don't want you to get the wrong idea. My kids have their awful moments, but they are good kids. Very good kids. They have kind hearts, they speak caring words, and they do usually listen to me. It is just in those few moments of difficulty with them that I sometimes struggle.

I love my children deeply and I know that they love me. My mother used to make sure that she told us often, if not daily, that she loved us, and that is one important parenting technique from my past that I have continued on with my own children.

In the end, they might be naughty, exhausting, unbearable little Devils some days. I might get overwhelmed with worrying about if I am doing an adequate job of instilling in them the morals and values that I want them to have as adults. But overall, my kids have a lot of love in their beautiful little hearts, so I guess I'm not doing everything completely wrong.

How can I get mad at these faces?


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