Dec. 13, 2011 at 9:10 AM ET
Every parent could use some help raising un-spoiled children.
Well, nearly every parent. Several moms wrote in to our TODAY Moms/Parenting.com survey to let us know that their little angels never, ever act bratty and are always gracious and well-mannered, every second of every day. I am resisting the temptation to track down those "perfect" parents and ask, "Really? Really?? Never a bratty moment?!"
The rest of us here on planet Earth welcome ideas for raising children who are grateful, generous and good -- especially around the holidays, when the "gimmes" are out in full force.
Related: Parents share their kids' worst spoiled-brat moments
In our online survey of 6,000 parents, we asked: How do you try to prevent your children from becoming spoiled? The answers, below. And if you could use some more help, join our TODAY Moms Facebook page at 1 p.m. E.T. Tuesday, when parenting expert Amy McCready will answer your questions about how to raise grateful kids.
How do you try to prevent your children from becoming spoiled?
I don't. I was spoiled as a kid and I loved it. My kids love it too.
I let them get disappointed when I tell them "no." It happens often enough that they wil learn to deal with it.
To every toy, there is a season
I don't try to prevent the spoiling, just the brattiness that can develop as a result. We divide all of her toys into seasons. Only the toys associated with the current season are available to her. At any given moment three quarters of all of her toys are boxed up. At each season's change, we box them up and switch. It seems to make her appreciate her toys and also she realizes that they can easily be taken from her.
Don't act like spoiled hoodlums
Explain to them that gifts are given not demanded or expected. That gifts are freely given but are not free and require actual money and that we are not Rockefellers or Hiltons. And that it's really hard to want to give gifts to ungrateful people; that it's easier for people to want to give them things if they act like gracious, well-mannered children rather than spoiled hoodlums.
Not about Christmas
Being spoiled is not about the amount of gifts given on Christmas. It is really about the values and parenting you do the other 364 days. In my opinion spoiling is not taking the opportunity to teach your children kindness, love, tolerance, forgiveness, gratefulness and accountability rendering them incapapble of displaying the same to others.
Whose birthday is this again?
By making sure they know gifts are a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT. They AREN'T entitled to gifts at Christmas, after all, it's Jesus' birthday celebration, NOT theirs.
We know spoiled kids...
My son is on scholarship at a very expensive private school. He is friends with boys who have multiple homes who travel all over the world. He knows what spoiled is and it's not him!
Loving to say no
Simple...we say no. As Oprah said, it is the single greatest act of love.
My son used to be spoiled before I lost my job, my apartment and my car. But since we have lived this way for about 2 years he understands that I do not have the money to spend on everything that he wants so he is happy to get a little something from time to time.
Reading is its own reward... and an iPad
About 1.5 months ago, we told the girls (6 and 9) that if they wanted an iPad, something our older daughter had been begging for, that they needed to read a certain number of books in different categories, ie, classic, historical novel, autobiography, biography, fiction and non-fiction (all to be approved by parents and at least 200 pages long) by her birthday, Dec. 18th. The younger daughter had to promise to read every night with a parent. If they did this, they earned the iPads. At the time, I had no idea they are as expensive as they are, but I will make sure they use them for educational as well as fun activities to help ease the pain of the price! So far, both girls have done really well complying with the deal. My older daughter has seemed to enjoy the reading challenge and is down to 1 or 2 more books to be read before the deadline. It was always a struggle to get her to read, but with this incentive, she's got a goal she's working toward. After the challenge, I am hoping she continues to want to read for its own reward.
Better to give than to receive
As a family, we work at food banks. Telling the boys that not all families live in a good subdivision where they get pretty much (within reason) what they want is not everyone's circumstance has an impact, but letting them see the families in need as they carry food to their cars, is something completely different. As one of my son's carried groceries to a woman's car, she began to cry and thank him over and over. It really made an impact on him...one that he will never forget.
Giving away to get
Before every birthday and "gift" type of holiday, I explain to my boys that there are kids who do not have toys like they do and in order for them to receive presents, they need to sort through their toys and decide which toys they are willing to donate. My boys are still really young (4 and 2 1/2) and since they watched "The Rescuers" they think of children in orphanage, they don't realize it's a little different these days, but the concept is the same and they are pretty good at giving things away. If they do not take good care of the toys they have, those are also taken away to give to a child who does not have toys and who would take good care of it.
They work hard for their money
By teaching responsibility (chores to earn money) and the value of money. We teach them how to save, give and spend. If their money is gone, it's gone. Our 8 year old had to pay for half of her Nintendo DSi...it helped her really understand how much she wanted it and it helped her understand the value of working toward a goal. We also ALWAYS give to families who have less during the holidays. I want my kids to be grateful for all the "givens" they have in life, but it is very hard for young kids to imagine life without a family or home or food.
Santa's on a budget, too
By teaching them the value of money and that just because "they want it" doesn't mean it will happen, even "Santa" is tight on money
Wanting, OK. Expecting, not OK
By trying to explain that "wanting things" is natural but, "expecting to receive" is not acceptable behavior. And that one should be appreciative of the manner in which the gift is given - it isn't the "gift" that is really important, it is the thought behind the gift.
Don't try to buy their love
Children become spoiled when they are neglected, and ignored. We spend a lot of time with our kids, getting to know them, their strengths and weaknesses, their interests and talents. We have strong relationships with our kids and that translates into lots of conversations about life and navigating it well. We don't need to buy our kids love, or pay them off for our lack of attention. This Christmas it's about getting our kids their favourite books, things they need, as well as that special gift that is going to give their hearts a thrill to open up.
Turn off the TV
Don't watch commercial television the month before. Remind them there are millions of people that not only don't have gifts, they don't have food.
An elaborate ruse
During Christmas morning I will sneak a few gifts into the closet, then when my son gets back from all his visitings, I will show him what he over-looked and suggest "hey why don't we drop these gifts off to a place that gives them to kids who get way less or nothing at all?" By this time he is tired of opening gifts and sometimes he has actually cried due to the fact there are kids who do not get anything at all. I volunteer sometimes and also work for a non-profit org so this year we plan, well, I plan to take the whole family down to our local homeless shelter and hand out treats and get to know some of the folks. Maybe this will help my son understand a bit more of the people in the world.
Three gifts were good enough for Jesus
For Christmas we tell them that Jesus got 3 gifts for his birthday, 3 should be enough for them. When they write their lists to Santa, they ask for 3 or fewer gifts, and they know Santa is on a budget so they may or may not get high priced items on the list. Limiting to 3 things makes them put a lot of thought into their list
Or you could just give up...
hahahahah!!! is there a real way?
Paris, or a Playstation?
He's an only child so he gets more than most kids would. But I try to explain to him that having nice things can cost a lot of money. He wants to travel which is great. I want to show my child the world, but I've explained to him in order to do those things we can't spend a ton of money on toys and other items that he'll become disinterested soon after they're bought. So, now when we go to the store (he's starting to earn his own money, and has a tendancey to want to spend it) I'll ask him if he really thinks he needs whatever item he has his eye on or does he think it might be best to save that money for his next trip. It seems to be helping, his "travel jar" is getting rather full.
Well that's one way...
Hope and Pray :)
It's not about the toys
I do not think children are spoiled by gifts or having too much. I think "spoiling" comes from a lack of responsibility combined with an entitled attitude being conditioned into children. A child can have a house full of toys and electronics but be raised to be a giving, polite, appreciative, thoughtful, "good" person. By my definition that is not "spoiled". A child from a poor family who owns just a couple toys but is raised to be rude, selfish, entitled, bullying, etc...THAT is a "spoiled" child. "Spoiled" has nothing to do with the "what they are given" and everything to do with the "who they are raised to be".
Not a problem here
I don't see that ever happening. We struggle to make ends meet and just don't get way out of control with our spending. Our kids understand the value of money. Whenever we would go shopping, from the time they were little, instead of picking out a toy when we went, they were pleased to be able to pick out the kind of cereal or treats for their lunches instead. They appreciate what they have and know that if it's treated badly, they will either have to buy a new one for themselves or go without.
Learning from my mistakes
I think it is too late, at least for my older kids. I have younger children I plan on making less spoiled. I plan on doing this by not giving them *everything* they ask for. Only giving them what they need.
In lieu of gifts, I often give them experiences such as language classes or music classes. We also travel, my daughter has been to Scotland, France and China. My son has been to China. They understand that these experiences cost money so they accept that they may have fewer toys than a lot of their friends. They have great imaginations so they don't seem bothered by it. I already told them no "packages" this year, I am taking them on a train ride and also setting up playdates with their friends. We'll go swimming and go to a children's museum. They are happy about that!
Doesn't matter if 'everyone has one'
It is hard for me to tell my son that he can't have a cell phone or iPad when so many of his friends do, but I tell him the truth about why he can't have them. It isn't so much about the money, but that a child his age doesn't need them.
What to do about grandparents?
It's a VERY difficult task to try to do as I am divorced. Although my ex-husband and I do not try to out-do each other in gifts, we try to get our children at least one thing they have requested on their wish list. The spoiling comes from the grandparents the worst. I try to ask the grandparents to purchase only small items or clothes for my children, never a toy - but it seems they cannot help themselves.
It's almost impossible with all of his family living out of state. This year we've had more of a problem with it since he's older. I'd LOVE to have some help in this area.....for REAL!
The upside of being broke
It's easy, we're broke! Seriously though, I try my best to teach them it's just not "things" that you get that make you happy. Sometimes it works, but they're still little.
Its hard because my kids don't have a dad and I think I overcompensate. I talk to them often about learning to be happy with what they have instead of being unhappy for what they don't have. They do get it, but sometimes their immaturity overpowers their practicality.
No saving, no Disney
My kids wanted to go to Disney for a vacation. So I said we had to start saving and they could put the loose change into a bottle to save. They didn't and when it was time to decide on the trip, it was a no.
Say no to useless crap
Stop giving them so much crap. It's okay to say no, they're not supposed to get absolutely everything they want. That's what's wrong with most teens and early 20 something kids, I don't want it to continue. Something needs to change to make kids' expectations more realistic. Being told no is a good start.
The magic word
There's this magical little word that not enough parents use these days: No.
Not much luck so far
We are currently discussing donating toys he has grown out of to those less fortunate. It's not going over well...