Dec. 23, 2011 at 7:12 AM ET
As parents, we want to be able to give our kids everything they want and need. We, of course, want them to be happy.
But what happens when this desire to make our kids happy produces a negative side effect? Instead of creating self-confident, self-satisfied kids, it creates spoiled and entitled children. Ugh. Certainly not the goal we want to achieve! And the holiday season doesn’t help. It can put parents in a shopping daze where buying more can feel like loving more.
According to our recent TODAY Moms & Parenting.com survey, 76 percent out of 6,000 moms admitted to spoiling their kids over the holidays. Many parents said they would go to extreme measures to secure a “hot item” for their children, even if it meant waiting in way too long lines at ridiculously odd hours.
Parents need to strike a merrier balance between overly indulging children and highlighting the deeper meaning behind the holiday season. So, how can parents resist the temptation to grant their child’s every material wish? The experts agree that parents -- and caregivers -- have a lot more control over influencing their kid’s greed than they sometimes believe. Here are some tips to help unspoil your child during this holiday season:spospo
Don’t be afraid to set limits. It’s OK for parents to say “no.” Don’t feel guilty about this. It’s important to teach your child that sometimes you get things right away and sometimes you don’t. That’s life! Make sure grandmas and grandpas know this, too. It doesn't help your discipline plan to have someone spoiling your child behind your back (that’s you, Grandma!).
For the holidays, place a dollar limit on what you plan to spend for gifts, and then stick to it. Let your children know what to expect: for example, no more than two gifts for each child, per gift giver.
Develop rituals that include the importance of giving back. Help your kids realize how fortunate they are. Teach the importance of giving back by having them shop for a needy family or donate to a charity. Choose a cause that has meaning for everyone. If they’re old enough, they should donate some of their allowance to the cause.
With the season of giving in mind, it’s also important to teach kids to give to each other. Take them to a bookstore or toy shop and have them find gifts for their siblings, cousins or parents. Low funds this season? Have them make treats for people. This is a great activity for the babysitter to help with too!
Be the person you want your children to be. Assuming you don’t pout or throw a tantrum when you don’t get what you want, role-play positive behavior for your kids. Show a healthy level of appreciation for what you do have. Help your child voice her feelings, rather than act irrationally about them. Then, teach her how to set goals and work towards having what she wants.
You will also want to focus on how to graciously accept gifts -- and make sure to say thank you for each one.
Praise your child. Once you see a lessening of greed, be sure to let your children know you see their growth. Praise is a powerful motivator to encourage positive, productive and healthy behaviors for kids and adults. Just don’t reward with more presents! Use hugs, stickers or special activities as rewards.
The holidays can be a truly magical time when the principles of giving, receiving and being grateful for what one has all gets wrapped up with the season’s festive ribbons and bows. Just make sure you, your spouse and all caregivers are on board with not giving in to the “gimmes.”
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Dr. Robi Ludwig is a national TV commentator and psychotherapist who practices in New York City. She is also the author of the book “Till Death Do Us Part” as well as a contributor for TODAY.com.