Five Things You Can Start Doing Today to Avoid Raising Spoiled Kids

How can parents help their kids appreciate what they have? Here are five tips for raising children who don’t take the things around them for granted.

For generations parents have felt that the next generation of children is growing up with too many things.  This has never been more true.  The low cost of modern manufacturing that contributes to the throwaway lifestyle in the West has also lead to the flood of toys and other items that threaten to drown any home with small children.  How then do parents help their children appreciate the things they have?  Try these tips.

1.  Enforce Clean-up time.
Every child can help clean up.  Certainly any child who can walk and carry an object at the same time should be expected to put something away when playtime is over.  Try instituting ten minutes of clean-up time at the end of the day, before bath or bedtime.  You can set a timer.  You can challenge each child to put away as many objects as their age.  You can have a race to see who can put ten items away first.  You can make a clean up music mix or playlist.  (Laurie Berkner’s “Clean it Up” comes to mind.)  Eventually, you can put the kids in charge of the kids’ stuff (toys, shoes, socks, etc.) while you do something else (finish folding a load of laundry or wipe down the stovetop). 

2.  Donate toys and clothes.
When your kids outgrow a size (which seems to happen in minutes), use the opportunity to teach a lesson.  Depending on the age of the child and what you feel is appropriate, there are a couple different approaches you could take here.  This can be an opportunity to teach a child that some people have less than you do.  You can teach the idea that other people sometimes need our help.  For a lighter touch, you simply explain that nothing should go to waste.  Whatever is not being used in your house can be used in someone else’s.

3.  Get out the piggy bank.
There are many ways to teach children the value of money.  Perhaps the most realistic way is to offer a small allowance and then require that they pay for a favorite item from their own money.  Get out a calendar so children can mark off how long it takes to save the money they need to buy what they want.  This will stress the real-world lesson that money tends to come in slowly and go out quickly. 

4.  Make children pull their weight.
Chores, chores, chores.  Are they still important?  They are and the reason is simple.  Children are not stupid.  No matter how you try, teaching children to take care of their toys is often fruitless.  Toys are meant to be abused.  Toys and pretend play offer children a safe place to learn valuable lessons.  Dolls, for instance, teach a child how to care for another living being and allow them to role-play, acting out various scenarios they do not yet fully understand.  Because this is their purpose, toys will always take some punishment.  However, children know the difference between what is pretend and what is real earlier than you might expect.  Having a tea party is an act of imagination, while having dinner with your family is real and requires real work.  A child can understand this difference, and therefore can be expected to help set or clear the table. 

5.  Enjoy some thing-free play.
Once in a while, take your children out to an empty field.  Try the field at a local school on a quiet weekend, for example.  See what happens.  Bring no toys, dolls or sports equipments.  Go someplace without a playground.  With no “things” what will your family do together? 

Try some of these tips.  Perhaps your children won’t be the only ones who learn a few lessons.

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