How to unspoil your spoilt child

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It can be such an easy trap to fall into: a new toy here, some relaxed rules there…and then suddenly one day you wake up to an entitled child who expects everything they want. And they want it NOW.

But like most traps, it’s easier to fall into than it is to climb your way out of. But fear not, it can be done! It just takes a methodical approach and a firm hand.

Step 1 Acknowledgement
The first step can be the hardest: acknowledging that your actions have led to this situation. Have you been trying to ensure your child has everything you missed out on as a kid? Or have you been trying to make up for the fact that you work long hours by buying stuff? No material goods or extra time spent watching TV can replace time with you and giving children a lot of stuff is the short road to Spoilville. The good news is that it’s your actions that will solve this problem. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Step 2 Rules and consequences
Bribing our kids to behave can be so incredibly tempting (and the truth is we’ve all done it), but the problem with this approach is that it can quickly turn on its head. What was once, ‘Tidy your room and you can have a chocolate’ can quickly turn into, ‘I’ll give you a chocolate and hope you’ll tidy your room’. The trick is to get out of the demand-reward pattern altogether. Instead, introduce the expectation of good behaviour, and a suitable consequence if they don’t behave (no TV today or doing extra chores). You can still reward good behaviour, of course, but the moment it becomes an expectation you’re in trouble. And it’s important that all parent figures are on board with the same approach to prevent the wily little darlings from playing you off against each other.

Step 3 Because I’m your mother, that’s why!
Remember how mad it drove you as a kid when your mum gave you that response when you asked ‘why’ for the thousandth time that day? Turns out she was right on the money. You don’t need to get into a long discussion with your child to justify your decision. The minute they think the subject is open to discussion is the minute you’ve lost control of the situation. You are not equal members of a democracy. You’re the boss, damn it!

Step 4 Wait for the fireworks
This is the bit where your child carries on like a pork chop because they didn’t get the thing that they so desperately wanted because you stopped them from getting it, and you’re the worst, meanest mum in the whole world. This is possibly the most important part of the whole process: don’t give in! If you give in now, you’re teaching them that having a monumental meltdown is the way to get what you want. That’s a really bad parenting place to find yourself in. Stay calm, neutral and firm. This phase will pass in a week or so and then you’ll move on to the land of sunshine and rainbows.

Step 5 Sunshine and rainbows
We’ve finally made it to the happy land of joy and grateful children, and it’s time to reward good behaviour. But not with the stuff you’ve just worked so hard to take away. I’m talking about non-material treats like time together to watch a movie, read a book or go for a swim – preferably just the two of you. And don’t forget to tell your child how proud you are of their achievements. Kids crave your approval, your time and your attention. Nothing you give them can be more valuable than that.

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Being a mum to 3 kids (one of them full time at home with me) and trying to juggle everything became pretty crazy.

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