Is your child spoilt?

Worried your toddler’s overindulged? It’s never too late to change if you follow our parenting dos and don’ts

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  • DO give clear boundaries

    “Your toddler needs simple rules to follow,” says Alison Scott-Wright, Tinies baby and childcare expert. “Without these he won’t understand what good behaviour is. If he’s never told it’s not OK to demand whatever he wants when he wants it, he won’t know he shouldn’t do it.”

    Rules need to include what areas you want to be tough on; for example, teaching respect and patience, and what issues you’re willing to be more lenient on, such as tidying up toys after use.

  • DO be consistent

    Once you’ve set boundaries, you need to make sure your rules are followed through.

    “Everybody needs to be on the same page when it comes to dealing with your toddler’s behaviour,” says Alison. And that even extends to outside influences, such as at nursery.

    “You can’t ask your nursery to treat your toddler differently,” says Alison, “but you can find out beforehand what its views on discipline are so you can check they’re similar to your own.”

  • DON'T give in to bribery

    “A child won’t become spoilt because you give him a treat at the supermarket, but he will if he learns he can turn a no-sweets decision into getting what he wants,” says Lynne Ott, parent coach from Raise A Child.

    “And if you generally use bribery, you’ll find yourself having to give your toddler something every time you want him to do something, which will cause huge problems later on,” adds Alison.

    Rachel Harrow, 35, from Suffolk, mum to Ellie, 4, agrees: “I can get Ellie to do almost everything with the promise of a treat at the end,” she says. “But it’s meant she sometimes refuses to do the most basic things, like brushing her teeth, without a bribe. We’ve decided to go cold turkey and remove the bribes altogether but it’s a slow and hard process.”

  • DO control treats

    “The problem with giving continuous gifts is that it produces continuous wanting,” says Alison.

    OK, so your toddler won’t suddenly turn into a spoilt child the moment you give him a present for no reason, but it’s a good idea to try and restrict it. “Remember, your job as a mum is to respond and give in to your toddler’s every need, not every want,” adds Alison.

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  • DON'T reward negative behaviour

    “When your toddler’s being demanding, it’s common to give him lots of attention. By doing this you’re sending the message that tears and tantrums are the way to get your attention,” explains Alison. “And when he’s happily occupying himself, you tend not to give him any attention as he’s doing well without you.”

    Make a real effort to praise your toddler when he’s playing nicely. Even something like, “Wow that’s a lovely picture you’re drawing,” will make the world of difference and make him less likely to try to get your attention by displaying demanding behaviour.

  • DON'T let the world revolve around him

    “If you react to your toddler’s every whim then you’re teaching him the world revolves around him,” says Alison. “This will stop him from learning to consider other people’s needs and feelings. You need to give him a sense of reality where there’s a clear balance between his needs and yours.”

    Encourage him to share and let him mix with others where he’ll soon have to learn that he won’t always be the first in line for attention.

  • DO manage the grandparents

    Joanna Hughes, 33, from Kent, mum to Ben, 3, knows what it’s like to cope with over-generous grandparents. “Ben spends afternoons with his grandma while I’m at work and she always takes him on her daily shop,” she says. “He demands sweets and usually gets them because if he doesn’t he has a huge tantrum.”

    It’s OK for grandparents to shower their grandchildren with gifts if they respect your rules and boundaries, says Alison. “Tell them you’re happy for them to overindulge in some areas, but you need them to stick to the rules. Then it’s up to you to decide what rules you want them to strictly follow,” she says.

    For Joanna it was her “no sweets if he demands them” rule that she wanted sticking to. “I kept telling mum not to give in and told her how to manage Ben when he starts crying,” she says. “But it wasn’t until I actually went with her to the supermarket to show her how to be firm with Ben that things improved.”

  • DON'T act spoilt yourself

    If you find yourself having a good old whine about something you don’t want to do, make sure little ears aren’t within earshot.

    “This is because if your toddler sees you whine and complain, he’ll think this is acceptable behaviour and he’s likely to copy it,” says Raise A Child’s Lynne.

    Jamie Rogers, 25, from London, mum to Harry, 3, had to change her own behaviour before tackling her son’s continual sulking. “I didn’t realise how much I was acting like a spoilt brat until I found myself sulking when my partner wouldn’t let me watch a TV programme I wanted to see,” she says. “I realised Harry was picking up on my whiney behaviour so, before trying to fix his, I needed to put a stop to mine.”

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  • 5 signs that your child is spoilt

    1. He continually demands your time and attention and kicks up a fuss if he doesn’t get it.

    2. He constantly asks for this toy, those sweets, or to watch that programme.

    3. He’s unable to play alone or occupy himself, as he’s always demanding yours or other people’s time.

    4. He refuses to accept ‘no’ for an answer, which leads to crying or a tantrum, when you don’t let him have something.

    5. He shows a lack of respect not just for you but for other people, other children’s toys and the environment around him.

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