The key to unspoiling your child

(Photo provided)

Parents have been spoiling me with questions about what they can do to make sure they are not spoiling their child. Well, let me not be selfish and lavish you with some information on this topic.

While you can never really spoil an infant with too much love and attention, as your infant moves into toddlerhood, trying to get them to behave by showering them with gifts or giving in to something they want to avoid tantrums is not the way to go. In fact, doing so may prevent your child from feeling a sense of accomplishment as they figure out how to problem solve on their own.

If you want to avoid unintentionally creating a spoiled toddler, I have some suggestions:

Consistency is key. When setting the rules or consequences for not following your directions, make them clear and simple even if a tantrum ensues. Do not give in to begging, whining or pleading.

Allow your child to help you with age-appropriate chores so they gain a sense of responsibility and learn not to expect everything to be done for them. Having toddlers help to set the table shows them they can make a contribution to the family.

Don’t give your child a million chances to do the right thing once you’ve threatened consequences, or they will simply manipulate you and others to get their way.

Don’t be afraid to disappoint your child since, even though your child may be sad, learning to accept disappointment at a young age will enable your child to develop coping skills that will help them deal with larger emotional stressors as they get older.

Don’t offer a treat to get your child to do something — instead, simply praise your child when they do what you ask them to do rather than call attention to what they aren’t doing.

Rewarding your child for the right reasons, and not just because they want something, is the secret to unspoiling a child. Being firm on limit-setting doesn’t mean you should say “no” to everything. If your toddler has been doing the right thing and behaving as you would like them to, and then makes a request, giving in to that request in the setting of good behavior is appropriate.

Hopefully, tips like these will do anything but spoil your understanding of what you can do so as not to spoil your toddler or young child.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.


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