I don't think we have a spoiled child, but as an only child, I worry a little extra about spoiling. We try every day to make sure we're raising G.Q. to be a well-adjusted only child. It's easier said that done but we do try. G.Q. does know that the world doesn't revolve around him and it's not always him first. Important things, because as an only child, home life can easily revolve around him and he's not waiting in line with anybody but the dog when he needs help. There are two parents and him and the dog... we can each take one and no wait for either. Hmmmm, spoiled kid and spoiled dog, maybe?
A couple weeks ago I had the morning news on as I moved around the house doing chores and getting myself ready for the day. I caught the tail-end of a news segment titled How to Unspoil Your Child. It immediately drew me in but I can't tell you who was offering the information, an author? a doctor? No idea, but I was liking what I heard. The rules they offered:
1. Teach your child discipline. Make routines the boss... when you complete your homework, then you can watch a television show. No matter how difficult and exhausting discipline can be, it's so worth it to have rules and to stick by them. Most any parent knows that rules are always changing and adapting, but us having time-outs as our discipline has been huge. G.Q. knows that when he's not behaving, there is a time-out to stop the behavior and have a period to think about that behavior. We started them when G.Q. was 18 months old and have continued. He's almost 7 years old and still gets used. Now it's time served in his room, but still a cooling off period for him. And like I said, rules change and adapt, so do punishments, because loosing privileges (toys, TV, computer time, outside time) in addition to time-outs all have a huge impact on G.Q. The important thing is that G.Q. knows that actions have consequences, privileges are earned not expected. So if we play at the park after school and he doesn't feel like doing homework or reading when we get home, that's fine, but that means no TV before bed. Looks like we can put a check on rule number one. OK, not a full check, but a 1/2 check, and in-progress check, because won't it always be in-progress?
2. Teach them gratitude. Gratitude, what is it and how do you teach it? The dictionary definition of gratitude is the quality of being grateful or thankful. How do you teach it? It's hard, it's not just a lesson you go over one day and you're done. It's something you teach every day. I could try to list how we do it daily but I'll tell you a favorite moment of mine, when we saw it click in G.Q.'s mind and knew he was beginning to really understand how lucky he is to have all that he does. Last Thanksgiving we had a nice dinner together, the three of us. No family came to town and we didn't travel, so it was a quiet holiday together for us. We had lots of leftover food from our dinner, so we boxed up four meals from the leftovers, put them in bags with utensils and a drink and then hit the road to find some people that didn't have family or even a home to sit and have that meal. G.Q. was really having a hard time understanding how somebody could be homeless. "Why don't they just go get a job?" he asked. "It's not as easy as it sounds, buggy. Sometimes people don't have family to help them when they don't have money and they have to live on the streets. No family, no house, no food." I told him. As we were driving, heading towards downtown, we came across a lady, probably late 50's, walking with a coat on, carrying a bag or two and a rug. I imagine the rug was used for both a mat to sleep on and to protect her from weather. We stopped and offered her food. She began to cry and thanked us...I wish I could have given her more. I was kicking myself that we hadn't tossed some coats, blankets or socks in the car with us. That moment, G.Q. realized what we were trying to explain to him but he wasn't really understanding. He saw that a lady, a grandma, could be all alone, walking on the street wondering where she was going to sleep, what she was going to eat. He realized how very lucky he was, how lucky we were that daddy had a job that allowed mommy to stay home with him and keep a nice, warm roof over our heads. It was a very touching moment for all of us. I'm hoping we can do this again over the holiday season. Another in-progress check here.
3. Be consistent. This might be the most difficult one. It's so hard to be consistent when you're tired or you're out in public and you don't want to cause a scene. I have to admit that the husband is better at consistency than I am when we're out at a store or restaurant. I try to be, but I just want a relaxed, quiet dinner or shopping trip. The last thing I want to is carry an ornery child out of a store because I didn't buy him this or that. It doesn't happen often, and thankfully it's been when it's all three of us shopping together that G.Q. gets a bug up his butt and decides to give us a hard time. Daddy is the first one to end it and carry him on out. Yay daddy for standing your ground! Mommy is working on her back bone! It's been extra hard all summer long because of our move. I feel like I was giving in a lot, trying to make the transition easy and now I need to step up my game again and mean "no" when I say "no!" Other than that, with consistency, we are awesome when it comes to routines. G.Q. thrives on a routine. When you see him on a routine vs. off a routine, you'll see why consistency is so important to kids. We're not so rigid with routines that we can't handle any change of plans, but when it comes to school nights and bedtime, I run a tight ship. G.Q. knows it's homework, playtime, snack and TV then bed. He'll sometimes ask for extra time, but he knows 8pm is bedtime and that's it. He's in bed and usually asleep within five minutes. His body is ready for sleep and needs 10-11 hours of sleep every night, so I don't veer from our schedule. This routine means G.Q. wakes up all smiles and ready for the day with out an alarm and with out us begging him out of bed. We'll call this one in-progress, too. *The husband gets a slightly bigger check than me, but don't tell him that*
4. Don't over-pamper your child. Don't do something for them they're capable of doing themselves. I was on a roll here, until we got to number four. I've known for a while that I need to start making G.Q. do more for himself, but the control part of me was having a hard time letting him do it. I'm too particular with how things are done. If you get something out of my pantry, I like it neatly taken out, doors closed and the kitchen looking like you were never there. Unrealistic with a almost 7 year old and a husband. In my mind everything has it's place and if you touch it you need to put it back where you found it... exactly where you found it. I've gotten so much better over the years, but if I can keep certain things in order, I'll do it. That means, if G.Q. wants a snack, I always got it for him. That way if it made crumbs, I could wipe them up and have a clean kitchen before I walked out of it to give G.Q. his snack. So G.Q. got used to me waiting on him that it carried over into helping him clean up his toys (I'm weird about toy organization, too. Imagine that?) and getting dressed. After seeing this story I've begun working on the over-pampering. When G.Q. wants a drink and I hear "mom, can you get me some water?" my response is "go in the kitchen and get some water." Same with snacks and toys. I'm not so quick to jump up and do something. The first couple days I started being less pampering I heard huffs and puffs coming from G.Q. as he had to get up and do something himself, but now he's asking for less and doing more on his own. There have been spills here and there, but he's little, it's bound to happen and I try to stay calm and roll with it. He's also offering to help out more. Sometimes he asks to help and other times he just does it. That can be good and bad, but I try to remember that he's really trying to be helpful, not meaning to do it incorrectly or make more of a mess that what was originally there. I'm so thankful I happened upon this news segment because it's just what I needed to hear to make me help G.Q. become more independent. Good for both of us! No check mark or partial check here. But we're working on it.
Really, I didn't need that news segment to help me raise a child that isn't spoiled, but it's always nice to hear new, fresh ideas and different perspectives. Something you can take bits and pieces from and weave them into your life. Change things up when what you're currently doing isn't working or needs a little spicing up. Seeing the news segment made me feel good about how we are raising G.Q. and also made me think about something that I wasn't doing. Overall, this is probably the best list of rules I've seen for parenting. A list I'm happy to follow. It makes complete sense to me. I do wonder though, if I had read this list or saw this segment seven years ago what I might have thought. I know I had a list of "my child will never do _____" that my sister, who has five children all older than G.Q., always laughed pretty loudly at. I've probably eaten my words more times than I'd like to admit with that list.