Many parents worry about their children be too demanding or materialistic. Especially during the Holiday season when most children are preparing lists about the gifts they want for the Holidays. I often have parents ask me how to cope with demanding children or children who threaten parents if they do not get their way.
This is a common issue that parents often seek psychotherapy for their children. There are also different ways to cope with this situation. I recently read an article by Empowering Parents that provided a number of tips that I often recommend to parents and use with children in psychotherapy. I have found these tips and approach to be effective. I have included the tips from the Empowering Parents article that I recommend to parents.
Here are some tips to help you guide them away from self-centeredness while helping kids to maintain their passions in life.
1 Listen first: Allow your kids to express their desires and demands and try to just listen. Calm your own inner voice down by remembering that they have a right to their feelings. Don’t be threatened; these are just feelings. Because your kids want something doesn’t mean they have to have it. Nor does it mean that they are ungrateful, lousy kids or that you have been lousy parents. Instead of blurting out comments like, “You only think of yourself, “ or “You know we don’t have the money, so why are you asking,” “You are so spoiled.” or “What’s wrong with you?” try comments more like :“I understand how much you want that. I know it means a lot to you. We are willing to give you x dollars toward it – the rest you can either save up for take from your allowance.” Or, “I know that you really want this new video game. Perhaps we can get it for you on your birthday, but if you want it sooner, then maybe you can try to get an extra tutoring job or mow the lawn for Dad and make some extra money.” This way, you’re putting the responsibility on the child rather than saying NO all the time or saying YES all the time.
2 Don’t let them think they’re the center of the universe: Notice if your conversations are overly child-centered. “Do you need anything for your science project? What would you like for dinner tonight?” Try to balance these conversations by including yourself more. “I had a long day at work and I’m looking forward to some relaxation time tonight; what’s on your agenda this evening?” Try to not make your child the center of the universe – they are not. Don’t make them believe your purpose on earth is to provide for them by jumping quickly to their every request.
3 Remember to teach your kids to think about you and others: Teach them to always ask if others would like something if they’re getting up from the table. Ask them for help when you have a dinner party or a project to complete. Expect them to do jobs and chores around the house. Remind them to say thank you. Make sure they call their grandparent to see how he is doing or if there is anything he needs. Teach them to ask about your day. Make sure they do something to help out in their school or community. Show them they’re not the only ones that matter. Respect yourself so that they learn to respect you.
4 Don’t over-empathize with pleading: Every child and particularly teens want, want, want. Remember to not over-empathize with their pleading, begging and crying. Empathize but don’t over-empathize, because if you do, you might automatically give in to their every wish. The danger of indulging them is that you risk resenting them – they, then are at risk of being resented, undermined, ungrateful and unsatisfied.
5 Talk about advertising and media messages: Living in a society that prizes material things above all else is a force we must counteract. Watch TV together or look through magazines and discuss ways advertisers attempt to manipulate. Enforce the old fashioned values of success and perseverance, which come from developing a good character versus success that comes from being the best or having the most. Make sure you to live by these values, as well.
Defiant Kids Who Threaten and Misbehave to Get What They Want
When it comes to more defiant kids, the same applies: you just have to hold on stronger and not let the intimidating, threatening behavior cause you to give in to the “gimmes.” Let’s say your child is being rude, disrespectful, aggressive or defiant when he does not get what he wants. His birthday or Christmas is coming up, and you are probably tempted to withhold his gifts since he’s been treating everyone in the family poorly. This is understandable, but it’s not be the most effective way to handle things in the long term.
Instead, hold him accountable to better behavior. Deal with the unacceptable way he is taking out his frustration on everyone when he’s not getting what he wants. Let him know it’s unacceptable to act out that way and hand him consequences when you are both calm. Perhaps he loses cell phone privileges for a short time until you see better behavior. Perhaps he loses his social privileges and stays home so you can have a problem-solving conversation with him about better ways to handle his emotions. No matter what, make sure you teach your child successful ways to manage himself when he’s faced with disappointments and limits.
If your defiant child uses threats to get what he wants, be sure to not let this behavior work. Stay in charge of yourself and don’t be controlled by the intimidation. If he’s a young child, remove him from the situation if he’s ruining your holiday or yelling in public. If he’s an older child, ask him to leave the house if he is acting out during holiday festivities. He will need to pay for any damages if he destroys property. If he refuses, you can take the money he owes for the damaged property and deduct from a holiday gift. (Let him know ahead of time if this is what you have in mind.)
Children need to be “all about themselves” in order to successfully separate from us and create their own identity. Their need to believe that they are important and amazing is not a bad thing as long as it has its limits. Remember this is a stage of development. No need to “futurize,” and worry that they’ll never change. Being an understanding parent and setting firm boundaries will help assure that your child will blossom into an adult who likes herself, and knows how to get her needs met in the world while thinking, caring and giving to others.
Remember you may not see results right away but if you are consistent over time with these suggestions, you should notice positive changes in your children and teenagers.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience working with children, teenagers and families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or his private practice visit his website www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.