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Drawing the Line Between Spoiling the Child and Being Nice

At a party last week, one couldn’t help but notice the differences in the attitude of some of the children present when they wanted something from their parents. While some got it easily, others had to go through tantrums, pretend and even wail. Now that is the focus of our article- how frequently you should badge into the request of your wards and when you should say no. Also, do you feel guilty when you refuse to give them what they want for genuine reasons?

Aretha is 4. After having a number of refreshments, she wanted another. Her father was her best option because she knew her mother would definitely refuse. So she went to her father and kept tapping him while asking for the drink in a soft tone. Her father could only hear, “I want…” so eager to finish with Aretha and go back to his juicy conversation, he said, “Go, go and have whatever you want”. Aretha took to her heels and brought the drink from the chest to be opened for her. Then her father noticed what it was she wanted. He refused because she had had two bottles already. Aretha started to scream and rub herself on the floor. Immediately she started doing that, her father said, “It is okay, bring it and let me open it for you”. Almost immediately, Aretha got up. We can say Aretha was now in a comfortable lead. Towards the end of the party, the same thing happened when she wanted another cup of ice cream. He father gave in when she brought out the screaming card.

Another guest at the party, whose children were much older, asked her friend- Aretha’s father, why he was allowing the little girl to consume so much sugar. He said, “If I don’t let her have it, she will scream and cry and cry and I feel very sad when I see all those tears down her eyes and without knowing it, I succumb to her wants”. Four other parents admitted to having the same problem with their children.

Roy, another guest said he had decided never to take his son Caleb to the mall or on any shopping spree because he went far beyond the budget anytime he did. Caleb will throw tantrums, speak rudely and run off when Roy and his mother refused to grant a request. They also found it embarrassing hence succumbing to the detriment of their pockets. Also, he said when Caleb got back from school and said all his friends had something and he didn’t, he felt so sorry that he made it a point to get the item for his son even if he had a similar one. He always found that he had been “duped” when Caleb will later say, “Because Alice was annoying me, I refused to let her have my tablet”. Roy will now ask, “I thought everyone in your class had one”. He will then be informed that by everyone, his son meant his best friends.
We concluded that most of the fathers tried to make up for almost always being away by being the ‘nice’ parent when they had the chance. Even with those who did not have such demanding jobs, they admitted that they wanted to be the most loved parent hence using the “yes” card all the time. Whether that makes them the most loved parent is a story for another day.

But mothers were as guilty as the fathers. Cecilia said granting the wishes of her children was the only way she could save her ears of the many cries and screams and have the peace of mind to finish her chores, catch up with the girls on phone in silence and do the other things she had to do. Without that there will be a lot of whining and screaming which made her sick.
However, she admitted that her children were becoming very disrespectful, discontent, rude, lazy and spoilt. She only realized this when they went on vacation to her best friend’s house a few months back. She, therefore, decided on her return to get her children to be like her nieces and nephew. Amazingly, one did not have to use the rod because Cecilia had always assumed that it was only when one used the rod that children obeyed like it was the case in her time.

Ewurama, Maame Esi and Yaw are the children of Cecilia’s best friend. In the morning, her friend did not talk that much; everyone knew what chore to do when they woke up and how much time they had to do it. Ewurama, the youngest one, was only two. When she woke up, she walked over to where her toothbrush was and brought it to anyone she saw first. That person then helped her brush her teeth. That alone amazed her because her six-year-old child did not even do that. She had to remind him to brush his teeth.
Ewurama was being potty trained so when she needed to use the washroom, she walked up to the pot and did her thing with no assistance except she was doing number two. When she cried that she wanted something, mummy said no and although she walked away sad, hell did not break loose. When they got a yes to a request, they said a hearty thank you. Even when they finished eating, they thanked mum and dad and in some instances, told mummy the meal was superb. Whew! Yaw will be a good husband, I thought to myself.

They also had a lot of requests but they were not presented as pressing issues like my children did. Maame Esi will try to coerce or reach a compromise with her parents as leader of the gang when they wanted something. It went like this; “Daddy, today we tidied your room, we observed siesta and washed our socks and panties. Is it okay to have a bottle of Fanta for our hard work?” Daddy and Mummy will then smile and either say it was too late to have a drink so they could have it tomorrow or ask them to add a wafer for their hard work. LOL. Also, my friend’s children knew that doing well in school came with a little reward so they kept their bucket lists till the term had ended well for them. In so doing, they only spied prices and noted where items they wanted were sold. This was also friendly on the pocket of their parents because items were mostly discounted during vacation.

Before we got back home, I realized that:
1. Refusing the child for their own good or yours, was not wrong.
2. Granting all their wants did not make you a good parent but a bad one.
3. It was a sign of irresponsibility as a parent.
4. Children are never too young or too old to be trained.
5. Children are observant and smart. They should, therefore, be taught to use that skill well.
6. It is more embarrassing to have an ill nurtured child
7. Children understand when spoken to. Explain to them why they can’t have something at a certain time.

Other parents shared their experiences and those guilty resolved to start practicing the tips immediately. Smart as they were, none of the children came to ask for more cake or more drinks to the surprise of their parents. They obviously must have heard the conversation and noticed that their tricks had henceforth backfired.


July 16, 2019

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