As she taught a parenting class recently, my wife shared a story she heard from her hairdresser. Susan (the hairdresser) had made a house call to plait the hair of a six-year-old girl. As soon as she walked in through the door, the little girl started screaming and yelling that she didn't want her hair done. This soon escalated to spitting, kicking and calling Susan all manner of unsavoury names.
Daddy watched helplessly while mommy pleaded with the child to have her hair done. The child finally agreed but on condition it would have to be done with her lying down in bed! What was shocking to Susan was that the parents paid no attention to their child's name calling. Her question to my wife was 'why would parents allow such behaviour in their children?'
The simple answer? Overindulgence is in vogue for today's middle-class parents. Research shows that overindulgence occurs in three main ways. Material overindulgence comes when parents provide all the children's demands for instance clothes and toys, and become their children's entertainers, whose role it is to make sure their children are not bored.
Relational overindulgence happens when a parent over-compensates for their child, doing for them what a child of their age should be able to do for themselves. Structural overindulgence happens when children are given age-inappropriate freedoms, with rules poorly or inconsistently applied. Such children have full access to their parent's gadgets, dominate the family conversations and are not expected to do any chores.
Sounds familiar? You probably know parents who are bringing up their children in exactly this way! What they don't know is they are inadvertently harming the very children they are so lovingly trying to provide for.
Research now shows that some of the long-term effects of overindulgence include failure to thrive as an adult - in the workplace, in relationships, in marriage and in parenting. This is primarily because living in the adult world requires such skills as empathy (the ability to see another's perspective), team work, a good work-ethic, humility, teach-ability, ability to receive critical feedback, endurance and perseverance; skills that an overindulged child does not acquire while growing up.
Today's overindulgence is often a reaction to yesterday's deprivation. And yet overindulgence fails to produce children with the qualities that would help them succeed in life, the very thing that the overindulging parent desires for their children!
How to parent then? One thing for certain is that good parenting doesn't come naturally. Parents must invest in acquiring knowledge about parenting, just like they invest in acquiring knowledge about their chosen careers. Take a parenting class or read good books, for example, 'The New Dare To Discipline' by James Dobson. If you shape your children's values today, you will leave them an inheritance much more valuable than money!