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Are Modern Dads Turning Their Kids Into Spoiled Monsters?

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My son swam with dolphins on his fifth birthday (there he is in the photo above), and now he wants to ring in his sixth year with a vacation in Australia. I may have created a monster, and I’m not alone.

Sure, my sons live fuller lives than I did when I was their age—it’s not even close. They swim, hike, travel to international resorts and play in several sports leagues. My oldest got a passport at six weeks of age, and he actually used it. I was in my early 30s when I finally needed that precious blue ID.

Yet my sons sometimes act as if their lives are dull in those rare moments between activities. “Aren’t we gonna go on an adventure today?” they cry. Is this a case of too much stimulus, too soon?

The answer depends on how your child behaves and sees the world. Do they exhibit gratitude or does your kid act like Veruca Salt clenching her pudgy fists in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? If there’s gratitude there, good job—you’re teaching them to be grateful for the gifts they have.

Ultimately, we’re building memories for both our children and ourselves. Plus, the life lessons gleaned along the way won’t be found in the schoolyard. Just don’t create a Frankenstein’s monster of ingratitude in the process.

The following tips could help prevent you from creating an ungrateful monster:

1. Free is Fine
As you probably know, spoiling your kids can be pricey, so consider all the free amenities in your neighborhood before splurging on expensive trips or classes. Nature walks, the local basketball court, library reading groups, outdoor movie nights—your city is sure to have an official website with these sorts of activities listed.

2. Spoil Them with the Right Toys
Our boys crave shiny new toys the way Gollum lusts after that “preciousssss” ring. They also quickly bore of those same latest trinkets. Focus instead on creative toys—LEGO blocks, puzzles, or sports equipment. The latter will coax them out of the house and burn calories along the way.

3. Listen to Your Kids
Some children don’t want wall-to-wall activities. A good friend’s daughters rebelled recently after spending three weeks at a posh summer camp. Don’t assume your kids will welcome every extravagance. Watch their body language. Are they misbehaving more than usual after the latest “adventure?” If they tell you, “Dad, I don’t wanna do X, Y, or Z,” take them at their word.

4. Turn Adventures into Life Lessons
Earlier this year we traveled to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We snorkeled, swam and did all the things a family does on a summer vacation. Our oldest son asked mid-trip why the stores weren’t overflowing with toys as they are back home. We made sure to show our boys that the locals didn’t have all the amenities they had back home, and how the island’s inhabitants still were kind, considerate and raised their own children right.

    Photo credit: Dolphin Discoveries

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