How not to spoil your children

Gadgets + peer pressure = mega pressure for parents. So how can you teach them to value what they have rather than whining for what they don't have? Here's our advice on how to say no to your children without feeling guilty about it.

How to not spoil your children

Spoil the child

This is a thorny issue that all parents have to deal with at some point. Our children are surrounded by images of things they are encouraged to want. Add peer pressure to the mix and we have a nightmarish problem: children constantly whining for 'stuff' and parents racked by a double dose of guilt that we cannot satisfy their cravings combined with irritation that they are so demanding. If we are not careful, we end up with a situation that can spiral out of control where the child is constantly feeling deprived whilst we feel manipulated and inadequate.

Take stock

Ask yourself this question: 'Even if I could afford to buy everything my children want, would it actually be a good idea to give it to them?'. You are right to be anxious about spoiling your children. There is nothing worse than seeing a child who has everything and yet is never satisfied. And as with other parenting concerns, like irregular bedtimes or fussy eating habits, there is really only one way to deal with it - stop feeling guilty and take control. You are the parent and it's your job to establish the rules about what your children may or may not expect in the way of 'things'; once you've done it - stick to your guns.

Start talking

The key here is communication. Explain to your children that other parents may feel it's okay to 'have a TV in your room' or have a new iPod on demand, but you don't. Not only can you not afford it (most of us have to accept that budgeting is part of life after all) but you don't actually think they need such a thing. Once they really understand the issues, they might become less demanding and more reasonable.

Earning their keep

It's a good idea to establish a routine of getting your children to 'earn' some spending money, by helping with simple chores around the house. It's never too early to teach children the importance of keeping their rooms tidy and so on. So you kill two birds with one stone – teaching the children the importance of helping round the house and how to save up for things they really want (even if you feel are not strictly necessary!) With luck, over time, they might think twice about wanting some piece of plastic rubbish if they actually have to part with their own hard-saved cash for it.

Many parents confuse spoiling with love. We think that our kids want the latest trainers, or a new dress, when actually they'd be really happy to spend a lovely evening chatting or playing games their parents knowing they have our full attention. Stuff cannot replace love! We need to show our children that instead of craving the latest cool toy, they should prize close relationships with people who love them and a sense of satisfaction at their own achievements. None of this can be replaced by the instant fix of buying something - however seductive it may appear.