The vast majority of books in the Parenting section of your local book store will insist that it’s impossible to spoil a baby by cuddling him, holding him and soothing him when he cries. Any parent will tell you, however, that it is absolutely possible to spoil a toddler. These ten tips can help you avoid the power struggles and temper tantrums that come with a spoiled toddler and that can intensify as kids get older.
- Be Consistent – Your toddler will test your patience and push boundaries that you’ve established on a daily basis, but it’s essential that you maintain consistency. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for most toddlers to understand one-time exceptions to the rules. Rather than confusing her by outlawing a certain type of behavior one day and then allowing it the next, make sure that you stay consistent.
- Stay Calm – Before you have children, the idea of losing your patience and getting into a shouting match with a toddler seems ludicrous. When your little angel reaches the oft-bemoaned “terrible twos,” however, it becomes more understandable. Regardless of how much your child may try your patience, it’s important to stay calm. Dispassionate reiterations of the rules drive them home, but a spirited argument only opens the doors for more power struggles down the road.
- Set Boundaries and Maintain Them – Your child can’t behave the way you expect if she’s not privy to those expectations, which is why it’s so important for parents to set boundaries with their children early and maintain them. A child that doesn’t know what’s expected of her behaviorally isn’t spoiled, she’s confused!
- Assign Chores – Even at the toddler stage, your child is capable of managing a short list of household tasks. Whether she’s helping to put away her own laundry or wiping up her own spills, you’re instilling a sense of responsibility into your little one that will be much more difficult to foster when she’s older.
- Make Limits Clear and Easy for Kids to Understand – As an adult, the rules of socially acceptable behavior are often complex and intricate. Little brains aren’t quite capable of managing that tangled web, though, so make sure that you keep your boundaries simple and easy for your toddler to understand.
- Realize That It’s Okay to Disappoint Your Kids – When your toddler doesn’t get the candy she’s screaming for or the new toy she so desperately desires, she’s not being deprived or abused. Giving into her tantrums, however, sends her the message that a tantrum is an effective and viable way of getting what she wants. Realizing that it’s okay to say no from time to time is an essential part of parenting, and of avoiding spoiled child syndrome.
- Establish a Routine – Kids need routine in order to thrive. A toddler with no set bedtime or meal times who simply does as she pleases when the mood strikes her will continue to think that your household moves according to her whims. Setting a routine and making a concerted effort to stick to it lends a sense of reliability and security to your little one’s life, something she needs very much.
- Don’t Make Empty Threats – If you’re not prepared to turn the car around, abandon your cart in the grocery store or box up your food in a restaurant, don’t issue empty threats to that effect. Even as a toddler, your child needs to know that there are certain consequences for bad behavior.
- Share Your Expectations – Before heading out to the store or sitting down for a nice meal in a restaurant, have a clear and concise talk with your toddler about what is and is not acceptable behavior. Failure to share those expectations or to enforce the rules governing her behavior sends your child the message that good behavior is optional, which isn’t a precedent you want to set.
- Limit Financial Indulgences – As a parent, you want to give your kids everything their hearts desire to ensure that they have a happy, fulfilled childhood. However, constantly giving in to kids’ request for material purchases is one of the fastest and most reliable methods of ensuring a spoiled sense of entitlement as they get older.
While making the effort to avoid spoiling your child is important during the formative toddler years, it’s also important to realize that some tantrums and defiance are a natural part of her development. As your child begins to understand the concept of boundaries, she will naturally test them as a developmentally-appropriate expression of her need for a measure of independence.