Parenting: Doing Less
It is difficult to raise a family in today’s society. There is so much emphasis in providing the right opportunities and affording the right things. It can be mind-boggling to know when you might be doing too much for your child. You are doing too much if:
• You can’t afford the activities your child is involved in.
• You are cutting into your workday or down time to transport your child more than 25% of the time.
• If the only life you have is arranging your child’s activities.
• If your child sets up an agenda without asking you—that translates into they don’t ask if they can go and they don’t ask if it will fit into your plans.
In writing an article for a clinical journal I suggest that there is a new diagnosis called Entitlement syndrome. Entitlement syndrome is when minors expect their parents to provide a lifestyle that totally centers around them. When children receive too much money, time or attention, three natural processes occur:
• Children become self-centered and begin to expect the world to revolves around them.
• They develop a skewed sense of reality that is not reflective of the real world.
• They are most likely doing too much and do not have enough down time for the “kid essentials” like studying, cleaning their room, or interacting with family, especially their parents.
Children with Entitlement syndrome either develop narcissistic tendencies—“everything revolves around me”—or they become discouraged because secretly they feel inferior unless everything is provided to them. They, like so many adults, crave a lifestyle that is not realistic. At 15, they are planning spring breaks to other states or in some cases other countries. They are inundated with mailers soliciting them as potential credit card holders. They experience adult-like situations at an age when developmentally they don’t have the internal mechanisms to say no and they don’t know how to handle situations appropriately.
A growing trend that is occurring is parents who allow their children’s boyfriends or girlfriends to spend the night at their home. The rationale is that they won’t be sleeping in the same room. Whether they sleep together or not, it emphasizes that kids should be together that much. That is too much closeness. Teens need separation from their love interests. That helps them to develop individuality. Parents also allow co-ed slumber parties, which puts children in a situation where they are expected to have good impulse control.
If, as a parent, you see yourself falling into the trap, there are several techniques that can rein the child back into a slower, gentler lifestyle:
• Stop doing so much! Yes, they will be mad and yes, they will try to make you feel guilty. You have the right to say no and use it as a complete sentence (remember that column?)
• Start re-prioritizing their needs and saying things like, “I can’t afford to give you the charge card” or “I have discontinued the cellular phones because it didn’t fit into our budget” or “Mom’s too tired to pick you up.”
• It’s okay to emphasize that you have had a wake-up call and that things are going to be different.
Staying at home, being with the family, watching a video or eating a regular meal together builds character. Don’t be afraid to refocus your efforts. Know that you will be in for a battle because you set up this decadent lifestyle when you didn’t know better. Sometimes doing less is more. It builds character. Isn’t that really your job as a parent?