Ask Maggie: How Do I Keep From Raising Spoiled Kids?

September 4, 2018

Dear Maggie,

Help! I want to give my kids everything I didn't have growing up. But I fear they are growing up entitled -- how do I give my kids everything, but still raise them to be kind, grateful, and appreciative human beings?  

Dear Help!:

When I ponder quandaries such as yours I always feel a little bit less alone in the world. My kids (at times) are ungrateful, ENTITLED, opportunistic, Voldemort (YES I SAID IT!)-like beasts who take my soul and throw it as far as they can ... and then prompt their sibling to pick it up and throw it further.

We have this struggle that you describe in my house as well! Struggles that end with me hugging a pillow and crying myself to sleep wondering where I am going wrong and who the HECK invented Karma and hoping that Karma-infinityplus1 comes to get whomever that was! Preferably while I watch! 

I take solace in something that my own mother shared with me when I texted her an apology three weeks ago. Apologizing pretty much for years 1987, '88, '89, most of '90 and pretty much straight on through to 1998.  (I was a terrible, ungrateful, and angst-filled, pre-emo tween, teenager, and young adult). Mom and Karma probably cracked a beer and had a toast to “me”  that night!  

This outpouring of pathetic apologies to my mother was all prompted by my eldest child's (1 month shy of 15) hurtful display of ingratitude towards me. ME. The world’s most okayest parent. The mom, who like you, gives them EVERYTHING. 

What my momma said to me, I now share with you. This will make us sisters because it’s an heirloom. An heirloom I plan to pass one day to that same teenager when she is crying into her pillow as a mom wondering where she went wrong as a parent and WHO had sent Karma to visit her. *wink!

Momma said, “Children’s brains do not fully mature until they are somewhere in their 20s.”  Did you hear that? Twenties. And then she said, and I quote: “You are an amazing person and I never worried for a second.”  

OK. That's actually a lie. She actually said this. “She’ll appreciate you waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyy down the road. Luv u.” 

What kids need

You (and I!) have a long road to go until your children have the ability to turn their heads and, in a brilliant light, see you for all you’ve done, all you are doing and all you will never stop doing. All of your children will FOR SURE be incredibly giving, mucho appreciative, terribly amazing, and grateful human beings (or somewhere on the spectrum of each.) I certainly turned out this way! *wink! 

But ... not yet. Your kids and YOU still have some work to do. (Me too!). 

Here’s what I want you to consider. 

I believe that there are three things kids NEED to have. Once they have these three things they indeed have everything.

  1. They need to be loved. 
  2. They need to be cared for. 
  3. They need stability. 

You are required to give them those things.

How are you required to give them these things?  In a consistent, firm, and fair manner. 

What they want? Well, that's a whooooooooole other story, complete with lots of insane pitfalls and ridiculous emotional baggage traps that parents fall into. We are a society that thinks giving them more makes them more and makes up for what WE felt we lacked.  

We don’t mean to, we have the best intentions, but we end up creating these little entitled zombies. We do everything for them. We hand them everything because they asked for it. We expect nothing of them.  

Don’t do that.

Empower your children

It’s never too late to start fresh or to even just “clean up” some things.

For newbies and seasoned parents alike: 

  • Teach them the value of a dollar and how to earn one. 
  • Empower your children. Do not do things for them. This means:
    • Give them directions, set expectations, and let them complete tasks without your interference. 
    • Helicopter parents should fly the heck away, or at least stop telling your kids to breathe in and out. They can probably do it on their own. Just a guess. Go rest on your helipad for a second or 87,689 gabillion seconds.
  • Teach your children to give back. Don’t just drop money in a bucket. Immerse them in experiences of giving. Give of your time. Give of your heart. What they gain from experiences like this far surpass many physical things you could ever give them. 
  • Show them how to be grateful. Practice grace yourself. Infuse these things into your life and use these things to connect with your children, rather than physical things that can be purchased.  

Whitney Houston can show us the way

In closing, if you didn’t read all of that blah blah above, then the answer to your question can be summed up with one simple yet always amazing reference to a song that every single person on earth, especially moms, should karaoke on Mommy night. The amazing Whitney Houston belted it out in 1985 while I roller skated around the rink looking for Randy Patterson. Whitney’s Greatest Love Of All. This is all we need to finish our conversation today.  

Sing it Whitney!

(Cue slow 80’s synthesizer piano intro)

I believe the children are our future

Teach them well and let them lead the way

Shhh.. I’m still singing. 

Show them all the beauty they possess inside

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier

Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be...

Did Whitney not nail it to the wall with that one? Please Google this song if you have not heard it. Play it while you read this column, or next time you're weeping into your pillow about what an ungrateful crocodile your tiny little butterfly has become, or even better, blast it when you toast with Karma someday!

One thing I know? It will all work out.

My momma said so. 



P.S. Rest in peace, Whitney!  


Find your family fun® with Macaroni Kid! Subscribe today to your FREE local edition for details on all your local kid-friendly events!