If your child could give you a word of advice on how to raise him, it would include the following request:
“Please Don’t Pamper Me!”
Pampering is, and always has been, one of the major pitfalls in parenting. Yet despite its long history, it is a very common problem that is exceptionally hard to avoid, particularly in today’s world. There have been some major social changes that have combined to create the perfect storm for pampering: Overwork (and the accompanying guilt), a high divorce rate (again, more guilt), exhausted parents, a materialistic culture, compelling high-tech entertainment, anxious parents, and small families. Combine all these with a trend towards a permissive parenting style that puts a high premium on children’s happiness –and you can easily fall into pampering without even realizing it.
But how damaging is pampering really? What could be the harm of a little indulgence? You might be surprised to learn that Alfred Adler, the father of humanistic psychology, believed that pampering is at the root of most neurosis, and can be pinpointed as the cause of a great deal of psychological and emotional suffering.
Why is pampering so harmful? Pampering gives the child a very poor preparation for the truly difficult challenges that life brings. It saps their courage, makes them dependent on others, and thwarts the development of empathy and compassion. The pampered child also develops unreasonable expectations of life and of others, and thus is left feeling that the world is unreasonably hostile towards her.
How can I prevent this problem from happening? Being aware of the different forms of pampering is the first step. There are five different types of pampering:
1. Too much service (doing for a child what they can do for themselves);
2. Too many things (providing children with an unreasonable amount of possessions);
3. Giving children their own way (always catering to their whims and wishes);
4. Too much attention (always making the child the centre of attention);
5. Overprotection (holding children back by overplaying fears and risks).
You may only have difficulty with some of these. Once you’ve identified your particular problem, effort should be made to eliminate the pampering. For example, one of the common forms of pampering is giving your child too much service. You may do things for your child because it’s easier and quicker than allowing him to do it for himself, particularly when you are in a hurry. This can be detrimental to your child’s self-esteem and motivation. Every time you take away an opportunity from your child to do things for herself, you send the message that you can do things better than she can. After a time, he may give up and resign himself to letting you do everything. This is why it’s important to allow her the extra time she needs to be as independent as possible. Yes, it may take a full five minutes for your five-year-old to tie his own laces, but these small inconveniences are part and parcel of being a parent. Set aside some time to teach him the new skills he’ll need and help him learn the ropes by doing it together for a while. Encourage him to be independent, even if at first he is reluctant to take on new responsibilities. In a short time, your efforts will pay off and he will rely less on you and more on himself. This will help him feel competent and capable and closer to being the adult he dreams he will one day be.