Magazine article Work & Family Life

Yes, We Can Change 'Spoiled Child' Attitudes and Behavior

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Yes, We Can Change 'Spoiled Child' Attitudes and Behavior

Article excerpt

Are we facing a spoiled child risis? Every generation has pointed to the breakdown of discipline among youth, and ours is no exception-though there's some indication that things are improving, which is good news.

Children with bad attitudes come in all sizes, both genders and all cultures. They can be rich and poor, live in rural, urban or suburban areas, attend private or public schools, have multiple siblings or be only children. They can live in every family grouping-two parents, single parents, stepparents, grandparents.

Bad attitudes are somewhat different from bad behavior. Behaviors are children's way of coping with the world; attitudes are the foundation of their character. For example, kids who have learned to get away with being irresponsible and uncooperative often end up as adults with problems.

Where's this coming from?

Parents bear part of the responsibility. Some have trouble setting limits. In the stressful life parents lead today, they often don't feel up to dealing with a child's bad attitude. So they let regular routines and rules slide. However, contrary to what many people think, employed mothers are no more likely to indulge their children than at-home mothers, according to a number of studies.

But employed mothers especially feel that "quality time" has to be stress-free. So if a child acts up, they may hesitate to spoil the moment with any kind of confrontation.

Other parents, who "want something better for their kids" than they themselves had, indulge their children and put a greater value on material goods than on virtue and character.

The society in which we live is another major contributing factor to the attitude problem. In the hours children spend watching TV, music videos and playing computer games, they are often viewing mean and scary images with sexist violence and disrespect between people.

Most parents have the best intentions. We want our children to be happy, successful and fulfilled. We want them to be popular and have as much as the other kids. Some of us hesitate to reprimand them or say no. But we must not overlook what matters most in their lives-that they become good and decent human beings.

Fast-forward to your child 25 years from now. What virtues do you hope she or he will possess? What moral character do you hope will replace the bad attitudes your child may have today?

Can bad attitudes be changed?

Yes, they can. Attitudes are learned so, to one extent or another, they can be unlearned. The process is not easy and your child will not change overnight. But change will happen if you are consistent and committed.

Let's take one attitude and use it as an illustration of the process that can apply to changing most of the bad attitudes that you identify.

Attitude Being bad-mannered. Incivility and rude behavior.

Diagnosing the problem Using the standard newspaper reporter's approach to gathering information, ask yourself:

* What behaviors does your child engage in that specifically concern you?

* Why does he/she have this attitude? Does he hang around other kids who are rude? Does she think it is cool?

* To whom is your child rude? Only family members, others? …

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