Parents usually want the best for their children, but in times of nuclear families, smartphones, high stress levels and busy schedules, quality time is largely translating into parents giving in to their children’s demands — more frequently and more quickly — with children simply getting away with bad behaviour.
City psychologists we spoke to agree that spoiled behaviour is learned, and are convinced that the onus lies with parents to lay down boundaries from an early age.
“Parents have to know when to say no. By nature, Indians are not assertive and have the habit of saying ‘yes’ but to handle children effectively, they have to be assertive,” says Dr Bharat Kumar Reddy, consultant psychiatrist at Apollo Hospital.
Problems with spoiled behaviour
Most psychologists agree that parents of spoilt children often mean well, even though their actions are misguided. Some want to give their kids things they never had, growing up. Some hesitate to say ‘no’ because they worry that their stance might hurt the child’s feelings or harm their confidence. Yet others find themselves just too exhausted from their daily grind to set rules or enforce them.
However, according to experts, in the absence of structure, uniformity and discipline, children can show behavioural problems such as conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and childhood depression. Sadly, that may result in further damage and maladapted behaviours-such as self-harm, destruction of property, inability to control moods and impulses, cruelty towards animals and sexual inappropriateness. “Remember that a spoilt child will not ‘straighten up’ or get better when they grow up or get married. Parents need to stop postponing dealing with these issues. Instead, they need to address them at the earliest and hold their children accountable for their behaviour,” adds Dr Reddy.
Good parenting, bad parenting
Even as we get into the depths of the topic, Dr Pragya Rashmi, consultant psychologist at Yashoda Hospital, takes issue with the term ‘spoiled’ in the context. “It is a child, not milk,” she says. Then adding that there is nothing called a ‘spoiled child’ — only good and bad parenting — she talks about maladjusted children facing adverse situations. “They experience distress. They have low coping skills and are dependent on external factors to pull them through the issues. Often, these external factors are people, which is why they are rude to their staff and seem to have a sense of entitlement. Once these kids step out from the bubble of over protection and over-indulgent domestic environment, they find themselves to be misfits in the real world.”
Moral and spiritual growth
Just as food turns unhealthy when it is overeaten, indulgence turns unhealthy when it is overdone. Moreover, parents need to be aware of their kids’ moral development as much as they are about their physical growth. This begins from the age of five and continues to post-adolescence. “Just like their intellectual growth, children also undergo moral and spiritual growth. But very little is said or written about it,” adds Dr Pragya. “Also, a child will understand and handle only that much at a specific age.So parents need to love and set appropriate boundaries through their growing up stages. For example, early childhood is when a child will test the limits they can cross. That is also when parents need to set boundaries around what they can or cannot do. “A ‘no’ is, therefore, important to follow through with, or else the child will start thinking that those boundaries are not serious ones.”