10 Ways You're Spoiling Your Kids Without Even Realizing It
We kinda figured we shouldn’t be buying our kids mini Bentleys or Gucci denim in size 3T. (Exceptions will be made for Blue Ivy.) But yikes: It turns out offering too much homework help and caving to tantrums are bigger no-nos than sugar or shopping. Here, ten things you might be doing that are teaching your kids they can get away with murder.
1. You're Being a Short Order Cook
It’s not weird to want to cry when your kids throw Ina’s! asparagus bundles on the floor (the dog loved them, FWIW). But resist the urge to start cooking a second dinner from scratch at 6:30. An easy backup meal (Greek yogurt for all!) will just have to do…again.
2. You Get Them Dressed When They're Way Too Old
Experts like Dr. Sears agree that by age four, kids are capable of dressing themselves and brushing their own teeth—with supervision, obviously. (Nothing ruins your morning like a toothpaste-smeared toilet.)
3. You Offer Full Maid Service
Empower kids by teaching them to do simple chores like clearing their plates after meals and straightening up their rooms after a Lego typhoon. You will actually be providing essential coping skills and strengthening their work ethic. Who knew?
4. You're Providing Too Much Homework Help
Step away from the flash cards. Once kids enter middle school, researchers at Harvard University Press found, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, not up. OMFG.
5. You're Mediating Their Friendships
Um, Tina Fey? There’s a new bossypants in town: It’s your daughter’s bestie, and she’s hijacking their playdate. But maybe don’t jump in. Resolving her own conflicts will majorly boost your kid's confidence. Intervene only if she asks for help or a situation gets serious.
6. You Freak Out When They Fall
While you never want to invalidate a child’s feelings by chirping “You’re OK!” after a face-plant at the playground, kids do look to us to see how they should react after minor mishaps. Panicking or pouring on the sympathy? Not ideal. So, after his next wipeout, try acknowledging reality (“Oops! You fell…”) and offering empathy: “That must have been pretty scary.”
7. You Give In To Tantrums
Ah, the public meltdown: the greatest negotiating tool in the history of humanity. Parents will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid them, and kids instinctively know it. So the next time she’s screaming for a Trolls Pez at the pharmacy or he’s going to the dark side over that Chewbacca mask in aisle 9, try to ride out the storm in a quiet corner (or your car) rather than reinforce the behavior. You'll be far less likely to see a repeat performance.
8. You Reward Them With Stuff
It’s tempting to commemorate an accomplishment (“You passed your swim test, yay!”) with a new toy. But celebrating their success with genuine, specific praise (“I noticed how hard you worked on your backstroke”) has more character-building benefits than any Hatchimal.
9. You Hover All the Time
Yes, of course you should constantly interact with a baby—her language and social development depend on it. But as our kids enter toddlerhood, encouraging up to 15 minutes of solitary play is, well, encouraged. The benefits? Creativity, critical thinking and (there’s that word again) confidence.
10. You're Being Wishy-Washy
No should mean no. Not “Probably not but maybe, we’ll see.” Kids feel secure when you consistently set limits—with enough repetition, they’ll be less likely to test those limits. When you waver, it signals to them to negotiate (or scream) to see if they can get what they want. So if you resolve to cut out snacks before dinner, stand your ground. Then they will eat Ina’s asparagus, so help us Jeffrey.