Vitamin N: Is Your Child Getting Enough Of It?

My kids are getting older … leaving their elementary years and rolling into their tween and teen eras.  Their personalities and character are blossoming more.  As young children, whenever I would say no, for whatever reason, they didn’t exhaust me on fighting it necessarily, but I always felt a need to explain myself and help them identify opportunities to distract from their disappointment onto something more deserving of their time and attention.  In their earlier years the “no(s)” were more around situations that would put them in danger, like running across the street.  As elementary crept up on them the “no(s)” were expanding into not being able to accommodate to every social event, sport, sleep-over requests, iPad game, inappropriately rated Netflix movie, etc.  And, when the rare times came when I had to say “no,” I felt compelled to explain the reasoning and logic behind the response.

Am I questioning my decisions then – No.  But, after watching Dr. John Rosemond’s view on Vitamin N, I am left wondering whether they have had a healthy dosage of deprivation.  Naturally, I am not referring to food or love deprivation, but moreover referring to being told no from the context of them not receiving something enough so that they can form the behavior for appreciation and gratitude.  In simple form: did we ever deprive them.  This ability for appreciation and gratitude is a characteristic I feel is precious, and not just in the household but also more important outside of the house.

“Over-indulgence is a form of addiction,” and from Dr. Rosemand’s perspective when children are only accustomed to receiving it creates a behavior for only wanting more.  We all have cravings for things, Laura Markham, Ph.D., a Brooklyn-based author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting says. “And our brains react when we `chase’ something and then get or `capture’ it. It feels good. And as a result, many of us have gotten into a habit, and have taught our children, that we can get what we want when we want it.”

On the surface, that sounds pretty logical.  But, this often perpetuates a degree of affluence that was never rightfully earned, but gained from either whining, demanding, or manipulating.  In evaluating my own kid’s behaviors, they were never whiners but I can attest 10% of their plight for receiving something would be a rare moment of demand and 90% of the other times they influenced their wants with manipulation.  Just ask Max’s teachers the many charms he has tried!

In all seriousness, though, some signs that psychologists say are prevalent in manifesting over-indulgent adolescents are: disrespect toward authority figures, display a lack of consideration for others or material items, demand to have their own way, and are prone to temper tantrums.  As they move into adulthood, they tend to become entitled and “… find it hard to get into relationships because they have this sense of grandiosity … materials and people are never going to be good enough.”  Go a few years further, once they’ve flown the coop to venture off into the real world per Dr. Silverstein, a Yale University Department of Psychology faculty member, “A lot of parents are still saying yes, even after the child is grown … they are paying for their adult child’s rent, car insurance, and other expenses, and their overindulged kids don’t feel good about themselves because they need to be independent but haven’t learned the skills.”

What it seems this all leads to is teaching my kids that they can get what they want in life without having to work for it.  That is definitely not the life I have had, nor the environment I was raised in.  And, what bothers me most is my genuine interest for the best for my kids all this time without effectively connecting the dots to what type of behavior and characteristics I may be forming along the way.  As if the guilt that is festering now isn’t enough, Dr. Rosemand shares an interesting statistic in that since the 1990’s a new parenting style, “parent indulgence”, has formed, exponentially increasing childhood and teen depression.  What is now showing from this is a child forming into an “emotionally stunted and self-centered” adult.  This “over-indulgence” forms into an inherited disease that will just pass from generation to generation.

Luckily, it’s not all doomsday!  There apparently is a remedy, albeit it isn’t a miraculous, over-the-counter, over-the-night drug.  The recommendations for a remedy, per Carol Passmore, a licensed practical counselor, and director of Care to Connect, a family educational and therapeutic practice, are:

  1. Be honest and up-front with your child(ren) that you want to make some changes to parenting decisions that are more positive for their future.
  2. Ask for your child(ren)’s input.  “Ask them to come up with a needs and wants list.  It may turn out to be different from what you think they need and want, but it starts the conversation.”
  3. Chores should be established where they children are held accountable.  When they are younger, a visible chore chart is always helpful.  “Contributing to the family is important and should become a conversation for the family, not just a one-way battle with the parent telling the child that they need to do more”.  As they are older, just forming a bulleted list of chores, and expectations of quality and deadlines to complete them, is useful.  And, determine the reward for achievement.
  4. Start saying no – it’s okay!

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