Spoiled Child?  Use Mindfulness.

Copyright © 2011 Tina Feigal, Parent Coach and Trainer

Are you worried that your child is spoiled?  Five fundamental facets of mindfulness from Dr. Daniel Siegel can help you to prevent more spoiling, and alleviate the spoiling that may have already occurred.

1)      The ability to be non-judgmental

Please don’t judge the spoiled child.  The more you stay in a place of judgment, the more the idea of her being spoiled gets reinforced.  Start right now to think of her as kind, considerate and willing to help. Whenever you see a millisecond of that behavior, say, “When you give me a hand with the dishes, I feel so happy and respected. It shows me that you really care.”  This will assure that you’ll see that behavior again.

2)      Non-reactivity, equanimity

Avoid reacting to spoiled behavior.  If you fail to match his high spoiled energy with your high energy level, the behavior will dissipate.  Give it time, and never give up.

3)      Living in the present moment

In other words, don’t panic.  Stay with the child in the present moment. Ask a question, rather than issue an edict. In advance, decide that saying, “I’m bored” is off limits in your house.  Have your child make a list of favorite activities and post it on the fridge.  If your child acts bored, just reply with “Remember? No saying ‘I’m bored’ in our home.  Take a look at your list of things to do and choose one.”

4)      Ability to label with words the internal world

Listen deeply to your child and ask her to tell you what’s really happening inside.  She may be outwardly yelling because she feels she got fewer privileges than her brother, but the inward feeling might be very different.  Instead of yelling at her for yelling, ask “What’s going on?”  If she says, “I don’t know,” continue with, “If I guess how you are feeling, will you tell me if I’m right or wrong?”  Then name a few feelings.  “Would it be that you are disappointed?  I notice you didn’t get exactly the same thing as your brother. Could that be it?  If you are disappointed, you can tell me directly, and we can talk about it.  You don’t have to yell.”  This is enormously helpful with a spoiled child.  She now has a way to communicate, while being truly seen.  And once the true feeling is expressed, just stay with her.  “You’re feeling disappointed.  I sure see that.”

But don’t fix it.  The real desire of a child is to be seen, not to be catered to in every moment.  She just has a mistaken belief that being catered to is love.  Real love is being seen.

5)      The capacity for self-observation
Help your child replay the last upsetting scene, so he can get perspective on his actions.  Say he just threw his shoe across the living room, barely missing the table lamp, because someone changed the channel.  Instead of getting upset, ask him calmly to get the shoe.  Let a few minutes pass, and then say, “Let’s run through that again.”  Have him go back to his show, let someone change the channel, and have him throw his shoe.  Then replay the scene.  Have him go back to his show, let his brother change the channel, and then teach him words directly.  “I am watching Sponge Bob.  Will you change it back, please?” Coach his brother to say, “OK, but when it’s over, I’d like to choose a show.”

Once a child is spoiled, he’s not like a piece of fruit that can never be restored to an unspoiled state.  You always have the opportunity, in every present moment, to turn the spoiled state into a cooperative one.  Be mindful of this, and you’ll see the end of the spoiled behavior much sooner than you thought possible!

For help with implementing these steps, or any other child behavior issue, read about parent coaching. Click here.

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