No parent wants to raise a spoiled brat. We’ve all known enough of those to understand that the kind of parenting that panders to a child’s every whim can back-fire spectacularly. So, to avoid that, we say ‘no’ a lot - perhaps more often than we say yes - and we limit sugary snacks and implement healthy boundaries and basically bend over backwards in a bid to strike the perfect balance between making our children feel secure and loved, but ensuring that they don’t end up entitled, whiny, spoiled little so-and-so’s.
But here’s a thought: perhaps should we worry less about spoiling our kids, and consider focusing our attention on spoiling them a whole lot more. Stick with me, here. I know it sounds bonkers, but I read a blog this week about just that - why we should spoil our kids more often - and it got me thinking.
Will my kids grow up to thank me for being a measured parent who never spoiled them? Or if I go a little wild and relax all the boundaries from time to time, will they grow up with a heart stuffed full of the kind of memories that make kids light up a little more than before on the inside?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating letting the kids rule the roost, or urging you to abandon all the tenets of parenthood until the littlest people in your household call all the shots. I’m simply saying that some of us might have our priorities wrong. In our eagerness to raise 'nice' kids, we might be neglecting to raise ones who also feel radically, extravagantly loved and cherished.
Because ultimately, that’s what spoiling someone does. When my husband brought a new perfume home for me on an otherwise average rainy Tuesday after work for no other reason than that he spotted it on his lunch break and it made him think of me, he’s spoiling me - yes - but not running the risk of turning me into a petulant wife who expects expensive gifts every Tuesday from thereon in. He’s just making me feel truly special, and that’s surely one of the most precious gifts we can give the ones we love.
So why do we get so het up about spoiling kids? They’re kids for such a short space of time, and life will almost certainly throw all manner of challenges at them as they grow up - why not let life keep them humble, but indulge ourselves as parents in the task of making sure they know that glorious feeling of being thoroughly and utterly spoiled?
Why not buy the toy you know your kid would love just because you can? Why wait till Christmas if a just-because gift might light him up inside in a way that will be immeasurably more memorable than opening piles of pricy gifts on the same old day in December?
And spoiling kids doesn’t have to be about money, either. Try making your own advent calendar this year, and fill each day's window with a fun family task or moment of togetherness that will make your kid feel fab. Lego advent calendars are cool, but it’s only Lego after all. Ask any kid on the planet if he’d rather have a mini figure or an hour of uninterrupted fun with Mum or Dad, and I can practically guarantee the answer, every single time.
As Alison writes in that blog that started off this train of thought, why not let the kids stay up past bedtime, or bake cookies at 9pm, or spend up a storm in the pound shop with them just this once. They won't expect it every week; they'll live off the thrill of that memory forever. Just do whatever is within your means to make sure your kids know the joy of that ‘I’ve been spoiled rotten today’ feeling.
Dig deep, and consider what life might be like without all the little luxuries which you don’t really need - but which make you feel just a little bit treated and indulged. Think about the last time you felt truly spoiled - and if it’s been a while, let someone who loves you know that you could use a little spoiling - and then pull out all the stops, from time to time at least, to make sure your kids know that feeling too.
Sure, many of our kids probably already know it well. We go mad at Christmas or lavish them with so many treats at birthdays that we’re more inclined to worry that we might be overdoing it, than wonder if we should step it up a notch when it comes to spoiling them.
But trust me on this; unexpected perfume on a rainy Tuesday beats just about every 'official' gift I’ve ever had, no matter how lavish or elaborate. So ease off the pressure to make Christmas perfect, and instead just pick a day next week - and regularly after that - and make it spoiling day.
Then come back here and tell us how it went...