Selfish Children- Part 2

Don't give in. Even for a pretty face. 

SO... You want to transform a selfish child.

Time to Take Back Control...
A selfish and spoiled child knows how to get what they want. A child will on average, hound you for something 9 times, trying to get their way. Don't give in. The more they get what they want, the less they will think about others. As parents it is easy to loose control. Time to take it back. Setting boundaries and expectations are the best way to raise a selfless child, but it is easy in the moment to give in and set out on a course of destruction. A down fall for me is always in public. When one of our kids really wants something and is begging for it while we are grocery shopping or at the mall, I find myself giving in so they will be quiet. I can't do that. I am sending an instant message that all my kids have to do is make a little scene and they will get what they want. Decide right now what you will not give in to. Explain the boundaries to your children and don't budge. It will only take a few times and your kids will start to get the message.

Do not Tolerate the Selfishness...
This takes dedication on the parents part, and goes along with the above suggestion. When your child demonstrates selfishness, immediately address the situation and take care of it. Discipline and explain. Make your expectation VERY clear and then enforce them. When your child is selfish, point out that their behavior is not acceptable. Then use yesterday's suggestion, "How would you feel if..."

You are the Parent...
This is really important. Remember, you are in charge, you know what is best and you make the decisions. You don't have to put all your needs aside for your children. Putting them on a pedestal teaches them that other people don't matter and they are the center of the universe. If you are on a phone call, it is okay to ask your child to wait 2 minutes for their snack while you finish the conversation. (We are obviously talking within reason, not asking your child to wait for 20 minutes.) As a parent, it is okay for you to take 5 minutes to go to the bathroom, in peace. As a parent, you shouldn't feel guilty when you say "no". I learned this lesson the hard way when it came to food. I would give our kids all my food when they wanted it. I mean all of my food. Then one day, my husband stood up for me and our daughter said, "why can't we eat it, we are more important than mom." Yikes. In trying to be selfless, I had sent the wrong message. We naturally sacrifice for our children. Of course we do. But we are still the parent and dropping everything all the time for our kids can send them the wrong message.

Get everyone on board...
This includes grandparents. You can't raise a selfless child alone. If your spouse or parents, or in-laws spoil your child, it won't matter what you do at home. All your hard work will be for not. You have to get everyone on the same page. There is nothing wrong with talking to grandparents about the problem. Be kind and honest. Don't focus on placing blame. Instead, explain how your kids are acting and what you are trying to change, then ask if they will help. Ask what they think they could do to support your intentions. By taking this approach you will avoid offending and come to a mutual agreement. It is okay to recall the latest tantrum or demanding situation. They will understand. They had kids once. They love their grandkids and don't want to turn them into spoiled brats.

Don't give up...
These are big changes. Don't think they will happen over night. It will take time. There will be frustrations and struggles. When you want to give in, think about how important these principles are for your children's future. It will help strengthen your resolve to stay committed. Eventually things will begin to turn around.

Set your family up for lasting change.

Teach your children to be patient. Kids who are selfish don't take the time to think if they are inconveniencing others. They want things now, right now. Teach patience. It is okay for them to wait. We worked on this today. Our son had chosen a CD to listen to. Our daughter wanted her CD in "right now." She didn't want to wait her turn. We had to work through "how would you feel if..." and help her understand that she had to wait her turn. If I had given in to her, I would have sent the wrong message.

Praise selfless behavior. When your kids do something considerate, acknowledge their behavior. Praise will get you a long way. Reiterate what they did that was so kind and then point out how it made the other person feel. "Did you see how happy she was when you let her have a turn?" Kids naturally want attention. Give them attention for the good things they do.

Help your kids think about others. "Why don't you let your sister have a turn, she has been waiting a long time?" "Your brother is really good at painting, why don't we have him help us." As parents we have to point out others needs and strengths. Kids need help to see them.

Require your children to give back. Research shows us that kids who help others are more helpful. More helpful means less selfish. We have to give our kids the opportunity to serve others. Small things work great. I try to always sit down with our kids to write thank you's when someone does something nice for them. Even though our youngest can't write, she can color, and we trace her hand. Our son takes in the trash can for our elderly neighbor. Whenever we make cookies the kids choose someone to take the extras to. When ever I drop off dinner to a family I always include our kids. When we drop the food off, we talk about the experience. Whenever we are at grandma and grandpa's house we make sure to pick up our toys and put our dishes in the sink. Our kids help put the chairs away after church, and pick up trash when we see it on our walks around the neighborhood. These little, everyday acts teach children to think about others. If you can provide opportunities to serve in the community that will also make a huge impact on your kids. They will see the circumstances of others. It will teach empathy and compassion. It is hard to be selfish when you are being compassionate.

Be Consistent. Long lasting changes mean being consistent. Enforce the same expectations for all your children. Don't play favorites. Being strong one day, but giving in the next will send the wrong message.  It is our actions and the actions of those around us that perpetuate the selfishness. Let's start with us.


Family Volley


  1. I have to remember one thing: consistency. I've been SO good with my three-year-old while my older son is at school (at the saying "no" thing I mean). Then school is out and I have three kids at home all of a sudden and I suddenly find myself giving in. Consistency is so important for me (and him).

  2. I think a lot of times people think that kids are little and will magically grow out of bad behavior. I have a co-worker with 2 grown children. They call her daily, demanding to know what is for dinner or why there are no groceries in the fridge or wanting money to buy things they want (they still live at home). It is a huge warning flag to me about what can happen if you don't nip that behavior in the bud when they are little.


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