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Are we all spoiling our children and letting them be the boss?

(140 Posts)
myhandslooksoold Wed 24-Jun-09 20:36:43

I am usually a lurker on mumsnet (sorry!) but for the first time in 4 years I'm driven to start a post!
A couple of things have started to 'niggle' about the way I am bringing up my children (DD4, DS3) To be honest, I think many families have the same issues but are in varying states of awareness about this!

When I look around the DC's bedrooms and around the house I feel a sense of panic about how much stuff they have. Then they eat half their dinner and then say "Is this enough to eat so I can have pudding?" and then they seem to have 'treats' of some form or another constantly- it's drip, drip, drip of presents and new toys all the time from me, Daddy, family and friends.

Then today I went to my friends house and the kids were doled out constant treats of ice lollies, biscuits etc etc. She is my best friend but I am starting to feel like we can't be together with the children because her children are so spoiled- constant daytrips, snacks, lollies and so so many toys- her kids are really horrible and I wonder whether this is the reason.

Then I spoke to my other friend this evening (who by comparison to my BF is really strict on treats) and she said she did not want any presents for her son's birthday because he has too many toys (although I think he doesn't have that much). She made me reflect on the way I treat my children and I admire her because she has the courage of her convictions to say this despite the inevitable complaints from her son.

So all this happens and it has got me thinking....
I think I want to change tack on the way the kids are brought up. I think I am pretty good as a mum- consistent, firm, loving (still prone to tempers, screaming and all the usual stuff however!) but I feel 'victim' to the pressure to get the kids all the 'kit', invite the whole class to a birthday party at the soft play centre (instead of inviting 5 friends over for afternoon tea which I would prefer) etc.

I'm waffling here, I guess what I'm asking for your opinion on is should WE all be concerned about our 'soft' parenting that this generation of children seems to be receiving? Do we all need to be a bit more like my 'stricter' friend?

BonsoirAnna Wed 24-Jun-09 20:41:56

I think that giving children lots of toys and outings is a different thing to letting them be the boss. So there are two issues in your post.

I don't buy masses of toys for my DD and I am very fussy about what she does have. I don't want my house littered with crap and I don't want her to have lots of things she doesn't love and value.

I do, however, let her make lots of her own decisions about her life (providing it doesn't get too badly in my own way). I think that modern life is very hard to navigate and that we all have to juggle multiple conflicting activities and make a lot of decisions and that the sooner my DD knows her own mind and is able to argue her point, the better equipped she will be to fend for herself in the long term as she will have had lots of practice at negotiation.

myhandslooksoold Wed 24-Jun-09 20:51:10

Yes you are right modern life is very hard to navigate!
I think the two issues are linked- what I think I am getting at is that I (we?) feel like I am perhaps almost a servant (for want of a better word) to the children and the provison of toys and outtings and letting them call the shots to appease them in some way/avoid tantrums/make them happy is actually going to do them damage in the long run.

I read quite a few of the other parenting posts on mn before writing this post and many of them were from mums feeling guilty about being tough on their children. This is crazy! Why am I (we?) afraid to be tough?

Mintyy Wed 24-Jun-09 20:56:15

I am absolutely not spoiling my dc and letting them be the boss. But they do have more treats than I had as a child. They have more books and clothes and toys too. But then when I was a child we could only have icecream from the icecream van, and it was sold in a block with a cardboard wrapper, because we didn't have a freezer. Etc. Times change.

BonsoirAnna Wed 24-Jun-09 20:58:20

You don't want to get in the habit of being a servant to your children! I don't feel like a servant to my DD (4.7) because I have brought her up myself and she has always cheerfully wanted to join in with whatever I am doing. Less "help" with the hoovering and window cleaning etc might sometimes be welcome! She is also good at entertaining herself because I have deliberately ensured that she is left to get on with things on her own since she was very small.

But I do sometimes feel like a servant to my DSSs (14 and 11) who have been brought up with a full-time nanny/housekeeper who has run around and picked up everything for them all week - and their parents/grandparents have done similar at the weekends. Plus they are very materially spoilt (far more so than my DD) and tend to think that life ought to be very easy.

whooosh Wed 24-Jun-09 21:00:28

OP_i feel the same way.Our children are given far more of a "voice" than we had and they have far more available to them than we had.
I have had to accept that times change and as long as DD is polite,appreciates what she has (that's the biggest problem)and is kind to others then I will still give her choices.
I make a point of going through her toys (with her) every three months to sort out toys for the charity shop.
Manners are non-negotiable-if she wants something then that is negotiable.

myhandslooksoold Wed 24-Jun-09 21:21:21

Yes it is the 'voice' that concerns me sometimes. I made the children play outside yesterday and asked them to stop coming in and out of the house constantly. I then went into the kitchen to sort some dishes and my daughter complained to my son saying 'it's not fair, mummy is allowed in the kitchen but we're not' and I was about to explain to her why I was in the kitchen and I just exploded (internally for once- I usually start shouting!! LOL). She has too much power for my liking!

Don't get me wrong, I am not a walkover and the children are really well behaved. This is an issue on the fringes of my parenting-psyche. It could just become something bigger, especially when my DD starts school and she becomes aware of what other children have. I am anxious about the constant birthday parties that seem to be on the horizon (inviting 30 children to a birthday party means 30 presents and that is frankly horrifying!) I want to be more like my 'stricter' friend- but that takes courage as it will mean sticking my neck out, telling people not to buy presents e.g. having that 'please, no more' conversation with my chid-free friend who loves to lavish my children with gifts. As Mintyy says, times do change- am I about to try and battle with something which is so widespread it is just part of life now- we live in the age of plenty so why am I trying to hold onto my own childhood upbringing?

I am on the dawning of a new era of my parenting and wanted to share with you/ask for your support.

Sorry this post is so long!

baskingseals Wed 24-Jun-09 21:43:55

I think you should absolutely go with your gut feeling on this, you'll feel so much better about yourself and your parenting. I think it will be short term pain for long term gain. It really doesn't matter whatever anybody else is doing - it really doesn't, what's important is you and your family. Go girl!

Overmydeadbody Wed 24-Jun-09 21:51:50

Interesting thread.

I worry sometimes that DS doesn't have as much as his friends, and doesn't go on as many costly excursions, because we simply cannot afford it and I keep to a strict budget, but actually this has helped me feel less guilty.

DS is definately not the boss in this household, but his opinions and feelings are valued and respected just as much as mine. I am not hus servant and neither is he a second-class citizen in his own home.

I am glad we have struck a balance that works for us and DS doesn't expect constant drip feeding of treats and rewards etc.

Overmydeadbody Wed 24-Jun-09 21:53:50

myhand i think I am your strict friend lol, except I am not strict at all, i am just not afraid of saying "no" to a request from DS.

I don't tihnk we live in a time of plenty any more, I tihnk this recession will mean a lot of parents cut back on lavishing their children with material goods.

Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 21:55:55

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Overmydeadbody Wed 24-Jun-09 21:59:01

Banoffi children have to be trained to tidy up, it doesn't come naturally to them, so unless you have invested the time into actually training your DS to help around the house, tisy up, put his bike away etc, you cannot blame him for not doing it.

Start as you mean to go on, and it is never too late to start training them to do more around the house. Your DS is young, you will be able to turn him around and train him to be more helpful grin

Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 22:00:42

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Stormfly Wed 24-Jun-09 22:04:07

I definately can understand what you are saying here and I don't think you are on your own by any means. A lot of parents feel the pressure to allow the dcs more of a say/more toys etc. as that is the way society seems to be but a lot do feel uneasy about it at the same time. I agree with baskingseals about going with your gut feeling.

Kids can feel overwhelmed with too many toys and not be able to appreciate the ones they have so I found it easier just to say 'put it on your birthday/Christmas list' if they wanted something. As you say, it is more than that though, it is the feeling that the balance of power is more in their favour than perhaps it should be. I find I always tend to empathise with them too much and need to remind myself to be firmer with them. I think if you are sure in yourself of what you are saying, children are often surprisingly happy with that, even if they aren't getting their own way. I will keep an eye on this thread - I could use some tips too.

makingdotoo Wed 24-Jun-09 22:06:21

I suppose i fell into the 'shower children with toys' thing, as my girl's bedroom was packed to the brim with toys, so much so that i realised they were totally overwhelmed and couldnt play with one toy for more than a few minutes.

We had a massive clear out, chucked away 3/4 of their toys (well freecycled/charitied) and the difference is amazing. The girls now adore playing in their room, with their handful of toys.

As for being the boss, i am naturally a bit of a sargent major type mother, quite easily irritated and often berate myself for being too quick to snap. I think a middle ground is needed, where children rightfully get a say in their lives and their home...a bit of compromise where possible, but parents also accept they are parents and sometimes that means being firm.

Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 22:10:26

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Overmydeadbody Wed 24-Jun-09 22:14:29

Banoffi I highly recommend you pack up a whole load of your DS's toys (with him there to help) and let him choose a select few to keep out, and then rotate them once a month or even get rid of some altogwther.

Last year in order to afford a summer holiday abroad DS and I jointly agreed to get a lodger in for 6 weeks, to live in DS's room. We packed up almost all of his toys and put them in the attick, and he shared my room with me for the duration of the six weeks the lodger was there.

TBH he didn't miss his toys much, he just used what he did have far more imaginatively. He also really appreciated his toys once he moved back into his room again after the lodger had left.

Overmydeadbody Wed 24-Jun-09 22:15:54

That's the spirit banoffi grin

Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 22:17:26

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Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 22:20:21

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funnypeculiar Wed 24-Jun-09 22:20:52

Give it a go, banoffee smile I am very mean with toys - dcs get very little outside of Christmas/birthdays, and I do notice how 'unmaterial' they are in comparison to some of their more well-toyed up mates. They have always been very good at amusing themselves (this may or may not be related)
Current favourite toy: my granny's button box (they are 5 &3) - they'll play with them for hours...

DOn't think it'll sort out wandering off in meals, or tidying up though (hasn't helped mine grin)

ilikeyoursleeves Wed 24-Jun-09 22:21:09

myhands I can totally relate to you on this one. My DS is 20 months old and IMO has way too much stuff already. We bought him toys at first as we obviously didn't have any but have only really bought him the usual baby / todler things within reasonable amounts, but it's my inlaws that drive me crazy. They spoil DS so much esp my SIL who at Easter bought him a wooden rocking horse, a toy digger, clothes and an egg- for Easter!!!!!!!! All I got DS was a 99p chocolate egg!

She has a 7 year old DS who IMO is utterly spoiled. He is a lovely wee boy but knows nothing about value of toys and gets a new toy literally every single week. Last week he was on Ebay at his grandads bidding on an antique Action man that was going for £45! (and he already has >30 (yes 30) action men. He didn't blink when he told me the price. He also sleeps in on Xmas Day as it's just not exciting, which is so sad.

So I really don't want DS to go down the same road and I want him to appreciate things. I plan on only buying big gifts at birthdays and Xmas (and very special occasions like when his sibling arrives next month). He will still get little things here and there but within reason. I hope anyway! It's so hard though cos when we said we'd be getting DS a toy train for when DS2 arrives (about £10) his grandad burst out laughing and said 'push the boat out why don't you!' ARGH!

Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 22:21:12

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Overmydeadbody Wed 24-Jun-09 22:21:26

I recommend you leave him a ball, hi bike, some cars/trucks/diggers (DS wouldn't servive without these) and maybe a train set if he has one. Oh, and maybe some construction toys like duplo or bricks.

That should do.

And books and colouring stuff.

Banoffi Wed 24-Jun-09 22:24:41

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