My name is Catherine and I am spoiling my children.
When I say “spoiling”, I don’t mean that I have lost control. I believe in parents being in charge. I believe in saying no. I believe in no sweets before tea, unless it’s a very special occasion; in eating your broccoli whether you like it or not; in bedtimes and manners and moderation.
And yet I’m spoiling my children.
Perhaps it would be more true to say that I haven’t lost control yet. I just feel that my control over what they have, what they see, what they consume is slipping away.
Compared to a lot of their friends, they’re not “spoiled”. They don’t have the same gadgets, the same spending power, the same level of veto over their everyday lives as many of their classmates. They don’t have exotic holidays, they don’t have designer clothes, they don’t even have the same degree of attention. So why do I feel that they have so much that they don’t value it?
Perhaps we’ve overdone the day trips. Perhaps they need a long period of boredom at home to refuel their imaginations rather than taking castles and beaches and parks as so many torture chambers designed to keep them away from what they really want to be doing (which is, obviously, playing on screens).
Perhaps we’ve let them watch too much TV, given in too early to the demands for screen-time and Minecraft and YouTube.
Perhaps we’ve acquiesced too easily to the toys on the birthday and Christmas lists that we knew would bring a morning of excitement and fun, before disappearing into the back of the cupboard or breaking beyond repair.
Before I had children, even when they were tiny, I was adamant that I wouldn’t give in to pester power; determined that they would grow up making the most of small things rather than learning early to take the big ones for granted. At first, it seemed to work: they’d have more fun with a cardboard box than whatever had been inside it; would spend hours engrossed with sticks or pegs or imaginary friends; would be satisfied with an occasional packet of chocolate buttons.
As they get older, though, I feel that I’m losing. I’m failing in the trade-offof what I think is right with the world in which they live. I might be giving them too much, too soon, but I know what can happen when you lack the social capital to interact with your peers. Principles make poor playmates.
They don’t get everything they want, of course. There are plenty of things they think they’re massively deprived by the lack of that they’ll just have to learn to live without, for financial or other reasons. There are others, though, that I’d rather they didn’t have but to which I don’t – or can’t – object as strongly, and (not being as joyless as I realise this post sounds) others again that I know will just make them happy.
How do I teach my children to be grateful for what they have, rather than pining over what they don’t?