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How Not To Spoil Your Child

At around 18 months, you can start gently sowing seeds of humility and gratitude, while leaving the "Me, me, mes!" behind. Here’s how:

DON’T buy, buy, buy

Gifts on special occasions are a virtual right of childhood. But if you bring home a trinket every time you work late or fill your daughter’s entire bedroom with Barbies just because you didn’t have them when you were a kid, your child will cross over from appreciating these gifts to expecting them, cautions Betsy Brown Braun, author of You’re Not the Boss of Me. In other words, exercise restraint.

DO delay gratification

If your child’s been begging for a certain toy, it’s OK to let her yearn for it for a while, says Brown Braun. You might say, "Yes, that ballerina doll is beautiful. You can draw a picture of it for the fridge, and we’ll put it on a list for your birthday."

DON’T drop everything to attend to her demands

When your baby was a newborn, one hearty wail would immediately get her whatever she needed—a new diaper, a bottle, a hug. Now that she’s a toddler, she needs to learn that the world will not spin out of control if she doesn’t get what she needs at that very moment. "Say to her, ‘I will get your milk as soon as I am finished putting the dishes away, Sweetie,’" says Brown Braun. As she learns that other people have needs that are just as important as her own, her me-first attitude will subside.

DO teach about giving as well as getting

Make charity and community service a natural part of your child’s life. Give her pennies every week to put in a jar to be donated to a cause she’ll understand, like an animal shelter or a school that needs books. She can also help you pack up a box of canned goods for a local food pantry. Not only will she learn about the joy of giving, she’ll come to appreciate what she has rather than focusing on what she wants.

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