Below is a guest post from a great writer Melanie Hargrave.
Melanie is a wife and homemaker from Idaho whose pride and joy is her family.
She is her daughters’ number one fan, always ready at a moment’s notice to grab her foam fingers and spirit shakers and cheer on her girls. In addition to spending time with her family, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and sharing her experiences with others.
As parents, we all want to give the best to our children. However, there is a fine line between supporting your child and simply spoiling them. How do you know when and in what way to support your kid without undermining your authority or crippling them with misplaced entitlement?
As a mother of two, I have grappled with this problem for several years. Like any good parent, I love my children, and want them to be happy. This can not only make discipline difficult, but also positive support. How much support is too much?
Last year I came face to face with this issue when my eldest daughter, Rory (now age 11), became interested in cheerleading. I have always considered myself a supportive parent, but I am also a woman, and I worried about the kind of image cheerleading portrayed and the potential values the sport communicated to young, and impressionable girls.
However, I could see that Rory was invested in the idea and I opted to use this opportunity as a learning tool, rather than prohibiting her. Luckily, cheerleading has proven a rewarding experience for both mother and daughter. As with most sports, cheerleading emphasizes teamwork, unity, accountability, and hard work—all things I hope to teach my children.
But I also knew that it could very easily undermine other values I wanted my daughter to have, including a healthy body image, gratitude, and humility. I wanted her to know that sport isn’t about exclusivity or popularity.
So, I set some guidelines. She could only participate if she agreed to stay caught up in all her homework and maintain good grades. Further, if she wanted to spend time with her teammates outside of practice, I had to meet them and their parents (a norm for all of my kids’ friends). This set up a system of accountability for Rory, and allowed me to feel more comfortable letting her participate in this new activity.
The experience has been beneficial for both me and my daughter. I have learned that there are ways to promote good values like hard work and responsibility, without sacrificing positive support. As a result, my daughter is not the only cheerleader in the family. As her mother, I am her number one fan and rush to grab my proverbial pompoms and spirit shakers in support of her efforts.
I know cheerleading is not for all families. But I think some valuable lessons on supporting your children can be extracted from my experience.
How to Support, Not Spoil:
1. Encourage your child’s interests
Sometimes it can be difficult to discern the difference between our own goals for our children and their best interests. As I said before, I was not keen on my daughter becoming a cheerleader. However, I believe that supporting your children and their interests is important for the development of their identity and self-esteem. Children should be able to rely on their parents for support and encouragement; and I believe the right support fosters a healthy parent-child relationship.
2. Set guidelines
The key to maintaining a good balance between support and spoilage, is maintaining guidelines. I supported my daughter’s decision to join cheer as long as she agreed to abide by certain rules. My goal was to create rules that would encourage my daughter to have responsibility for her actions. I was also prepared to uphold those rules if she failed to meet those standards. Follow-through is a must. If we don’t stand by our word, our children will come to expect little or no consequences for their actions.
3. Provide positive feedback
Rory impressed me this year with her diligence in both school and cheer. She upheld her end of the bargain and maintained good grades, while doing her best on the cheer team. As a result, I made sure to communicate my pride in her and encourage her efforts. I encouraged her when she was struggling, and I praised her when she succeeded. When the praise is earned, it bears weight and will only boost your child’s healthy self-esteem.
4. Focus on and reinforce values
Finally, reinforce good values. No matter what your children’s interests, you as a parent can find positive values to encourage. Although cheer tends to have negative stereotypes, I chose to focus my attention on the good values the sport promotes. In this way, Rory could see by my example the kind of person I hoped she would become, and could also focus on developing good values.
Question: Have you or your spouse ever been guilty of spoiling your kids?