Useful Rules for Successful Parents: Dealing with Selfish Kids

It is true that children are born selfish. Babies have needs and they let their needs be known through crying. All babies can think about are their needs – it’s how they survive. But as babies grow, they learn other ways to get what they want and they learn that there are other people around them that also have needs. So, there comes a time when the ‘me, me, me’ egocentric behaviors start to go away and more empathetic nature emerges. But that doesn’t happen naturally, it’s more a nurture thing. So when parents don’t know to teach empathetic lessons, their children end up with selfish behaviors. Unfortunately, parents focus on these selfish behaviors and try to find ways to get rid of them. That’s the catch. As a successful parent you will learn that you can’t teach kids not to be something. If you want to teach your children to ‘not be selfish’, you need to teach them by replacing the selfish behaviors with empathetic and generous behaviors. While you can keep your child from acting selfishly in the moment using consequences, in order to raise them successfully, you have to teach them empathy and generosity.

Tips to curb selfishness in children:

Set rules and limits for your children. Kids need to know what the rules are, so setting them is important. They also need to know where you draw the line and what the consequences for crossing that line will be. Even successful parents will come across a behavior their child starts and not know what to do about it because it’s not something they ever thought would happen, so therefore there’s no rule. At those times call your child on the bad behavior, let them know the consequence and follow through with it. Explain to your child that even though you did not have a rule for the specific behavior, you cannot condone it. Then tell them now there is a rule and you hope it won’t happen again. Make your expectations clear. You expect that your child will be generous. You expect that your child will show gratitude. Use these words at times when you were expecting your child to be acting that way. Remind your children to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Sit down with them to write thank you notes when they are young and have thank you notes and stamps available to your older children. Also, show your children how to be generous with their time. You can do this by joining volunteer efforts as a family and helping your older children join volunteer efforts by finding opportunities and providing rights. Children who volunteer their time learn very valuable lessons about their community and their abilities to be a part of it. Let your child know when they are acting selfishly. Call them on it. While you do not want to embarrass her child in front of their friends or other people, you do want to get the message crossed. Calmly, ask your child to please stop doing what they are doing. If they begin to argue back, asked to speak to them privately or tell your child that you can talk about it later, but for now they are to stop the behavior. Fair and firm discipline works best if you wish to raise successful children. By being fair – trying not to embarrass – and by being fair – not allowing the behavior – you will teach your child that the selfish behavior must stop. Model empathetic behavior. Be kind to the people you interact with on a daily basis. For instance when you go to the grocery store, smile at the cashier and tell them to have a nice day. Or, when your child is finished with a huge project they did at school send the teacher a thank you note. It will make their day and show your child how to appreciate when someone makes an effort on their behalf. You also want to be careful of modeling selfish and gluttonous behaviors to your children. We all have some little things that we are selfish about. For instance, one of mine is having cream for my morning coffee. If someone else uses up my cream and there is none left, I used to pout. I took notice of the selfish behavior when I saw my oldest daughter doing the same thing. I changed the pouting behavior by being proactive in making sure there is cream in my refrigerator instead of waiting until the last minute to buy some. Allow your children to earn what they have instead of just giving them these things. When you have to work for the things you own, you gain a sense of accomplishment. When you are simply given everything, you gain a sense of entitlement, which leads to selfish behavior.

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