Any good parent knows that at some point, we all need to draw lines between a child’s demands, their needs and their wants. Some children will ask for the moon, but naturally since this is totally impossible, it’s denying. However, children can and will ask for excesses above and beyond their immediate necessities. That much is innate. However, where do we draw the line as parents? Should we give them whatever they want?
I’m of the camp that some wants should be denied, but only in so much as I’m personally not willing to meet them. In other words, if it’s reasonable for me to meet the want, and it usually is, I’ll oblige. Let’s define wants and needs though. A want is an extra treat, when treats have already been given. It’s something extra and not needed to survive. A want is not a huge or attention, but it is extra attention when time does not permit it, or when it’s inappropriate – such as having to leave for work or when talking on the telephone. Therefore, wants are negotiable. You might bend if a child asks politely. This is the route of the issue. When my son goes out of his way to ask nicely by using proper manners and signs, for something that is clearly a want, I’ll usually reward him. If it’s in excess, I’ll usually deny him the request despite how nicely he asks. Because my wife and I are both consistent with him and side with each other all of the time, my son does not try to divide and conquer. In fact, he’s never tried to do so yet. We make it clear that we support one another and even say this to him. We started him very early with these trends and it has sets a lifelong tone.
When signs aren’t used and whining ensues, we use corrective measures. It might sound harsh, especially today with such lax rules (and entitled youth), but if our son does not request properly, we simply ask him to “use his signs” and have him try again. Once he’s made himself clear, we still might deny his request if his timing isn’t suited to our wants and needs. Life is a pretty rough journey and the sooner he learns that not all his wants will be met, the better, in my opinion. I trust that he’ll grow up realizing this and either fight more persistently and be rewarded for it, or will be prepared to join the rest of us (in mediocrity!) However, that being said, if he does use his signs and says please we’re usually happy to oblige. We really do want him to learn that even his Mom and Dad are suckers for a polite and respectful little boy, and chances are pretty good that the rest of the world will also be happy to reward this tact.