Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mom's gift to kids: 'No!'

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of TLC's "Shalom in the Home" says we can't just blame kids for acting bratty or spoiled. Kids today, he says, are exhibiting a lot of anger because they feel neglected by parents who may put careers ahead of family.

"The one thing that kids need in huge doses is love," Rabbi Shmuley says. "They're insatiable for it. They're not getting it."

Rabbi Shmuley says parents have a hard time teaching discipline and respect for others because of three factors affecting many families.

1. Exhaustion: Parents can't say no because they don't have the energy to do so.

2. Guilt: Not being able to give more of their time, parents often give material gifts instead.

3. A loveless society: Shmuley says "we don't live in a very loving society. People come from broken childhoods; they often have loveless marriages. The only love they get is from their children, so they're afraid to discipline them because they think their children won't love them."

Parents, Rabbi Shmuley says, need to realize that discipline is love. "'No' is just as loving as saying 'yes,'" he says.

Rebecca, a divorced mother of two who works, knows that she spoils her kids. Since she works a full-time job, she cannot spend as much time with her son and daughter as she would like. "A lot of times I feel like I am Mom and Dad to both of my children," she says.

Because she feels guilty about not spending enough time with them, Rebecca says she tends to "overcompensate when they ask me for things ... so I overindulge."

Rebecca's children have developed certain techniques to get the things they want. Her 5-year-old son, Brandon, uses "sad eyes." Her daughter, Stephanie, uses peer pressure. "If I really want to get something from my mom," Stephanie says, "I'll come home and I'll be like, 'Mom, all my friends have [it].'"

Rebecca says her inability to deny her children's every want is getting out of control. "I want to say no, but it comes out yes," she says.

Dr. Robin Smith says Rebecca is trying to make up for her perceived inadequacy as a single working mom by showering Brandon and Stephanie with gifts. This places so much emphasis on material goods that the children are learning to define themselves by material things.

"If they were to lose everything -- if the rug gets pulled from underneath us -- you've got to be able to still know that you are good enough," Dr. Robin says. "Right now, if they lose things, they're going to feel empty."

The solution to feelings of guilt, Dr. Robin says, won't come from stuff. "I want you to really recognize that what you're trying to do, which is to love them, to make up for your not being there, you can't do it with things. Things will never satisfy and never fill the sacred hole that only a mom and dad can do."

As for Rebecca's struggles as a single mom, Dr. Robin says, "You can't be Dad, just be a good mom. Or if you're a dad, just be a good dad. Fill your own sense of being good enough and satisfied and that it's not about what you have ... and then you can feel good about yourself."

Do you think your inability to say no is harming your kids? These are three questions you need to ask yourself.