This is my final post on child-centered parenting. Here I will discuss one of the most fundamental consequences of making your child the center of your family: selfishness. In my previous post on the topic, I said:
“Child-centered parenting fosters innate selfishness and reduces the significance of morality. The child often feels he is above morality.”
The child rules
The fundamental idea behind child-centered parenting is that the child has all the power in the family. The child decides what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. The child decides what he will eat and how he will dress. The child decides how he will treat others. Giving the child so much power at such a young age encourages selfishness. It encourages the child to think only of himself.
Two sides of the coin: me vs. we
There are two important factors when it comes to selfishness. Not only is the selfish child only concerned with himself, but he also has little regard for others. On the “me” side of the equation, the selfish child is most concerned about his own needs and wants. More importantly, on the “we” side of the equation, he won’t let others stand in his way when satisfying those needs and wants. While selfishness should be discouraged, the lack of concern for others is most damaging. When you juxtapose the two, you see the difference:
- Selfish: Hordes his toys.
- Disregard for others: Steals toys.
- Selfish: Is consumed by the idea of getting gifts (especially at birthdays and Christmas).
- Disregard for others: Shows no appreciation to the giver or for the act of giving.
- Selfish: Always wants to win.
- Disregard for others: Will cheat at a game of Candyland and even gloat about his win.
Morality becomes a non-issue
One of the most dangerous effects of a lack of concern for others is that it makes morality unimportant. When a child is only concerned with himself and his own needs, morality becomes a non-issue. The child disregards any moral directives that are opposed to his own beliefs and desires. For example,
- A child who has little loyalty to others will see no harm in lying.
- A child who doesn’t consider the dominion of others will have no problem stealing.
- A child who feels he is above “the system” (school, work, etc.) will cheat the system.
For this child, his own wants and needs take precedence over any moral direction he may receive. Those around him may attempt to teach morality, but if the basic concern for others is not there, the moral teachings simply won’t take hold.
What can a parent do?
The best way to teach morality to your child is to teach him to value others. And the best way to teach him to value others is to show him that he is not the center of the universe. Teach him that everyone in our lives holds a special place in our hearts and that they are to be valued and accepted for who they are (not for what they offer). Show him that the actions he commits against others damage the relationships that we have with those people. Teach him that if we want to be cared for, we must care for others.
Here are some ideas you can use in your daily life to encourage your child to value others:
- Model the behavior you want to see in your child. Don’t lie, cheat or steal. Even the smallest transgression will get noticed.
- Teach your child how to interact with others by sharing, taking turns, being honest, etc.
- Encourage your child to thank others for any act of kindness.
- Let your child lose at a game of Candyland. Teach him how to lose gracefully.
- Teach him the value of playing by the rules. Let him make the mistake of breaking a rule and receiving the consequence. Don’t bail him out or make excuses for him.
- Show him through your words and actions that adults and others in authority are to be respected.
- Teach him how to handle disappointment by saying no to his requests. The earlier he learns this the better off he will be.
Almost any experience in your child’s life can be a lesson in the value of others. Use it to your advantage.