7 Kislev 5778 / Saturday, November 25, 2017 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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The Spoiled Child    

The Spoiled Child

Many well-meaning parents fail to differentiate between giving their child warmth and love and between spoiling him with luxuries and material items...


Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody

You can't spoil a child by giving too much love. Children must have plenty of love at home, so they won't look for it outside the home, Heaven forbid. A spoiled child is a child with an inflated sense of entitlement.
Learning to express gratitude has a tremendous impact on a child's character. It saves him from becoming that spoiled crybaby who thinks that he is entitled to everything. It helps him to not be jealous of his siblings and to be happy with his lot.
On the other hand, children who never learn to express gratitude exhibit negative character traits, especially selfishness, jealousy and greed. The child becomes spoiled, his temper flaring when his every wish is not fulfilled. He is perpetually dissatisfied, and his behavior is insufferable.
Let's take heed to a saying of our Sages (Gemara, Tractate Nedarim 81): "Pay attention to the children of the poor, for Torah will flow forth from them." A limited income provides a climate that's more conducive for children to learn and merit Torah. The games of rich children - iPods, iPads, and iPhones - will detract from Torah learning and excellence. So what should people who are not poor do to properly educate their children? Can a middle-class or well-off person merit children who are Torah scholars? Our Sages teach us an important lesson in child-raising: Be very sparing in granting games and material amenities to a child.
Some children grow up with wealth and abundance; their parents buy them everything their heart desires. Later, these parents don't understand why their child is dissatisfied. When the child grows up, it is clear from his behavior that he doesn't know how to be satisfied with anything that Hashem gives him. Such a child is either irresponsible or reckless with abundance. Wait and see what financial and relationship problems he'll suffer in marriage. As such, the parent who gives lavishly and indiscriminately is not doing the child a favor; indeed, he is harming and even crippling the child.
Many well-meaning parents fail to differentiate between giving their child warmth and love and between spoiling him with luxuries and material items. By giving their child "things," they are not giving him what he truly needs. A child's main needs are attention, a listening and empathetic ear, one-on-one time and understanding. Parents who shower their child with material items are actually giving cheap substitutes for the child's true needs. They buy their child candies and expensive toys rather than invest in him emotionally. Eventually though, they won't be saving time. A parent who fails to give time and attention to his child will eventually waste time and money looking for educational and psychological professionals to repair damages of errors in child education.
The reason that limited means help foster a fine Torah education is because poverty makes people humble. Human nature is such that a person feels pride with any power or advantage. More than anything else, money gives people a false sense of pride.
Children, in particular, feel proud of their new, expensive possessions. See how they flaunt them to their friends! But, if they grow up poor, they make do with whatever their parents manage to give them. A boy or girl who wears hand-me-downs naturally grows up feeling humble. They learn to be happy with their lot in life.
What should a person do if he is not poor? Can he merit children who are scholars of Torah? When our Sages say, "Pay attention to the children of the poor, for Torah will flow forth from them," they are teaching us a vital foundation of child education that applies to everyone, not just to the poor. We learn from the poor not to spoil our children with too many material items, even if we have the means to do so. Instead, parents should invest of themselves, fulfilling their children's emotional and spiritual needs.
Children with an inflated sense of entitlement become adults who are seldom satisfied, appreciative, or grateful. They lack basic good character traits. They have no regard for prayer for they lack the basic understanding that one must pray to Hashem for everything. After all, they've been accustomed to getting everything effortlessly. Why trust in Hashem, pray, or work hard when all they ever had to do was snap their fingers and demand whatever they wanted from their parents?
Every parent would be well-advised to adopt the child-raising method of the poor. Affluent parents must take special care in teaching their children to have good character traits, to appreciate whatever he gets and to know that he must work hard in this world. Training children in gratitude and appreciation, while teaching them to take nothing for granted, should begin when they're babies.

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