How to Avoid Spoiling Your Kids

It can be hard to be a good parent. Too often we solve parenting problems by showering our kids with junk food, toys, and television.  Extra calories, extra stuff, and mindlessness.  This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing as Minimalists.  We need to fix it, and I can show you how.  

Quiz: Are Your Kids Spoiled?

First, take my quiz to determine if your kids are indeed spoiled.  It should only take a minute.

  1. Do you live in America?
  2. If the answer to #1 was no, do you live in a country with strict anti-child labor laws?
  3. Do your children have smooth, uncalloused, hands?

If the answer to any of the above questions was “yes”, then I’m sorry, your kids are spoiled.  You are living in contradiction with the very bedrock principles of Minimalism.  

The situation may seem hopeless, but before you fly to Thailand and sell your children on the black market, finish reading this article.  I can help you turn your lazy fry-guzzling couch potatoes into lean obedient soldiers.

Problem: Your kids won’t eat their vegetables

This is an easy problem to solve.  Playfully joke that “Booboo”, their favorite stuffed bear, will finish their veggies if they don’t.  If they still refuse your lighthearted nudging, turn that smile upside down.  Bring the bear in, forcefully mash his face in their untouched peas, then rip his head off.  Explain that bears die when they eat vegetables, but kids are the opposite: they only die if they refuse to eat them.

Problem: Your kids throw tantrums at the store

We’ve all been there: you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store when little Timmy sees the gummy worms.  You, being a good parent, refuse his requests, but they only increase in tenor.  Soon his sniffles have evolved into a full blown tempest of snot as he cries to the heavens, and more importantly, everyone within earshot.

 Yes Mom (or Dad), you’re in a tight spot.  Your spoiled little kid is so used to getting what he wants that he erupts when he doesn’t get it.  What to do?

When I see this happen my first question is this: has your child been properly leash trained?  If the answer is anything but a firm yes, you need to go back to square one.  Break out the choke collar and make sure your child wears that instead of his normal one (your child does have a collar, right?).  If he so much as sniffs at a gumdrop your automatic reaction should be to rein him in fast and hard.  The tantrums should cease, at which you can go back to a normal leash and collar.

Reader Tip: When leash training your toddler, don’t worry about animal cruelty laws, as they only apply to animals.

Problem: Your kids have too many toys

The quick thinking parent might try to surreptitiously give away or hide a few toys without their knowledge.  This is a mistake.  You need to make them watch as you destroy their favorite play things in clever and sadistic ways.  Terrifying destruction is the best way to teach kids a lesson.

I recommend holding an impromptu funeral for their favorite toys.  Wake them up in the middle of the night and march them into the garage, where your wife is waiting in a gorilla mask.  Place their favorite doll or race car in a circle of candles.  Take turns hacking at them with a hatchet, hammer, or even a rusty wrench.  

When there are only pieces left, douse liberally in lighter fluid and light them on fire.  As the dancing flames cast flickers over their horrified faces, begin your speech.  With a solemn voice utter these words:

“Materials are prisons for our souls.  Their soft plastic and brightly colored paint are the iron bars of our confinement.  Fear not, for flame purifies all.  The smoke signifies our freedom from materialism, and proclaims the death of the toys, which are burning in hell.  Amen.  Namaste.”

Carrying out this fun ritual a few times should be enough to convince them of the error of their ways.

Problem: Your kids don’t know about death

You need to tell them.  Read my guide here.

Problem: Your kids watch too much TV

This one is tricky, because you can’t simply smash the TV in with a hammer while they are watching cartoons and blame their wanton lifestyle.  That would be an easy fix, but then you would need to buy a new TV.  You need to dig deeper.  Excess TV watching is fundamentally a problem of not having enough to do, which is the hallmark of a spoiled kid.

To solve this problem you need to fill their time with substance, and that means work.  Get them to do chores around the house.  All of them.  Being “too young” is just an excuse for lazy kids made by lazy parents.  Any child over the age of 5 should be able to operate a chainsaw, or balance a checkbook.

Start with easy stuff, like washing dishes, mopping the floors, and doing the laundry.  From there, graduate them to more advanced tasks like paying the bills or doing your taxes.  If they can’t read yet then stick to manual labor.  Cleaning the gutters, trimming branches, and changing your cars oil are all kid friendly tasks.

If all the household chores are done and they still have time on their hands you need to invent tasks for them.  I like make my kids collect heavy stones from the front yard and pile them in a wheelbarrow in the back yard.  Then, when they are asleep, I wheel the rocks back to the front yard and put them back.  

Problem: Grandma and Grandpa spoil them

This is a classic dilemma.  On one hand, the free childcare that grandma and grandpa provide while you and your wife spend a week boozing it up in Cabo is invaluable.  On the other side of the coin, the toys, and excess sweets, and television they provide during that week will spoil them rotten.  You try dealing with kids who wont shut up about candy while hungover from a week long bender.

The obvious solution is to threaten to put Grandma and Grandpa into a nursing home if they don’t stop with the junk food.  This could be a win win, especially if your wife’s parents are the ones doing the spoiling, but you would lose the free childcare.  Luckily, there is a better way.

Make it clear to your parents that any food or treat they serve your kids will be made abundantly available at home.  As in, for every meal.  Thus, if they want to give little Timmy a candybar, that’s fine, but if they do, candy bars is what he will be eating for dinner for the next week.  And breakfast.  And lunch.

This new policy should work on two levels.  The first is that you will make your kids tired of the sweets.  After a week of nothing but Skittles and M&M’s for every meal, they will be begging you for fruits and vegetables.  Similarly, the grandparents should notice how Timmy now has a distinct waddle, and decide to tone down the sweets.  And if they fail to realize that their grandson is on the expressway to diabetes, then maybe it’s time for that nursing home.

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