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Parenting

Teaching Kids Responsibility By: Stephanie Dunnewind, Seattle Times The best-intentioned parents might be raising spoiled kids. Too often, experts say, parents are spoiling kids not just with toys and gadgets, but by failing to set limits, not requiring chores, and smoothing all frustrations to keep kids happy. "Parents think they overindulge out of kindness, but they're training kids to be helpless and irresponsible," said Connie Dawson, co-author of the new book How Much is Enough? Everything You Need to Know to Steer Clear of Overindulgence and Raise Likeable, Responsible, and Respectful Children. It looks good and it feels good at the time, but over the long haul, overindulgence undermines a child's confidence and competence," she said. Two-thirds of parents say their children are spoiled, according to a 2001 Time/CNN survey. And it's worse than even a decade ago, 80 percent of those surveyed agreed. "Clearly, parents are more indulgent than the previous generation," said Dan Kindlon, author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age. "Sure, kids in the '50s were spoiled compared to their parents, but we've taken it up another step," he said. "A lot of parents now have gone off the deep end." While parents uniformly agree that self-control and self-discipline are important for children to learn, only a third said they've successfully imparted these qualities, according to a 2002 survey by Public Agenda. Likewise, just over a third say they've taught children to be independent and do for themselves, despite the three-quarters who say those traits are "absolutely essential". Parents who overindulge ultimately fail at the most important task of parenting: helping their child grow up. "Really, kids want to grow toward competence," said Dawson. "What they need are adults to help them get there." Dawson and her co-authors studied adults who were overindulged as children and discovered three main ways of overindulging: Giving too much. "With a constant barrage of too many and too much, children often experience a sense of scarcity because they fail to learn the vital skill of ascertaining what is enough." Over-nurturing. "There is no such thing as too much love. But true love does not hover or intrude or deprive a child of the opportunity to reach out, to learn new skills, to feel the thrill of achievement, or to experience consequences." Too little structure. "Soft structure is giving children too much freedom and license. Firm structure includes establishing and enforcing rules, creating firm boundaries, monitoring children's safety, teaching children skills for living and insisting they do chores." In many families, even basic kid chores are often waived. Three-quarters of 1,015 adults surveyed said children have fewer chores than their counterparts 10 or 15 years ago, according to the Time/CNN survey. But experts say chores are essential for children, whether it's taking out the garbage or feeding a pet. "It doesn't matter so much what the child does," said Elizabeth Crary, author of Pick Up Your Socks...and Other Skills Growing Children Need! "What's helpful is children feel they're contributing to the welfare of the family in some manner."

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