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Five tips to avoid overindulging children

FARGO — Children can be master manipulators.

They’re very good at trying to get what they want. They whine, cajole, beg and, if none of those tactics work, they ask another parent.

But The Village Family Service Center says delayed gratification is an important skill for children to learn, and overindulgence can result in an inability to delay gratification.

“Adulthood may be a rude awakening if they’ve grown up thinking they should be able to have everything they want,” according to a Village news release.

Here are five tips to help avoid overindulging your children, from Kelly Olson, The Village Family Service Center’s Minnesota programs and operations division director.

Plan ahead If you’re taking your kids shopping and don’t plan to buy anything for them, tell them ahead of time, Olson said. Then make sure you don’t give in, no matter how many times they ask.

American children ages 12 to 17 will ask their parents for something an average of nine times until their parents finally give in, and 55 percent of the kids surveyed said they usually are successful in getting their parents to give in, according to a survey by the Center for a New American Dream.

If you are going to buy something for your child, ask yourself if they really need it or if it helps them grow emotionally, spiritually or physically, Olson said.

Find teachable moments Overindulged kids may think the way they grow up is the way the world works, and they’ll expect to have anything they want when they want it, Olson said.

Set rules for large purchases. Saving large items for Christmas and birthday gifts, for example, helps children learn to wait.

You also can teach kids the value of a dollar by having them help you grocery shop and stay within a budget. And Olson says to give your kids an allowance, then teach them to save their own money for things they really want.

Family planning Give your children chores. Olson says it teaches them responsibility and makes them feel like a valued member of the family.

Older children also can be involved in saving for a family trip, she said. They might even come up with ways to reduce monthly spending.

Just say ‘no’ Realize that it’s OK to set limits for kids and to say no, Olson said.

“Life is not always about being told yes, and we need to prepare our kids for the no’s as well,” she said.

Be the decision maker Parents need to accept their role as decision-maker for their kids, Olson said.

“Kids have too many decisions to make and often are not developmentally able to make good decisions,” she said. “It’s our job, as parents, to guide them.”

Tracy Frank

Tracy Frank is a SheSays, Variety, and Farmer's Forum reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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