Some parents complain about their older sons and daughters being cold, arrogant, selfish and money-oriented. «It’s like we gave them everything we could and yet, we get nothing in return?» A psychologist and a writer of bestsellers «Our Poor Rich Children», «Leave Your Child Alone. Simple Rules for Wise Parents», Marina Melia, is sharing her tips on reconnecting emotionally with your child.
New era, new rules
In recent years, new trends have emerged in parent-child relationships. In the past, children used to seek grown-ups’ attention. These days, we are fighting for their love. At times, we just don’t have enough time or energy to be there for them. This lack of attention is guiltily compensated for by gifts or money.
Certain successful businessmen believe in the principle: «I give it to you, you give it to me». A man is providing a comfortable life for his wife, fulfilling her every whim and taking her out. In return, no questions are asked and no strings attached to the unquestioning loyalty in exchange. Grown-ups make these kind of arrangements deliberately. It is a certain psychological contract. Like any business, everything has its price. Similarly, a child, is invited to have a similar relationship with his parents — however nowadays is the exchange also honoured in the same way? You live in a perfect world. In return, you are expected to show love, obedience and follow our rules.
Eventually the child starts to believe: the more he is given, the more he is loved. If his dad shows up with no chocolate or toy, this means «he doesn’t love me today». If one of his grandmas gives him five toys, and the other one — three, she loves him less.
Successful people traditionally have busy lives. Time is money, and sometimes they really struggle to find a spare minute for their children. They comfort themselves with the idea that they really are working on their children’s very future, happiness and well-being. Buying their love thus serves as a surrogate for real emotions and feelings.
The guiltier they feel, the more they «buy themselves out of having enough time to spend with their children». An unfulfilled parental debt and its compensation are accumulating over the years. Toys, expensive shoes and later on jewellery, fancy cars, million-dollar parties.
Material rewards and money leave no room for healthy communication. No common topics of conversation, no space for a play, walk or reading a book. At best, an outing would be arranged — restaurants, theatres, cinemas or shopping. But this is not about real communication. Our attention is not focused on each other, but on a show, a film, a Michelin Star dish or whatever else there is.
Spoilt and neglected
Our life revolves around children; we’d do anything to get their love. And yet, they feel lonely and abandoned. Oblivious of what is love, friendship or mutual help, they only know how to take. And they take advantage of their parents in the same way.
According to US research, only 13 % of pre-adolescents from prosperous families feel close to their parents, classing their relationship as «perfect». Another 27 % consider them «ok». The remaining 60 % of 11–12 year-olds complain about feeling disconnected. Further studies show that these boys and girls are more prone to depression, anxiety, juvenile delinquency and drug use.
In a purely material world, emotions are devalued. Children feel neglected and unnecessary and reciprocate by rejecting their parents. By the time they are adolescents, no rules will be tolerated. They are ready to challenge and confront grown-ups at any moment or at the least provocation. Rushing to introduce restrictions, parents then get threatened, blackmailed and disheartened. The «radiant future» they’ve endlessly worked on is «now». And it’s not the gilded paradise they expected.
Kids are inconsiderate, cold and calculating, and that makes us sad. They are just «paying us back» in the same currency, however, — money, gifts and hired services… Every investment was placed in them, except for the most important: warmth, sympathy, care and intimacy. It is our lot as parents to feel bitter, resentful and disappointed now.
What can you do?
Being well-fed, well-groomed and «loaded with money» is not enough. From his or her very birth, a child is woven into a world of human relations. They have certain psychological needs, and must be welcomed and loved. Our mission is reconnecting emotionally, having a genuine, sincere relationship rather than a solely materialistic and financial approach. We ought to meet their real needs, learn to express our parental love through other means than gifts.
We do live in a material world. There is nothing wrong with buying new and beautiful things for your little one. But it has to be a gift with a thought. Not just expensively «buying them off» but an emotional memory.
Psychology operates with a concept of «anchor» — events, objects or words bringing certain emotions or states of mind. We all have these kinds of «anchors». A family holiday at the seaside, a shell bought at a local market. Back home, it brings happy memories of sunny days. The shell costs nothing, but it is as dear to a child’s heart as a family memory.
At times, we would all like to buy our children something that we lacked in our own childhood. There once was a boy who lived poorly, raised by a single mother. His classmate owned a toy railroad he’d always go to have a «peep» at. It was his childhood dream, a symbol of happiness. He dreamed that one day he’d earn lots of money and buy himself one. Eventually, he became a wealthy and successful man. He started buying various bits of toy railroad (trains, bridges, traffic lights) for his then 1-year-old son.
This technology was too complicated for the little one. The man would always assemble it by himself and tell his son off: «Don’t touch! Don’t break it!»
The railroad collection eventually took up a whole room. The child was not allowed to go there on his own, and he could rarely play with it. He was therefore bored and the dad was genuinely offended by him not appreciating such a wonderful toy.
It is true that he could have approached it differently, finding common ground with his son. He could have told him how he had dreamed of those wagons as a child. They could have bought more trains together. This childhood memory could have brought them really close.
Giving your child a gift to distract him from a sad experience is another bad idea.
A ten-year-old girl lost her beloved dog. Without even sharing her grief, her father rushed to buy her expensive earrings that she’d been looking at before. Enjoy!
It is also important to have a common family strategy as to gift-giving. What to give, on what occasion. No flooding your child with unnecessary things, but choosing them thoughtfully with demonstrated affection above all. He would then remember this person and event, making it an emotional «anchor».
No toys and gadgets can replace parental love. It doesn’t help solely working for our childrens’ comfortable future. It is the present moment that matters. Reconnecting emotionally is therefore far more important than money. It is all about learning to give them our time, affection and energy.