To pamper or not to pamper — where do we draw the line
Indulgent parents do little to prevent children’s suffering, say experts
RIYADH — Every time Abu Hisham looks at his children, he remembers his miserable childhood. He always dreamed of having money to buy a toy, while his father insisted that he studied in the morning and worked with him in the evening. He was punished for mistakes without asking why.
Abu Hisham lived a childhood that cannot be considered abusive, but he was raised in the ways of the old where children were obliged to obedience and severe discipline. They were taught bearing responsibility at an early age, as well as austerity in living.
After all those years of a harsh life, he became a father to four sons. He was very kind to them, always thought of providing a good life for them and dealt with them in a very flexible manner.
He reached a point where he was unable to interfere in their choices even if they were wrong. “I do not want them to live what I experienced in the past,” he thought.
He indulged his sons in that parental emotion to the point of exaggeration and excessive spoiling, attending to their every wish, even if he was unconvinced.
The strict upbringing that Abu Hisham experienced in his childhood transformed him into a man who could make his own future and succeed in his work and life, but he questions whether his sons will succeed through his way of bringing them up.
It is necessary that parents realize the importance of balance in dealing with children, as too much pampering produces a generation that is not responsible for their actions or making the right decisions — a generation that is dependent on others with a narcissistic attitude and that cannot adapt to the outside world.
At the same time, excessive harshness produces a weak generation with shaky personalities who do not have the confidence to take initiatives. They also develop an aggressive attitude, leading to disobedience, arrogance and rebellion.
The solution then becomes in being firm, not harsh or cruel, and by setting up controls for rewards and punishment.
Al-Riyadh daily spoke to a number of parents and parenting experts to shed more light on the issue.
Mariam Yousef, a mother of three, said she lived a harsh childhood where her family denied her many things, even the simplest of her wishes. She was not allowed to go out unless accompanied by her mother, out of fear for her because she was a girl.
“I grew up vowing to be a different, flexible mother with my own daughters.
My dream became a reality and I became a mother to three daughters whom I did not treat with cruelty nor did I prevent them from doing anything they wanted,” she said.
Yousef said she preferred to be flexible with her daughters, despite the advice of some of her relatives that she was being too lenient with them. She said she became too lenient with them because she did not want them to experience the traumatic childhood she had.
Yousef, however, said her flexibility did not mean accepting anything they wish for, but rather allowing them enough freedom so they feel that there is no difference between them and their brother.
Hadeel Mohammad said when parents live a harsh and difficult childhood, it becomes natural that they do not wish the same life for their children.
She noted that raising children in the past depended on the nature of life, place and society. In the past, parents used to beat their children, but a few hours later, the children come and sit with them sharing a laugh. They felt the love of their parents despite their harshness.
“Many people who have succeeded in life have come out from houses where sticks were used for disciplining children. It is not the case any more. Beating is considered a form of abuse, opening doors for human rights bodies to intervene and hold parents accountable,” Mohammad said.
“Times have changed and it is quite different now. Flexibility, understanding and containment is the ideal method of raising children,” she said, stressing that absolute fairness is required when dealing with children.
Educational and social consultant Dr. Sheikha Al-Oudah said the family is the core of love, compassion and kindness for children. Pampering is an instinctive positive behavior from parents toward their children and is required in all families, she said.
“This does not mean that kindness should lead to neglecting advice and guidance, but means addressing matters in ways that are suitable to the age and gender of the children,” she added.
She explained that parents should instill values and virtues in their children and train them until such values and virtues become a habit. Pampering children to protect them from the circumstances that the parents have experienced is correct if it is done in moderation, Al-Oudah said.
However, she added that such pampering becomes wrong if it does not include holding the children accountable for misbehavior or if it means submitting to all their demands without considering their actual needs.