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A family has come to me with a four year-old daughter who wants to wear her puppy shirt every day whether it’s in the laundry and dirty or not she’ll scream and have a fit and a tantrum, we let her wear it. Is this an example of overindulgence? I am Ellie McCann with the University of Minnesota Extension and this is Jean Illsley Clark co-author of the book “How much is too much” and part of the countering overindulgence team with Extension. Today we’re going to focus on
preschool-age children and in other segments we’ll be discussing other age groups. Well, let’s look at it. Overindulgence is giving children too much of anything so that it interferes with their
development and causes problems in later life. In order to tell us something is overindulgence, one of the things he can use is the test of four. Four questions–first this has delayed her development. Well, looks like it. The job of the preschooler is to figure out who am I and who were they and what do I do about that. And it’s an ideal time to teach manners and cooperation and what she seems to be learning is I get what I want by tantruming. Second question is–does it use too much of family resources? If it takes time and too much time and creates too much stress then the answer would be yes. The third question is whose needs are
being met not hers, not the child’s– but the parents? Certainly they don’t
need this but there are many reasons overindulgence comes from a good heart and they may be giving in because they’re tired or they’re in a hurry or they just don’t know
what to do instead. The fourth question is would this cause harm to others and to the environment? Probably not. So we look at this test of four and it looks like this is overindulgence but we don’t know that. Because we don’t know everything that’s
going on in the family. So, test of four gives us an indication but it is only truly helpful to the family that is using it. So, what might be some other solutions that I can bring back to this this family. Oh goody, I’d hoped we’d get to that. Well, first of all, if they don’t
want to take back the family I can’t help them. But if they do then the issue is this child has been given too much power. There’s several ways that they can address this. One is to give the tantrums back to her. She tantrums, they say You’re ok. You’ll get through this! Then they just stay by calmly until she calms down They may try that old tried and true, take out your clothes before you go to bed, be ready. But if this is a kid who really wants
to wear that doggie shirt every single day, then one of the things they can do is use it as a teaching moment and teach her how to be responsible for having the shirt clean. How do I look at it to see if it’s dirty. Learning about laundry. She’s smart enough to run the family she’s smart enough to learn a lot about
laundry. And then it becomes her problem. She learns responsibility, she becomes more competent it builds her relationship with her parents because they are helping her they’re on
her team. It makes it into a win-win. How do you like that? I like that. It reminds me of a story. I know a dad who was concerned because their daughter also was four and she was just mucking up the morning. Nothing was going right and they weren’t getting to work on time and finally he had had enough of it and so he set the little girl down and he said I have to apologize to you I have been making a mistake. I am the dad and I’ve been letting you make some decisions that the dad should be making. So from now on if you choose whatever you want to wear and you’re dressed and at the breakfast
table on time It’s ok, wear what you like. If you’re not I choose and you have to wear that. Think about that. What a way to take back the power. Some children will resist and escalate for
a week or two and some will just be so happy that the parents are behaving like parents. This is a good lesson, let’s all remember that the children need parents who are in charge of the family. So, let’s all keep our parent power. Thanks Jean. And if you have a picky dresser there are many more ideas in Jean’s book, “How much is too much?” Also, in her book “The good heart parent” on the overindulgence website and on the
University of Minnesota Extension website.

James Carver

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