Little emperors

Who are they and what are the causes of this growing social phenomenon? What can we do as parents to avoid having a little emperor?

This expression is used to describe spoiled children who are allowed to do and get anything and everything they want, when they want it.

A child is born a little emperor

First of all, it’s important to know that all children are born as little emperors. In other words, they are convinced that they are at the center of the universe. Your child’s upbringing will either keep him a little emperor… or not!

Babies cry and yell to let you know that they want their needs to be fulfilled immediately. As parents, you understand this behaviour. However, growing up, your child should understand that he cannot have everything he wants. But to understand it, your child needs adults to establish clear boundaries and limits.

From 2 to 4 years old, children go through an intense period of impulsivity that most parents find hard to deal with. From a little baby asking for hugs and needs his parents, he becomes a child who asserts himself, yells, pushes, hits and stomps his feet whenever he isn’t happy. Many parents are discouraged by this sudden change of personality and wish they could go back to a smooth and peaceful living. The tricky part is when parents start wanting to buy their child’s peace! In the long haul, the child will remain a little emperor and keep thinking that he is at the center of the universe if the parents don’t set boundaries.

“Risky” situations

Gilbert Richer, a well-known psychologist who has written on this subject, has chosen some examples of situations that can either amplify or influence the little emperor phenomenon:

Work/family balance: Parents try to compensate their lack of time spent with their children by giving them everything they want. Many parents also don’t want to spend what little time they have with their children doing some discipline.

Fall in the birth rate and only-child: Because families have fewer children, and many only have one child, this child becomes the parents’ only interest. Only-children have a sense of sharing and tolerance to frustration that is less developed than children with siblings.

Late childbearing: Whether it’s because parents planned on having kids later in their lives or whether an unexpected pregnancy occurred years after having other children, late childbearing is an element that influences the attention and overprotection levels towards a child. 

Teenage pregnancy: Some mothers go through motherhood in their teenage years, after having gone through a difficult and unstable childhood themselves. Most of them tend to give their child everything they weren’t given growing up.

Single parenting and stepfamilies: Children who live with one parent at a time, in shared custody, see their negotiation opportunities multiply. Many of them turn to the other parent when they have been told “no” by the first one. As for single parents, they usually feel overwhelmed by having to look after the kids and provide for them alone. These parents often go easy on discipline and family rules, and in doing so, stop meeting their children’s needs for boundaries.

To prevent…and heal!

If your child is in his crucial 2 to 4 years old period, now is the time to establish a family discipline. It doesn’t necessarily mean being overbearing, but finding a balance between firmness and flexibility. Establish clear rules and boundaries that your child needs to respect, but let him experience feeling independent and free to discover without having you refuse everything systematically. Here are some examples:

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