Let’s face it; expat life comes with a lot of perks for our children. They are used to frequent travel, staying in 5 star hotels, lots of fancy vacations, and in many expat locations like Dubai and Abu Dhabi – they are used to having household help to assist with cleaning, laundry, garden work etc. International schooling, pony club, designer kids wear, extravagant birthday parties all exacerbate the problem of raising entitled children.
So how do we as parents ensure that in the wake of such excesses, our kids remain grounded and grateful and well-balanced?
It’s not always easy, but here are some tips to ensure you are not raising a spoilt expat kid:
- Instead of gifts, give your children your time: It’s far too easy to compensate your lack of attention and affection, with buying them a toy. But instead of buying them material things, take them to the park for a football session or to your local playground. Show them the importance of spending time together is what counts, as opposed to what you do.
- Practise saying ‘No’: Parenting is definitely not about winning a popularity contest. Learn how to say no to your children’s demands and wishes. Try to explain to them why you cannot go to a particular theme park, perhaps because it costs a lot of money and you need to save up for it first. It’s important for children to hear ‘no’ on a regular basis, to understand other people have needs and desires as well.
- Teach them to value experiences over gifts: When faced with what to get them for their birthday, try to prioritize experiences over things. A family trip to the Al Ain Zoo costs less than USD100, but would mean more than a plastic toy. Teach them the importance of making memories and take lots of pictures to document their experiences.
- Give them age-appropriate chores to do and cultivate a work ethic: It’s a good idea to involve young children in everyday chores, simple tasks like helping to set the table, wash their own dishes, clean up their room, put their toys away etc. Teenagers, should definitely be encouraged to help out with taking out the trash, helping in the garden or helping around the house.
- Expose them to others less-fortunate through charity work and volunteering: In Dubai, there are many ways to expose your children to the plight of those less-fortunate and involve them in charity work or volunteering. Dubai Mums Helping Hands is one such effort where the kids can help in distributing food and vegetables to construction workers and labourers. It can also consist of little acts, like bringing the workers and labourers toiling outside a cool drink on a hot summer day. It’s never too early to start instilling empathy in them.
Are you raising a spoilt expat kid? Share your experience on Expat Connect!
About the Author: Mariam is an eternal expat who 15 years, 7 countries and 3 continents later, is embarrassingly a seasoned expert at getting lost in every new city she calls home. She is the founder and writer of the blog ‘And Then We Moved To’ where she writes about her expat life. She is a regular blogger for Expat Connect and currently lives in Dubai with her husband and two children.