Do we love our children too much?

Should we always put our children first – or is modern parenting creating a generation of spoilt brats? We invite four mums to share their views and give you the chance to tell us your opinion below

Kate Kirkham, 30, is a stay-at-home mum married to Alan, 32, an IT support worker. They have three children – James, eight, Ryan, six, and Philippa, four.

Alan and I are apart during the week. He stays with his mum in Berkshire so he can commute to his job in London. We came to Swindon so we could buy a house and have a better lifestyle, but at the moment this is the only way we can manage it so, for five days a week, I'm on my own with the kids.

Weekends are spent together as a family because Alan is away for the rest of the time. We enjoy bike riding and walking together. Alan is a totally hands-on dad. We have time alone after the kids have gone to bed but we don't use babysitters. If we want to go out for a night, we drive the kids to their grandparents in Berkshire.

Family life is very busy and I love being at home so I can go to school assemblies and take the children to their after-school activities. We also see friends regularly for lunches and playdates.

It's a shame mums are often last on the priority list. I know someone who has worked herself to the point of complete exhaustion trying to make sure her children never wanted for anything and were always happy. If the children are ever told no, they throw huge tantrums and she buys them things to make them happy again. That's all wrong, I think. It's important for them to understand they can't always get what they want. Children need to learn they are part of a family unit where everyone is treated with equal respect and importance.

I love my children because they are a part of me. If I ever had to choose between losing my husband or my children, I'd choose my husband. Although I love Alan and enjoy being with him, he can function without me. I would die to save my children, I wouldn't for my husband.

I do put my children first, because they need me more.

Kate Kirkham

I would die to save my children

Kate Kirkham

It is unhealthy for parents to pander to their kids

Erica Douglas, 27, is married to Alex, 28. They have one daughter, Erin, four. Erica has recently started a Business Studies degree and Alex is a bus driver.

Our marriage is very important as it's the glue that holds everything together. Alex and I put a lot of effort into making sure we stay united and strong. I'm old-fashioned like that. My husband and daughter do both come first, but we're a team and everyone's point of view counts.

Erin is learning she can't always be the centre of attention. If she tries to interrupt while we're talking, we say, ‘We're speaking to each other now.’ If one of us thinks the other is being too harsh or too lenient with her, we say so, but never in front of Erin. She knows it's very hard to play us off against each other. I think it's good for kids to know what the limits are.

Pandering to your kids and letting them get their own way all the time is unhealthy, in my opinion. I was brought up in a single-parent household with no money for toys so I want to teach Erin the value of money. Being the only grandchild, she gets plenty of toys but I don't want her to take anything for granted.

Sometimes it's nice to be free. Once every few weeks, Erin stays with relatives so it's just the two of us.

It's important that Alex and I have time together as a couple. I don't feel guilty about that.

Jessica Fisher, 46, a freelance writer, is married to Mark, 54, a marine consultant. They have three children – Mungo, 13, Piran, 11, and Samson, nine.

I make my children aware that I have responsibilities to others – family, friends, work – as well as to them. The kids fit into a kind of ‘triage’ system, and as a result they might not get their dinner before 8.30pm. It is quite healthy for them to realise they don't always come first and might have to wait their turn.

Mark and I make time for each other with lunch out midweek when the children are at school. And we sometimes have a day out doing something grown-up and indulgent without the kids. But these things don't happen often enough. I tend to put the rest of the family's needs before my own. By the time Mark and I have tidied up after dinner and got the kids to bed we haven't the energy left for anything romantic or sexy.

Giving children too much ‘stuff’ is what spoils them and I don't want to live with demanding and self-centred kids. I've probably denied them most of the things they've asked for but it has made them more appreciative. However, you can't spoil children by giving them too much affection. Love and reassurance is what they crave most and I lavish affection on them. My youngest still jumps into my arms when I collect him from school.

We'll enjoy (I hope) being ‘empty-nesters’ when the kids have flown. Much as I love them, I want them to live their own lives, choose their partners and put their own families ahead of us.

I do look forward to the time when it can be just the two of us again.

Kate Kirkham

I don’t want to live with demanding, self-centred kids

Kate Kirkham

We’re putting our three young kids first – for now

Emily Organ, 36, is a writer married to IT consultant Gary, 37. They have three children – Reggie, four, Wilfie, two, and Elsie, nine months.

We had been together for 11 years when Reggie was born so becoming parents meant Gary and I had to make a huge adjustment – suddenly we had to put someone else first. Having three young children keeps us busy and it's easy to find ourselves distracted by them and their lives.

The children are growing up so fast that we want to be with them as much as possible.

In the evenings we're often too tired to do much but we try to make time for each other, away from our children. We rely on relatives for babysitting.Occasionally we have a night out and one evening a week we turn off the TV and computer and just chat.

In terms of our parenting, I'll say ‘no’ more. Gary's softer, but that's okay because he sees them less than I do. I don't think we spoil them.

Your relationship is what holds a family together and it's important never to take each other for granted.

The love I feel for my kids is more protective than the love I feel for my husband. I know he he can look after himself.

The expert’s view

Parenting expert Sue Atkins is the founder of www.positive-parents.com and author of Raising Happy Children For Dummies (available at www.tesco.com/books).

  • Children used to be ‘seen and not heard’, and that wasn't good, but now we’ve gone too far the other way. Many kids are over-indulged.
  • Focusing too much on our children isn't good for them, us, or the family as a whole. Parents who live for their children can feel lost and depressed when they leave, while over-praised and over-protected children often grow up to find the adult world difficult to handle.
  • Kids will play adults off against each other from the time they're two, so it's important to give the same message.
  • Sharing the parenting creates a united family, so one parent isn't doing all the caring and becoming absorbed in the children.
  • Looking after yourself and your relationship is important for the security of the family. Be a role model by showing them a good adult relationship.
Kate Kirkham

What do you think? Are your kids the centre of your world or do you take time away from them to spend with your partner? Join the big debate and post your comments below.

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