Stop giving in to children's demands. Instead, make them earn what they want.
This was the advice American parenting gurus Richard and Linda Eyre delivered in a parenting seminar at the Singapore Soka Association (SSA) headquarters in Tampines last Saturday.
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who was the guest of honour, noted in her speech that increasingly, many children are being raised by domestic workers.
"How that would impact on the children's behaviour and actions, we need to really think about."
She also said parents are now facing new challenges, such as the Internet, through which children can be exposed to all kinds of dangers, from violent games to cyber-bullying.
Mr Eyre said that before allowing children to own electronic gadgets, such as iPads and smartphones, parents should set up a "contract", which could include a set time each day when the items are handed back to parents, and a stipulation banning secret passwords.
The couple, who have nine children aged between 27 and 43, are New York Times best-selling authors. They have appeared on many American national television network shows such as Oprah, The Today Show and 60 Minutes.
In one of their newest books, The Entitlement Trap, they tackle the issue of children feeling entitled to things, such as the latest phone and computer game.
Busy parents "start giving things to their children to make up for the time they don't have", Mr Eyre, 69, told The Sunday Times.
"We call it the entitlement trap because once the child gets the mentality that 'I deserve everything, I don't need to work for it', what they lose is motivation, creativity and incentive."
This could even lead to poorer performance in school.
Parents also tend to be reactive instead of proactive - that is, they think of solutions only when a problem crops up, he added.
He suggested that parents should spend time coming up with a plan and strategy on how to raise their child, much like how they would run a business, complete with goals and a vision statement.
The Eyres outlined three steps parents can follow.
First, have the children think up a set of simple and clear rules, complete with consequences for breaking them. For instance, the Eyres had a rule that if anyone fights, including the parents, they would have to spend time on a "repenting bench" and think about what they did wrong.
Second, decide on a set of rituals, such as weekly meetings on Sunday as a family. Rituals can give children a certain measure of security and comfort, said Mr Eyre.
Third, teach children responsibility and ownership by giving them "jobs", such as doing the dishes, and only after completing them will they get the money to buy what they want.
Addressing the issue in Singapore on how domestic workers tend to pick up after the children, Mrs Eyre, 66, said: "Don't delegate the parenting. If you do have a maid, make sure she knows what your parenting goals are and how you teach your children so she follows your examples."
Accounts executive Nicole Goh, 32, who attended yesterday's talk - an inter-faith collaboration by Jamiyah Singapore, SSA and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - found the tip on how to get children to earn their own allowance handy. Her seven-year-old son, who was there with her, has already asked for a piggy bank so he can start saving up the money he earned, she said.
Madam Goh, who has another four-year-old son, has also already thought of a new family rule: "If he can do his homework on his own, without me asking him to, I'll reward him with some money, instead of just giving it to him."
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