You've had the kids with you all day and they have been incessantly whining. "I want a hamburger. I don't want milk. I want...I want...I want..." Then they start begging. "Please. I won't ask for anything else. I promise. Please. I'll clean my room. Please. I promise I'll do my homework if you let me have..."
Do you ever wonder why your kids will listen to a perfect stranger before they listen to you? Do you feel you owe them everything they want? Do you give in because you feel guilty that their dad isn't around? Or are you just trying to make up for the fact that dad doesn't seem to care about them?
We give ourselves many excuses for giving in. We let them wear us down. But what kind of person are you teaching them to be? Whiny kids who are allowed to bribe, wheedle, and cajole will be that kind of adult too. Do you like being manipulated? Because that is exactly what they are doing.
Giving a child everything they want teaches them to be self-centered, self-serving, tyrannical, and impossible to satisfy.
Is it cruel to deny them? No. As a parent, you are responsible to teach your children responsibility and thoughtfulness. You are responsible to teach of them to think of others before themselves. You are responsible to teach them responsibility. Make them earn the things they want (unless it's a special occasion or just a trifling thing like something out of a toy machine.
Learn to use the word NO. Learn to mean it when you say it. If you let your kids wear you down, then you didn't mean no when you said it, and they know it. Kids listen to authority when used consistently. Never threaten your kids. If you say you're going to spank them the next time--then spank them the next time. Don't keep saying you're going to. They won't believe you. Kids learn very early whether or not mom means what she says. Dads say something once. Then they follow through. If you want your kids to respect you, mean what you say; do what you say you will do.
When my kids were little they learned early on that if they begged or whined to get something, the answer was a firm, definite, NO. If they continued to whine and beg there was a spanking waiting. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Be consistent.