When asked how they want their kids to turn out, parents commonly list qualities such as kindness, compassion, and independence. It is rare to find parents who deliberately raise their children to be irresponsible, demanding, selfish, or inconsiderate. We all agree that it is not easy to see our kids unhappy. Witnessing their joy in receiving what they want gives us a deep sense of satisfaction. The trick is to make sure not to give too much too often. This blog will clarify the fine line between spoiling our kids and offering them the love, care, and support they need to develop into kind, responsible, and emotionally healthy individuals.
Why Do Parents Spoil Their Kids?
There are various reasons parents fall into the trap of spoiling their children. Some like to provide their kids with the lifestyle and financial support that they never had when they were young. Others choose to offer materialistic goods to address their feelings of guilt and make up for not being able to spend enough time with their children.
Some parents prefer not to deal with whining, crying, fits, or temper tantrums, so they allow their children to get whatever they want. Others feel obligated to provide their kids with a comfortable lifestyle until they are ready to face life’s challenges on their own. The most significant factor that contributes to spoiling children is that many parents struggle to identify the difference between their children’s “needs” and “wishes.”
Spoiling Your Child vs. Satisfying Basic Needs
There is a difference between spoiling kids and satisfying their needs. When it comes to basic needs, including love, time, and emotions, there is no such thing as spoiling or giving too much.
Spoiling often appears in the following forms:
What Is Materialistic Spoiling?
We all know that life does not give us everything we want. Isn’t it better to prepare our kids for life’s disappointments from a young age? Children who always get what they want may potentially develop into demanding, stubborn, and greedy individuals, as they get accustomed to continually receiving without having to give back. Moreover, kids who get everything done for them may struggle to become independent later on in life.
A common reaction that most parents have is replacing anything a child loses or misplaces. By doing so, they deny their children the ability to learn to be accountable and responsible and to face the consequences of their actions. As they move on into adulthood, these children may face financial difficulties as they may struggle to keep up the unattainable standard of life they experienced growing up.
It is undoubtedly demoralizing to see our kids comparing themselves to others. However, giving in and keeping up with your children’s peers is detrimental. Your kids will learn to use the behaviours or belongings of others as guidelines, which should never be the case, especially during the critical teenage years. Keep in mind that designer brands, expensive toys, and fancy gadgets do not result in a child’s long-term happiness. Studies have shown that the more we provide for our kids, the more demanding they become and the less content they feel. At that point, whatever you get, WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH! Having your kids wait for or earn what they want will help them develop the virtue of patience, which will serve them well for years to come. It will also teach them that, sometimes, they need to put forth the effort or work toward acquiring what they want.
In addition to ‘giving’ stuff to our children, materialistic spoiling also includes ‘doing’ chores on their behalf. The list can go on from cleaning their rooms, packing their school bags, and sorting out their drawers to organizing their time, giving ongoing reminders to complete homework, and closely following up on deadlines. Yes, it might look like we are supporting and helping them, but in reality, we are spoiling them and stripping them of their independence.
If we want to help our children, we can provide occasional support. If they miss important deadlines, the odds are they will develop better time management skills or figure out a way to remember the next time around. If they don’t find clean clothes to wear, they will learn to plan ahead or to put their dirty laundry in the designated basket. If they miss the school bus once, they will make an effort to get ready on time or will set their alarm clocks to go off earlier.
Keep in mind that you will not be there for your kids all the time, and it is easier for them to learn to be independent at a young age.
What Is Social Spoiling?
Parents who always find excuses for their children’s misbehaviour, as well as defending them when they get in trouble often indirectly impact their social skills. Children may not develop essential social skills to maintain friendships. Poor social and problem-solving skills may manifest in different forms with time, from being insensitive toward the needs of others to not being respectful of the rights or belongings of other children. Kids may begin to shift the blame to other individuals or situations to account for any unacceptable actions.
A common misguided error that some parents commit is agreeing to everything their children decide, where to go, what to eat, etc. Yes, it is recommended to allow the children to participate in the decision-making process occasionally, but not be in total charge. Children who are used to everything going their way often turn out to be disrespectful and defiant, and may struggle to compromise or follow rules or authority figures. They may also lack self-discipline, which in turn may negatively affect their careers or relationships later on in life.
What Is Emotional Spoiling?
Since we all go through emotional ups and downs in our lives, we must guide and teach our children to deal with these emotions while they are young and impressionable. That will sometimes require allowing our kids to face disappointments and other unhappy feelings. It’s best to help children grow and learn by avoiding to shield them from painful emotions and allowing them to face age-related challenges, while still being there to support them and to teach them coping techniques.
Take a look at these common scenarios and consider the actions that you would likely take:
Scenario 1: You purchased your child an ice cream cone, but it fell. Parents who return to the shop to get their child another ice cream are, in reality, shielding their children from difficult emotions or disappointments. Instead, consider acknowledging your child’s feelings. Reinforce that sometimes in life, we may face unpleasant situations, and we need to learn to overcome them and move on. We must prepare our children for the unhappy or difficult moments that life throws our way. When we shield our kids from negative emotions, they may grow up lacking the essential coping skills that enable them to bounce back and to handle disappointments. Instead, they may develop avoidance as a way of coping.
Scenario 2: Your child lost in a competition. Heartbroken parents who quickly reassure their children that they are still the best are the ones who are not helping. They are making the mistake of shielding their children from dealing with the harsh reality of “losing”. Instead, parents should encourage the effort, and still acknowledge the fact that other kids may have been better and worked harder.
We all love our children and agree that there is no such thing as “too much love.” Spoiling is an unintentional result of loving our children, but this type of love delivers temporary short-term satisfaction and long-term repercussions. We need to channel our expressions of love to those that provide ongoing benefits that will build our children’s personalities as they grow older. When we love someone, we always wish for the absolute best. As parents, we know that the best for our children is to become successful people in all aspects; socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally.
Always ensure that the real purpose and outcome of your generosity and care are to develop healthy, well-balanced, and responsible adults that are ready to take the world in stride. With this clear vision in mind, you will readily provide the needed care as well as boundless love and support.
Spoiling is a quick fix that may seem to work well at the moment, BUT it is not the best technique for long-term positive outcomes. Children who are spoiled often do not learn to solve their own problems and may lack the life skills necessary to meet the demands of adulthood with success.
We Are Here for You
Contact Irini Girgis, Parental and Child Coach and founder of Kids Summit, to learn more about spoiling and its long-term effects on your child. With her proven parenting methods and techniques, she will have you and your child ready to take on life’s challenges. Call and schedule your appointment today!