A fine line exists between being too strict and too spoiled, and finding a happy middle ground is something parents have to constantly balance. Even if you do not mean to spoil your child, chances are there are times where you still do. The key is to not spoil your child in a way that makes him or her uncontrollable or materialistic as he or she ages.
There are many reasons parents may spoil a child, a few include feelings of guilt over being too busy or having to work, lack of energy to consistently enforce rules, or the desire to give your child things you never had. Regardless of the reasons, it’s time to recognize negative behaviors that could work against your child, as he or she gets older.
1. Too much screen time—Too much time watching television is linked with increased risk for obesity, attention issues, and depression. Limit your child’s screen time according to his or her age and enforce these rules while encouraging your child to pursue other behaviors, such as playing outside. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aged 2 to 5 years should only have 1 hour of screen time daily, with a focus on educational programing.
2. Excess junk food—Good habits must start early, and if you use junk food as a reward for good behavior or the absence of bad behavior, you can have an early fixation with junk food on your hands. Treats such as candy, cookies, salty foods and ice cream should be occasional indulgences instead of everyday eats.
3. You don’t teach your child to share—Sharing is vital to promoting social interactions with children, and it teaches larger life lessons on the importance of objects versus friendships. Teach your child to share with you, siblings and friends—and reap the benefits of a more giving and loving child.
4. No boundaries—Taking the parent or boss role can seem unappealing to parents when friend or partner sounds so much better. But if your child does not see you as an authoritative figure, you cannot adequately parent when necessary. Remind your child that being a family does not necessarily mean being equals.
5. You never say no—“No” is an important part of a parent’s vocabulary, and it has to mean something. When you say “no,” your child has to know that whatever you are denying is your true intention. When you decide not to allow a behavior, it must be enforced consistently.
6. You never spend time away from your kids—Spending every waking hour with your child to the point you do not even allow babysitters or other family members to care for your children can create an unhealthy attachment. Your child will one day interact with many different people from a variety of backgrounds. For your sanity and your child’s social skills, it’s important to have some separation, even if it is for brief time periods.
7. You do everything for your kids—Parents must promote a sense of independence and autonomy in their children. However, children cannot learn these important values when everything is done for them. This means assisting with homework, but letting your child work through the process, or encouraging a child to put his or her own toys away.
8. Your kids do not perform any chores—When children are old enough to contribute to the household through chores, it’s important they do so. Whether it’s helping to clean up after dinner, emptying the dishwasher or taking out the trash, teaching your child responsibility is built upon the foundation of chores and household tasks.
9. You allow your child to butt in on conversations—Disrespectful behavior in public places is a hallmark of a spoiled child. While children can occasionally throw a temper tantrum, if you have a fear to take your child anywhere because he or she will act out, this is a problem. One important lesson is to teach your child to respect your conversation when adults are talking and refrain from interrupting.
10. You buy your child toys to make them happy—This is not to say you should refrain from ever buying your child occasional toys or treats. But if your child has a closet or chest full of toys, he or she may not need another one to soothe a temper tantrum. A good rule of thumb is to think about why you are buying the toy and how it could improve your child’s playtime. And consider what you may be reinforcing with this gift.
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- Spoiled children are at greater risk for depression, attention deficit disorders and obesity later in life.
- Parenting involves defining clear roles with you as the authority figure enforcing clear rules.
- Parents may spoil their child because they feel guilty over working long hours, feel tired or out of a desire to give their kids things they never had.