Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re raising a spoiled child. Here are 9 warning signs to let you know if you’re guilty:
My child was acting up. From whining, begging, and having a meltdown, I even wondered if I had a spoiled child.
But what exactly makes for a spoiled child? And why is it important that we steer our kids away from that direction?
I learned that dealing with a spoiled child has less to do with his actual antics than with how we handle his behavior.
9 warning signs you’re raising a spoiled child
Why (other than the constant whining) is it a good idea to avoid spoiling our kids? What do they miss out on when they’re coddled and shielded?
- Delayed gratification: the idea that waiting can reap rewards later (such as saving for a big-ticket item).
- Understanding their limits. A spoiled child will push her boundaries, sometimes to unsafe or disastrous ends. (Read why setting boundaries is so important.)
- Healthy social life. Kids (and adults) don’t like others bossing them around. A spoiled child wants others to bend to his whims every time.
- Empathy. A child needs to be able to understand what others might be feeling.
- Self-soothing. When we concede to every tantrum, we deny kids the ability to soothe themselves.
So, how can you tell if you’re raising a spoiled child? Take a look at these nine warning signs:
#1: You give in to every request
One of the tell-tale signs of spoiling a child is teaching her that everything comes and at her every whim, or that she only needs to throw a fit and she’ll get her way.
Saying “no” is fine and even necessary. Not everything will be conducive nor available to your child’s desires. Wanting to stay at the park until hours on end isn’t possible when you have to go home for dinner.
#2: You deliver empty threats
“If you throw that toy one more time, we’re leaving the library,” you might say to your child. If you do, follow through and leave the library should your child throw the toy. Or don’t tell your child you’re not going to Disneyland if he keeps acting up when you know you’re still going to go.
Kids will discover your empty threats and not take you seriously.
I made this mistake just today. My three-year-old didn’t want to clean up his connect-and-create toy pieces (affiliate link). I had threatened to throw them away if he didn’t. And I regretted it the minute I had said it, thinking, “I really don’t want to throw this toy away. It’s too cool to nix!”
Instead, I just gathered the toys and stashed them in my room to make a point, albeit a weak one.
#3: You’re inconsistent with rules and consequences
Picking our battles and making exceptions to the rule are fine—when they’re the exception. But when kids can’t tell rules apart, they have an easier time bending them.
Like I mention in my book, Parenting with Purpose:
Establish responsibilities and follow through with consequences. Being too lenient is unfair to your child and does him a disservice, not providing him the boundaries he needs. Not holding your ground makes him feel anxious of the rules that seem to flip flop. And with no expectations, he doesn’t learn how you want him to behave.
#4: You shield your kids from disappointment
Let’s say your son cries when he drops his ice cream cone and demands another one. Driving all the way back to the store does little for his personal growth.
Yes, you’ll likely deal with a crying child. And no one wants to see their little ones frustrated. But trying to keep him from feeling sad doesn’t give him the coping skills to bounce back.
If you’re near the ice cream store and don’t mind paying again, then sure, treat your kid to a second helping. But to go out of your way teaches him to avoid disappointment at all costs instead of dealing with it head on.
We learn through mistakes. We do our kids a disservice when we rescue and shield them too much.
#5: You overindulge with material goods
Lavishing kids with material goods prevents them from expressing gratitude and raises unrealistic expectations. They’re also bound to tie joy to material goods, not to relationships and experiences.
Simple ways to limit spoiling kids with toys, clothes and everything they ask for? Allow less media and commercials and focus on simple outings. Highlight everyday joys such as a fun time at the park.
#6: You bribe with external rewards
Establish your authority as a parent by requiring your kids to obey without having to bribe. Lets say you tell your son he’ll have a new toy if he cleans his room. This sets him up to expect unrelated and external rewards for doing regular tasks. (Read why rewards don’t work well.)
Instead, encourage him to feel proud for a job well done. He should clean his room because:
- that’s what you expect him to do
- he’ll be able to enjoy a clean room, and
- he’ll feel proud of himself.
#7: You don’t encourage gratitude
Model and tell your child the appropriate times to say “thank you” and she’ll pick it up and say it on her own. Thank her as well when she does something for you so that she knows this is what everyone does.
Don’t allow her to keep taking and receiving without so much as an acknowledgment to the giving part. The benefits of fostering gratitude are many and will help avoid spoiling your child.
#8: Your child interrupts conversations
Kids don’t usually interrupt conversations on purpose. But allowing them to cut you off is rude and doesn’t teach them proper ways of speaking with other people. I usually tell my son that I’m talking to daddy right now, and when I’m done, then it can be his turn to talk.
This will only be effective if adults respect kids’ conversations, too. Recently my son was saying something when another adult started talking to me as well. I held up my hand to the adult as if to say, “Hold on.” Then I kept my attention and responded to my son before finally turning to the adult. This way, my son knows that the rule applies to everyone, even adults.
#9: Your child has too much say in family life
Does your daughter decide that you’re going to eat at her favorite restaurant again? Maybe she throws tantrums and outbursts, or whines until you give in.
Giving kids choices and asking their opinion is healthy. But doing so too often and especially because of whining will only disrupt your family life. Kids aren’t meant to control households. Parents have to be the authority. (See why giving kids too many choices isn’t the way to go.)
Giving in to our kids’ demands and whining is the easy way out. We avoid feeling embarrassed by their outbursts. Or feel guilty for not spending enough time with them. Or witness their disappointment. Spoiling is the quick fix-it that seems to solve the problem now.
But in doing so, we’re denying kids lifelong lessons. They need to learn how to build grit, cope with disappointment and be empathetic to others. They can learn to appreciate the simpler things in life.
After all, kids want their parents to be parents. We’re not doing them any favors by being anything else.
Handling children’s behavior is even more difficult when they won’t listen. I’d love to share with you one effective word I’ve found to get kids to listen in this FREE printable handout. Learn about the word, why it works and how to use it (comes with a worksheet, too!).
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