Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re raising a spoiled child. Here are 9 warning signs to see if you’re guilty:
It seems so much easier to bend to our kids’ whims, especially if it means avoiding a public meltdown or yet another tantrum. We may even think we’re doing the right thing by being a good friend and making them happy.
Except not standing our ground and focusing too much on their happiness can spoil our kids far more than they need. So much so that they grow up feeling entitled and without the empathy for others needed to make friends.
Take a look at all the benefits spoiled kids miss out on when they’re coddled and shielded:
- Delayed gratification. Giving kids everything they want now doesn’t teach them how to wait, even if waiting can reap bigger 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 who wants others to bend to her whims will have a difficult time developing friendships.
- Empathy. A child needs to be able to understand what others might be feeling. Spoiled children tend to think only of themselves with little regard to others.
- Self-soothing. When we bend to every tantrum and save kids from frustration, we deny kids the ability to soothe themselves. They don’t learn how to cope with difficulty or solve problems.
9 warning signs you’re raising a spoiled child
With so many benefits that spoiling misses out on, 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 at her every whim, that she only needs to throw a fit to get her way.
Saying “no” is fine and even necessary. Not everything is a good idea or even available every time your child asks for it. 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.
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 regretted it the minute I had said it, thinking, I really don’t want to throw this toy away. It’s too cool!
Your child will see through your empty threats and not take you seriously. It may work the first or second time, but after a while, she knows you won’t follow through.
#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.
Stick to your rules as much as possible, even if it means upsetting your child or dealing with a meltdown. Despite what she says, she needs boundaries and consistency to guide her behavior.
#4: You shield your kids from disappointment
Let’s say your child cries when she drops her ice cream cone, then demands another one. Don’t drive all the way back to the ice cream store just to get her another one, no matter how frustrated or disappointed she may feel.
Yes, you’ll likely deal with a crying child, and no one wants to see their little ones frustrated. But trying to keep her from feeling sad doesn’t give her the coping skills to bounce back.
Your child needs these moments to learn how to cope with disappointment. She needs to experience life’s ups and downs and understand that difficult emotions pass—and that she’s strong enough to get through them.
Going out of your way to shield your child teaches her to avoid disappointment at all costs instead of dealing with it head on. She also won’t be able to learn from her mistakes when she doesn’t have the opportunity to experience them.
#5: You overindulge with material goods
We all want what’s best for our kids, but sometimes we think that means providing them with things and experiences we never had growing up.
But lavishing kids prevents them from expressing gratitude for what they already have. It’s pretty hard to cherish your one special stuffed animal when you have 30 others piled in your room.
Too many things raises unrealistic expectations. Finding joy in “external” sources like items and lavish gifts forces you to up the ante when the initial buzz fizzles away. Whether you’re able to afford them or not, your child might begin to expect these lavish gifts as the norm rather than the exception.
And finally, kids are also bound to tie joy to material goods, not to relationships and experiences. Giving too many items focuses on the item, rather than the intention behind it. Picture the grandparents who shower grandchildren with gifts and money so much that kids begin to look forward to the gifts, not spending time with their loved ones.
#6: You bribe with external rewards
Establish your authority as a parent by requiring your kids to follow instructions without having to bribe. Lets say you tell your child she’ll have a new toy if she cleans her room. This sets her up to expect unrelated and external rewards for doing regular tasks. (Read why rewards don’t work well.)
Instead, encourage her to feel proud of a job well done. She should clean her room because:
- that’s what you expect her to do
- she’ll be able to enjoy a clean room, and
- she’ll feel proud of herself.
#7: You don’t encourage gratitude
Saying “thank you” isn’t just polite, it also teaches gratitude for what we have and the people who love us. Not instilling the importance and habit of saying “thank you” misses the opportunity to be grateful for our circumstances.
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 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 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 children’s 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 feels respected and knows that the rule applies to everyone, even adults.
#9: Your child has too much say in family life
Does your daughter decide you’re going to eat at her favorite restaurant again? Maybe she throws tantrums and outbursts, or whines until you give in.
Giving your child choices and asking her opinion is healthy, but doing so too often and especially because of whining will disrupt your family life. She doesn’t have the family’s best interests in mind the same way you do.
Kids aren’t meant to control households. Parents have to exert authority and take into account what’s best for everyone in the family. (See why giving kids too many choices isn’t the way to go.)
Giving in to children’s demands and whining is the easy way out. We avoid feeling embarrassed by their outbursts or guilty for not spending enough time with them. We’d rather not disappoint them, especially when it seems simple enough to buy that new toy or give her what she wants.
Spoiling is the quick fix-it that seems to solve the problem now.
But in doing so, we deny kids lifelong lessons, such as how to develop grit, cope with disappointment and be empathetic to others. Our job isn’t to stop tantrums or whining—it’s to raise future adults ready to face a world that won’t always bend to their whims.
After all, kids want their parents to be parents. We’re not doing them any favors by being anything else.
You’ve seen the warning signs, now what can you do to turn things around? I’d love to share with you my FREE 14-page printable handout, How to Unspoil Your Child! Learn effective tips that not only curb misbehavior but focus on rebuilding a strong parent-child relationship. Get it below: