The two biggest myths about spoiled children

The Two Biggest Myths About Spoiled Children

We all want to be good parents. So is it good parenting to spoil your child?

Some people say that spoiling a child is a good thing; that kids deserve to be happy and have all the things they didn’t. But others say if you spare the rod then you spoil the child, implying children need strict discipline, not lovey dovey parenting. So which is it?

I consider that being spoiled is NOT a good thing. The “spoiled brat” image of Veruca Salt still comes to mind when I think of being spoiled. Usually when something is spoiled it means it has gone bad. Would you eat spoiled food? Of course not (at least I hope not). Why would you want children that have “gone bad?” I don’t!

There is a lot of information out there on how to not spoil your kids, or how to unspoil them if you have already headed down that road. Articles and blogs tell us what makes a spoiled kid and what doesn’t. And some of it is conflicting. Some of the most commonly identified ways to spoil a child I believe to be misconstrued. Here are two popular misnomers:

Myth #1: Giving your child lots of gifts will automatically make them spoiled.

I have heard it said, “I just want my child to be happy. I buy them things because I love them. I enjoy spoiling my kids.”

Let’s get one things straight right now, if you love your children, you will not want them to be rotten and ungrateful brats. And giving gifts does not automatically make someone spoiled. It is not spoiling your children to surprise them every once in a while with a treat or a day out (given they actually deserve it and you aren’t doing it to appease them). That is actually just good parenting. Don’t leave it up to the grandparents to get to do fun stuff and have ice cream for no reason, but also don’t call it spoiling. That does not spoil a child. That is a gift.

It isn’t the amount of stuff they have or the treats given that indicates a spoiled child but the child’s behavior. It’s all about the attitude they have toward things and more importantly toward people. I would even venture that spoiled children begin to view people as things as well.

Spoiled children quickly grow tired and bored with what they have as there is no sense of responsibility or ownership. They didn’t have to give anything up to get it, not even time to wait for it. They do not appreciate what they are given. They have developed a sense of entitlement, as if you as the parent owe them whatever their latest whim might be. Add that to our society’s ever growing need for instant gratification and you have a spoiled brat.

You can have two kids who both have the same exact stuff given to them by parents, family, or friends and one can be spoiled and the other not. Because it isn’t about the stuff. It’s about our kids attitudes toward the stuff.

Myth #2: Holding your baby too often, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, and never letting them cry it out will all make them spoiled.

Peter A. Gorski, MD, director of the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, told WebMD, “There is so much questionable parenting literature out there that still talks about spoiling babies. This is a myth that really needs to be addressed.”

Research shows that infants whose parents respond quicker to their needs, including their cries, are happier and more independent by their first birthday, Gorski says. They learn to trust that you’ll be there when they need you.

As reported in Psychology Today, letting babies get distressed is a practice that can damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. Forcing “independence” on a baby leads to greater dependence. Instead, giving babies what they need leads to greater independence later.

“A key warning sign,” he says, “is any child much older than the toddler years who continues to act like a baby or toddler — kicking and screaming, biting other children, not using age-appropriate ways of communicating thoughts and feelings. This is a sign that they’re not very secure about themselves.”

This goes back to myth number one. The child shows inappropriate behavior when their perceived needs aren’t met. Notice I used the word “perceived?” I don’t know about you, but my toddler thinks everything he wants is absolutely the most important thing at that moment and if he does not get it he will die of heart break. Most parents know that in about a minute and a half he will find something else to occupy his cute little head. But for that minute and a half it is soul crushing for him not to have it, and he expresses it. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in, you just have to wait.

So now can we put this second myth to rest? You cannot spoil an infant. Period. Holding my babies during naps, co-sleeping, and extended breast-feeding did not spoil my kids and won’t spoil yours either.

Spoiled or socialized?

Who is raising your children? You or society? You teach them how they should react to gifts. You teach them the right attitude toward stuff (toys, clothes, even digital stuff like songs on their iPod). You teach them how to be grateful for opportunities and how to have common courtesy and be polite. You love them unconditionally but not through materialism. You teach them the difference between a want and a need.

Does society actually encourage us to spoil our children? It is said that the millennial generation has an enormous sense of entitlement. Did we raise a spoiled generation? Do we indulge our kids because it is the trendy thing to do? Or maybe just to keep our trip to the supermarket from turning into an episode of the Jerry Springer Show with screaming, name calling, and stomping away.

Perhaps you do know better. You are aware that having a spoiled child is a bad thing. But are you doing it anyway? Are you that parent trying to decide what to do with your screaming child in the middle of Target? Do you give in because you fear the judgmental looks from the other parents who have somehow managed to raise a child from another planet who has never had a meltdown in public?

What are your thoughts? Did I miss a myth? Are you guilty of spoiling your child in the name of peace-keeping? Is it selfish to “spoil” our kids? I’d love to hear from you.

Tagged: ,

Comments: 5

  1. […] registry items do you think are important? Do you think we buy too much for our children? Is it spoiling them? Or is it […]

  2. Laura at 3:36 am Reply

    Great advice. If you check the 5 languages of Love book for children, GIFTS is actually one of the character. My son is like that. He loves being given things because he remembers everything about the occasion, and they are treasures to him. It’s not being spoiled. But as you say… all about the attitude!

    • JWil at 9:55 am Reply

      Laura, That is it exactly. You need to know your own child and what is best and works for them.

  3. So many things to agree with here. Totally agree that infants can’t be spoiled. While I wasn’t an extended breastfeeder, co-sleeper, etc., doing those things won’t spoil your infant. That’s just silly talk!

    And agree that part of growing up is learning how to accept gifts. Receiving gifts don’t make you spoiled. It’s the attitude.

    • JWil at 12:52 pm Reply

      Thanks Katie! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *