What Happens When You Spoil a Child?

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

    You want your child to be happy, and it can be hard to enforce limits. If you're the parent of a spoiled child chances are you have a pretty good idea of what happens when a kid gets just about everything his heart desires. Overly indulged children tend to be bossy and otherwise bad-mannered. They are more apt to be downright appalled when they don't get what they want, whether it's a piece of candy or a car. The consequences of spoiling a child extend a bit further than a tantrum in the candy aisle or not saying "please."

    Babies And Toddlers

    It's impossible to spoil a baby, according to ZerotoThree.org a website published by National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. The wants and needs of an infant are interchangeable during the first several months of life. For example, a baby cries when she's hungry, overwhelmed, needs a diaper change or simply craves your loving attention and touch. When a baby becomes a toddler, the so-called "terrible two" period might mislead a parent into thinking their little one is spoiled. Chances are he'll outgrow this period as he approaches preschool age, assuming a parent doesn't cater to his every whim.


    Spoiling kids with material things or loading up their schedules with various activities deprives them of becoming acquainted with their inner beauty and the ability to find fulfillment from within, writes John Robbins, author of The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less," published in the "Huffington Post." Kids become spoiled when innate qualities such as kindness are devalued. Spoiling children with the latest gizmos, gadgets, clothes and toys also robs them of vital life lessons, such as saving their allowance money for a prized possession.

    Older Kids

    Depression, anxiety, extreme self-absorption and poor self-control during the teen years are often traced back to being spoiled as a child, Dan Kindlon, PhD, a clinical and research psychologist at Harvard University and author of "Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age," explains to WebMD. Showering a child or adolescent with his every request or downright demand can make him feel that his mountain of possessions or the freedom to do as he pleases is never enough. For example, if you buy your spoiled teen a 36-inch flat screen TV for his bedroom, he'll pout because you didn't foot the bill for the 50-inch tube that he really "needed."

    Reversing The Damage

    You can count on tears and angry outbursts when you decide to stop spoiling your child. Consequences is the name of the game when it comes to making your child understand that bratty antics or obnoxious behavior will get him nowhere. Forget about warnings and threats, advises Richard Bromfield, PhD, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of "How to Unspoil Your Child Fast " in an WebMD article. If your child refuses to pick up his toys, he won't be allowed to play with them the next day, plain and simple. If an older child forgets to set his alarm on a school night, let him oversleep and pay the price of being tardy. Ensure consequences are appropriate to your child's age and abilities. By unspoiling an over-indulged child, parents help make way for a sunnier future for all concerned, including the child.

    About the Author

    Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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