How Do We Know If We Are Spoiling Our Children?

Have you ever wondered if you might be spoiling your children? Have you ever witnessed a situation where you thought to yourself, “Wow that child is spoiled!” and wondered why the parents couldn’t see the harm they were doing?
Before I go on let’s take a minute and consider what this term means. The definition of the word spoil is to “go bad”, “rot” or “no longer in the preferred condition”.

The common understanding of the term “spoiling a child” is to be generous, permissive and allowing to a fault. These children get what they want when they want it without limits; and therefore develop an attitude of entitlement. When applied to the manner in which a child is raised, spoiling a child means to affect them in a way that damages them or at the very least causes negative traits to develop. This is obviously an extremely negative situation.

However, confusion sets in because those operating out of a healthy parenting mindset want their children to fully experience life according to their preferences so that they can create the life that will bring them the most joy and happiness. So, how can parents distinguish that fine line between wanting their child to have and experience every thing and every opportunity without causing harm? 
Determining whether you spoil your child  is a two-sided issue. It cannot be determined solely by what you give to your child or what you allow your child to do. The reactions and choices of your child in response to receiving what they want also plays a huge part.
Spoiled children can be easily spotted. For the most part they are demanding, selfish and unappreciative. Most often these children lack an understanding of the power and personal responsibility we all have in our lives because their parents give from an unhealthy place inside of themselves. They may give out of guilt, an attempt to compensate for what they felt was lacking in their own childhood or an attempt to ensure their children’s love for them.
Therefore, this type of giving is attached to a certain negative component. Children can sense this and without an understanding of their responsibility for their choices and reactions will in turn respond negatively. During times that they do not receive what they want, they are prone to tantrums and emotional outbursts.
That fine line is typically blurred or even crossed not by what is given to the child but by the intentions of the parent.
In addition to wanting to provide and encourage an opportunity for all experiences, a healthy parenting mindset realizes the enormous value in also providing children with a strong sense of our innate individual power and personal responsibility. Children with this understanding know that we all have choices and we all are ultimately responsible for those choices and the consequences that follow. They are aware of the fact that what they are given is done so out of love and a desire to help them grow through experiences. Subsequently, these children automatically possess a deep feeling of gratitude because they know the favorable response that provided them with whatever it was they requested came as a result of another’s conscious and deliberate choice or decision. This type of giving is positive and children sense this as well and in turn will respond positively. During times that do not receive what they desire, they understand with acceptance.
I recently encountered an example of this.
I attended a gala event at a local school where two children, based on submitted art work, were chosen to receive tickets to Disney World. The first child chosen immediately wanted to know how long they would get to stay at Disney World and was visually upset when told the ticket was only (child’s word) for a one day pass while the second child was automatically visually grateful for getting to go to Disney World for a whole day (child’s words)!
The difference in the reaction of these children was the level of appreciation felt in correspondence to their understanding that they were given an opportunity to go to Disney World because someone made the choice to give them a ticket. This perception is best described by the old saying, “Is the glass half full or glass half empty?”
Unspoiled children are completely aware of their lack of power over other people’s choices which presents the fact that the issue at hand could have easily gone the other way. This fuels a true sense of appreciation rather than a feeling of entitlement.
When parents raise their children to have a clear understanding of each individual’s power to choose and give from a positive healthy place, they are never at risk of spoiling them, regardless of what they give them or allow them to do.
About Denny Hagel (35 Posts)

Denny Hagel is the Founder/CEO Awakened Parenting LLC, but first and foremost is a mom & grand-mom raising her 2 teenage grandchildren. Professionally she is a child advocate and parenting coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and emotional well being of all children. She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC; a company dedicated to inspiring parents to examine their “Parenting Mindset” in order to release limiting beliefs and parenting paradigms of the past so that they can consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self.

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  1. 1

    Apart from creating kids as you mention here Denny, kids need to learn that life will not give them what they want when they want it. In fact if adults behave in this way they are more likely to close doors that could well have been open to them before. Parents need to look at raising kids as raising adults that can function normally in society.

    • 1.1
      denny hagel says:

      Thanks for commenting! I believe the bottom line is to raise our children with a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in their lives, whether through their attitude, actions or mindset. I appreciate your insights Neil!

  2. 2
    Wade Balsdon says:

    I have always understood spoil in the context of children to give into their every whim. This creates bratty kids who will grow up and experience that life does not bend to their will. As hard as it is, I sometimes say no to my twins simply so that they learn not everything will go their way. I am proud to say that my peers, father and mother-in–law have only good things to say about how well rounded my kids are.

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