We love our kids. We want to provide for them, do our best for them and protect them. But sometimes our desire to make them happy and our dedication to looking after them can lead to ‘over-parenting’. With the best intentions in the world, we can over-praise, over-indulge and over-protect our little darlings ... and risk raising self-centred, entitled dependents, unable to think for themselves.
Here are some red flags that indicate you might be raising a spoilt child:
1. Your child’s happiness is paramount
Let’s face it – a parent’s life is a busy life and you don’t have as much time to devote to your child as you’d like. When you are together, you want to share happy, quality time so you avoid saying or doing anything that upsets your child or prevents them getting what they want. You circumvent their tantrums, sulks and complaints by giving into their ‘needs’.
You really want your child to like you; you’d rather be your child’s best friend than the best parent you could be.
2. You bail them out continuously
Forgotten swimming kit? "No problem – I’ll race back home and deliver it to school for you."
Lost another school hat? "Oh dear. Wish you’d take better care of your belongings. Never mind, let’s buy you another one."
School project deadline tomorrow and nothing started yet? "OK. Don’t panic. Let’s see what I can organise … Sit down and I’ll talk you through how we can put this all together."
Oh yes, you are the best PA in town. You are organised, hard working and an excellent problem-solver – sorting out all your kids’ mistakes and oversights so that they don’t have to suffer the natural consequence of their actions. You remember all their schedules, check their bag is packed correctly, constantly remind them of things they need to do … and they never learn how to plan and organise their affairs or take responsibility for their own belongings. Why bother? They have ‘staff’!
3. They have a superiority complex
Of course they do. You are so very proud of them, you tell them all the time – for the smallest things: “Well done for saying ‘thank you’. I’m so proud of you!”.
You lavish them with superlative praise: “You’re the best ever“, “the fastest runner”, “the prettiest princess”, “the top of the class”.
Yes, you have amazing kids and you love them to bits but by constantly telling them they are the ‘best’ at everything and ‘better than all the rest’, you risk giving them an inflated opinion of themselves.
4. You allow your children to interrupt
You permit them to barge into your conversations without so much as an ‘excuse me’. You are so attentive that you will drop whatever you are doing to focus on their requests, no matter how trivial. They never have to wait – even when you are in the bathroom – nor understand how to wait their turn.
5. They take people for granted
They barely acknowledge the people who serve them – bus drivers, cleaners, shop assistants, waiting staff – let alone show politeness and consideration. Nor do they appreciate or respect their teachers, their parents, their leaders and other people who care for them. They demonstrate a low level of empathy and are frequently rude and dismissive towards others.
6. You reward them for helping around the home
You are grateful when they help with family chores and you motivate them with rewards: You pay them for putting the rubbish out, treat them for tidying their room and give them extra screen time should they empty the dishwasher. Nothing is expected of your children. They would never lend a hand without a hand-out at the end, or complete a task unasked.
7. They don’t know how to use a vacuum cleaner…
… or the washing machine, or how to cook a simple meal or sort socks into pairs and file them in a drawer. In fact, they possess very few basic life skills a child of their age could master easily. Maybe you’ve not had time to show them yet … or perhaps it’s just easier to do stuff for them than teach them how to do it themselves.
8. You apologise for punishing them
Well yes, they did need ticking off and disciplining but you feel bad about shouting at them and sending them to their room, confiscating the toy they had thrown at their sister or keeping them from a planned trip to the cinema for bad behaviour. They were so upset and angry. It broke your heart to see them distressed and disappointed. So you apologise (even when they don’t!) and hug their tears away. The entitled child never learns how to feel remorse, take responsibility for their actions or accept punishment without complaint.
9. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing
They boast to their friends about how much pocket money they get and what top toys/gadgets they own. They are disturbingly aware of how much their presents cost and what people have spent on them ... and will eagerly relay this information to anyone who will listen. They never have to save up or wait to be bought something special because ... well, you do like to treat them and they were so excited when they saw it in Target. They don’t take care of their possessions because they can always be replaced if they break/get lost/are defaced.
10. They’re never satisfied
You read them three books but they demand more.
You let them stay up extra late but they still moan when you finally send them to bed.
When you offer them a biscuit, they ask, ‘Can I have two?’.
The spoilt child is never content or grateful for what they have. They always want more. They do not understand boundaries, moderation or the meaning of the word ‘enough’.
Parenting is hard work and it can be difficult to get the balance right. But sometimes we have to stand firm, step back and expect more of our kids in order to nurture the kind, independent young adults they are capable of being.