What is spoiling?

Talk to me about "spoiling" kids.

I was in an online discussion a couple of weeks ago in which one of the participants was lamenting trying to referee expectations at her house vs. the neighbor's house, about food but also material possessions. At one point she said that she gave her child presents for birthdays and holidays, and didn't "spoil [her child] by buying them toys all the time."

That kind of brought me up short, because I do buy my kids toys, fairly often. Essentially, I see something they'd like and get it to give it to them, because I know they'll like it. These aren't high-value items (I don't have the money or the inclination for that), but to me it feels just like making their favorite meals on the days they're at my house, or letting them choose the radio station, or leaving a note in their backpacks. It's a way of showing love in a personal way that acknowledges their personalities and preferences.

But I totally get her point, that an avalanche of things (especially if they're given every time a child asks for something) feels like spoiling.

I wonder if somehow this is related to the Love Languages concept. (It's a book, but essentially the idea is that people experience feeling loved through different modalities, which is why sometimes you do something you think is super-loving but the other person receives it as if it's no big deal and vice versa. Once you know someone's Love Language you can a) understand how they show love, and b) understand how to show love to them in a way that connects with them.) One of the Love Languages is giving gifts, and that's pretty high up on my scale. (Not surprisingly, Words of Affirmation is my top Love Language.)

(You know I'm really into personality testing and all kinds of measures of understanding ourselves. I can tell you my cat's Myers Briggs type.)

(It was my brother who turned me on to the Love Languages thing, which he figured out while dating his now-wife, and once he broke it down for me it completely explained Christmas, birthdays, and every interaction with our parents, ever. Also a really funny New Year's Eve with my friend Kelli.)

So for someone who feels giving and recieving gifts (even teeny ones) as a form of love, of course you give them to your kids. For someone who doesn't feel gifts as connected to love, giving a lot of gifts seems wasteful and pointless.

So I'm wondering how much of ideas of spoiling are different priorities and how many are about something else that I haven't exactly put my finger on yet. Is it really about behavior? In the phrase "spoiled brat" there's an implication that a child is acting poorly, but also the idea of excess, somehow, of greed.

What do you think is the essence (if there is one) of "spoiling"? Do you do things that other people could see as spoiling your kids? Do other people do things you see as spoiling but they don't? Is there always an element of "excess" or can it be purely behavioral?

62 thoughts on “What is spoiling?”

  1. First and foremost, I don’t think you can spoil a child by giving them love or attention. I know you didn’t get into that, but a lot of people seem to think you “spoil” your child if you do.With regards to material stuff, I think it is spoiling if you rush out and buy something every time your kid mentions that they want something. They then have no concept of not being able to have everything, of learning to save for things, or of learning to appreciate things.
    I love to surprise my kids with treats that I think they would like. When it becomes an expectation, then I think it is problem.

  2. The issue of “Chloe’s mommy bought her a [insert toy-of-the-moment here] so you should buy me one too,” comes up often with my nearly-7 year old, as I’m sure it does with many other families. As well as, “Bianca’s parents let her watch XYZ show, it’s not fair that you don’t let me watch it.” And even, “Sophie is spoilt because she gets a new Barbie all the time.” My answer to my daughter is always: every family has its own rules, its own priorities about how it does things, about how it spends its money, and about how it uses its time. We’re concerned about OUR family only. That is, I try to change the conversation so that it’s about us, and what we do is not being measured against what others do. Me personally, I tend to wait until Christmas or birthday to buy toys and so on, and the only treats in between are usually books. But that’s how we roll. How others want to do their thing, that’s their business.

  3. For a while last year – we had to implement if you are asking for it then it isn’t a surprise it is a request to be considered rule.DD was asking for too many things at the store and expecting them immediately. We also added – be sure to put it on your Christmas/birthday list and eventually constantly asking for things stopped and we were able to give her random surprises again.

  4. I buy my kids things fairly often. It’s usually something I think they will enjoy and it’s definitely not the stuff they see in television commercials. Yesterday I bought them each a book at the bookstore, but I refuse to buy those darn Stompy slippers we keep seeing on TV and they ask for. Are my kids spoiled? I don’t think so, because I think “spoiled” involves bad behavior. Are they very fortunate? Yes. And as part of that it is my responsibility to teach them to be giving people (of time, money and things).

  5. I struggle with this because my son is an only child (and likely always will be.) “Spoiled” is a reason other people give as to why my two year old won’t share or take turns. I thought all two year olds did that?

  6. I agree that there is never too much love. Attention however, can border on hovering. The main area for spoiling seems to be material objects.I have a friend who buys her kids something every time she travels for work. She even stocks up from stores at home in case she forgets while she’s gone. To me? Too much. I’m a Christmas and birthday gift giver only. I also can’t figure out what one does if you invite the whole class to a party- get 25 gifts?!
    Maybe the criteria is that when the child expects a gift and is upset to not get one we’ve gone too far.

  7. I think that spoiling comes down to any indulgence that is out of the viewer’s comfort zone.If I am observed giving a lot of compliments to my son when he is doing a good job getting through a tough thing, I’ve heard that I’ll give him a Big Head – which sounds like spoiling.
    Same with carrying a baby constantly
    Same with toys or treats
    I got the comments on compliments and carrying (and touching in general) from a very old-school woman who (as far as I can tell) didn’t do much of either for her kids.
    The same person has never once commented on “stuff” … which goes back to the language of money where she happily plays fast and loose. (so, another point to the Love Language thing).

  8. My in-laws are definitely Gift people on the Languages of Love thing. I guess it’s the grandparents’ prerogative to spoil the grandchildren. I’ve occasionally asked them to dial back a bit, or put the money in the kids’ college account, and it was clear that was the equivalent of asking them not to love their grandchildren. What I don’t like is when the kids start expecting that every interaction should have a present attached. To my mind, that it spoiled, or at least entitled, but I don’t know what to do about it when it more or less works out to being true. I also don’t like the implication that my parents therefore love the grandchildren less because they are not big gift-givers, but sometimes that seems to be in the back of my husband’s mind.My kids get so many gifts for major occasions that I usually don’t buy them anything myself (which is sometimes I bummer; I actually really enjoy buying them gifts). I often do bring them back a present when I travel for work, or sometimes just something I think they would enjoy or seem ready for, educationally. The problem with that is that intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful, so as a strategy, it can jack up the whining.

  9. I found the Love Languages concept very helpful indeed, though I found the book (Love Languages for Children, I think) irksome.I agree with the PPs that spoiling is when someone (child or parent, but mostly the child) *expects* gifts. A family friend used to bring gifts on every occasion – Thanksgiving, Easter, July 4th – and I worked actively to set expectations with my son on that.
    I also agree that there’s no such thing as too much love or affection… or at least that it doesn’t spoil children. I’m recently struggling with whether the latter might result in teasing from peers, but that’s a different thing altogether.

  10. My Kids Mom, I STOPPED buying my kids something every time I traveled because I realized I was only doing it because I felt guilty about not being there and was trying to buy their love and forgiveness. When I realized I was feeling pressure to find something in yet another stupid airport gift shopped, and started considering buying ahead, I knew it was madness. So I stopped. They didn’t care. Of course, then I had to work through my actual issues with traveling instead of just slapping a toy on it…Keli, people are stupid. Some of the most generous people I know are only children. And no, most 2-year-olds aren’t good at sharing or taking turns and we shouldn’t be expecting it yet.

  11. My sister says you’re only spoiling if you are giving your kids things you don’t want them to have (like buying clothes you feel are inapprorpriate just because they beg/whine/ask).I think the giving and receiving of gifts is terribly wasteful and I would just give everyone cash if I could so they could get exactly what they want, but some people think that’s not how things are done.
    The best gift my husband ever gave me was a chayote. It’s a vegetable. I had been reading an article on fruits and vegeatables and showed it to him, and he just happened to go to the fruiteria with his dad that day and came home with one because he knew I was interested. It wasn’t the gift so much as that he had been paying attention to me and remembered, and so on.

  12. I am an only child and am perfectly capable of sharing. I think I’ve also been good at teaching my kids to share b/c I know the value of having something all to oneself.Spoiling is mainly about behavior, IMO. Lots of gifts and toys, dh and I don’t do it, but that’s b/c of how *we* feel, not b/c we think it would spoil the kids. Does the child speak nicely to the parent? Appreciate gifts and acts of service? Interact well with other people? Think about one of the “classic” spoilt children: Veruca Salt. Was she spoilt b/c her parents were rich and could afford to give her lots of nice things, or was she spoilt b/c she would demand to always have her way and everyone would cater to that? The main character from “A Little Princess” was quite the opposite: Again, her father was rich and able to lavish her with toys, clothes, books, etc, but she was raised to have a kind heart. She was a v generous person. Spoiled in a material way, yes, but it certainly didn’t feel like it when reading b/c the personality shown through much brighter.
    I really think there is something to the idea that if you are generous with your children, they will learn to be generous b/c they are not always having to scrounge for things or beg for them. This could be material goods OR affection. The right heart, the right attitude, is what matters more than a pile of toys and clothes.

  13. I’m the one who wrote the original post that started this topic. I’ve had some time to think about this in the weeks that have passed. I don’t think the neighbor child in question is spoiled necessarily. While he does have way more toys than my child and seems to receive extravagant (to me) toys for no apparent reason or occasion (again, to my eyes, but I really don’t know), he doesn’t behave like a stereotypical “spoiled child.”I think I used the term “spoiled” in my original sentence, which Moxie noted above is because when my child whines and complains that he doesn’t have or get what his friend has and gets, and we don’t give in because if we did, we’d be spoiling our own child. I think that’s where it came from. Or maybe not. I was pretty fired up when I wrote it.
    Also, I have pretty strong feelings about too much “stuff” and I think I fall into the camp of not associating gifts with love. Thanks for opening my eyes to the fact that other people have different views on this. It explains a lot about grandparent behavior.
    And, @Keli, as another parent of an only child, that is a load of bunk. I mean, do these people know that your child will always be an only? How can they use that on a 2 year old!? Most people don’t have a second child until the first is 2 or older, so a lot of 2 year olds are “only children.” Hater’s gonna hate…

  14. My kids (7 and 4) have a chore/allowance system where somethings are mandatory but they can earn more by doing extra stuff around the house. That is the money they use to buy random stuff, although I am more lenient with the younger one because he understands less exactly how much things cost.I feel like this frees me up to buy them the things I want to buy them and not the random toys stuff they ask more. So, if it’s a priority to me, and I *want* to give it to them, I do. If they are demanding or asking for something that I don’t think is worthwhile, then they can buy it with their money.
    I like our system because it teaches patience, hard work, math, and so on, but it also lets me give them things when I want to.

  15. I think a spoiled child is one that has a sense of entitlement. And I think that goes far beyond material items to expecting other people’s time, attention, etc. to always be put first under any circumstance. I saw this as a middle school teacher- some kids had all the expensive clothes, phones, gadgets but were lovely and respectful and good friends but other kids felt that their question/problem/issue was by far the most important thing and therefore I should deal with them immediately, schedule tests around their personal schedule, give them chances to redo tests and projects that they blew off because otherwise it wasn’t “fair” to them. I also think that once a child stops treating material items with respect and it all just becomes crap that they through around (i.e. They don’t understand that you worked had for the money spent on the item and spent time and energy picking it out) then it has become too much and regardless of the parents’ intent needs to be dialed back.

  16. It’s definitely possible to spoil a child, especially if you leave them out in the sun next to the macaroni salad.I always get that image in my head when I hear that phrase! Some poor kids just left out in the sun too long, wilting…
    It seems to me that our framework for categorizing behavior as potentially spoiling is kind of the same as how we instinctually categorize which kind of porn is “wrong”–it’s whatever we WOULDN’T do!
    So, no, I don’t do lots of gifts. But I do treat with food (a habit I sometimes worry about a little.)
    Something about the concept makes me think of inconsistency… for example, if I am inconsistent with my messages (“No, you can’t have that… well, okay, I guess you can.”) As others posters have mentioned, maybe it’s something to do with when you go against your gut feeling.
    I know I have said to my children before, “Do not ASK for things, you wait to be GIVEN them (or not) (and then say thank you, etc.)” –so maybe it’s connected with the idea of giving-on-demand?

  17. This is something my husband and I struggle with. With us it’s a social class/entitlement issue. Neither one of us grew up in poverty but we live at a much higher standard of living than our parents did when we were small. I personally feel that how people handle money, as well as other attitudes, has a lot to do with how they perceive their social status. We want our kids to grow up appreciating what they have and understanding that not everyone is as fortunate.That’s a long term goal as it requires maturity our boys at 6 and 3 simply don’t have.
    I’ve also become very anti-clutter so I’m constantly struggling with how to keep the volume of toys in the house managable without making our kids feel deprived.
    Anyway, I feel like I’m rambling. I’m pretty sure some of our friends feel like our kids are spoiled because they have some expensive toys. Last Christmas, for example, we bought our older son a $100 Lego set. We talked about it for a long time and were pretty clear with him he wouldn’t get much else. My parents went in on it so between us and them his only gifts were the Lego set and a puzzle. Compared to what most people I know buy their kids for holidays that seems reasonable especially since he only had two presents to open on Christmas morning. But still, it was a $100 toy for a 5 y/o which I consider extremely extravagent. He loves Legos and plays with this toy all the time but sometimes I wonder if we did the wrong thing.
    I don’t know.

  18. I absolutely agree with @Kristin above that spoiling is about creating entitlement in children, not about giving gifts or carrying them around or loving too much. But attention and gift giving and carrying them too much *can* create a sense of entitlement. To me, entitlement is the enemy of independence, because it encourages dependence/everyone does this for me attitude. Spoiling is the opposite of self-direction and autonomy. So a parent who rushes to their toddler every time she falls and makes a huge fuss about it can be “spoiling” her because they can create anxiety and a lack of self-confidence in the child. That’s the #1 thing I want to avoid (and Moxie, my mothering style based on my Myers Briggs is the Responsibility Mother so there you go!). My kids help, they are not the only people in the universe, they are part of a family and a community. My son cannot have little gifts, because he’s obsessed with acquisition, and the more little gifts he gets the more demanding he becomes. It’s not pretty. So even though I would love to buy him gifts, I restrain myself unless it is a special situation (airplane travel, birthday, etc).

  19. @Beth – I do not think that was over the top at all. I know $100 is a lot of money on a little kid, but Legos last forever. We bought our son a special Playmobile firetruck for his birthday; it was $80 and that’s all he got. He loved it, and it’s been actively played with every day for the past 2 years.

  20. I grew up hearing the word spoilt a lot, (spoilt, not spoiled, because I was in Ireland) because I was an only child whose parents took care to see that I wasn’t. We didn’t have a lot of extra cash, though we were always comfortable, but presents – and not extravagant ones – were a birthdays and Christmas thing.With my kids it’s the same, even if there are two of them. But they also get new presents sometimes from a star-chart that gets filled in, and if we go to a yard sale or the thrift store they do tend to expect a small something, so our clutter levels are increasing in spite of ourselves. I do think they understand, though, when I say something is too expensive, that they can put it on their Chrismtas list (started in May this year, I think) and they *might* get it.
    But really, I think spoiling is nothing to do with how many things kids have. It’s more about their expectations and how we meet them or teach them to compromise.

  21. We don’t have a ton of money, but I often (weekly maybe?) surprise my four-year-old with small things that I’ve picked up — a coloring book, some new crayons, maybe a pony. Every single time, no matter how big or small the item, she expresses so much gratitude: “It’s perfect! It’s just what I wanted! Thank you SOOOO much!”I occasionally worry that I’m spoiling, not because of the frequency, but because I feel like half the reason I do this is that I never had these little things when I was a kid. We had little money and so presents were just a Birthday/Christmas thing. I know how I would have felt (and do feel even now over getting small thoughtful gifts) and so I’m probably transferring some of that.
    That being said, when she asks for things, we tell her to add it to the wish list. This was an actual wish list but has turned into just a thing to say as the requests are frequent. She rarely pouts or gets upset over this, though, and we can tell what things she really wants because those are the only things she mentions again, after that initial impulse.

  22. I just say, “All right, there are 47% of kids who believe they are entitled to lollipops, to Cocoa Puffs, to remote-control airplanes, to swimming princess Barbies, to you-name-it. My job is not to worry about those kids.”No wonder my polling numbers are so low among the three-to-five set.

  23. I think “spoiling a child” is anything that inhibits or compromises the development of a child’s well being and/or character. What will spoil a child depends on the temperament of the child, the expectations of the family, and the culture they grow up in.Some things we know are bad, but we see happen all the time. Giving a 2 year old coke or mountain dew. Not wise. Not healthy. Setting them up for all kinds of trouble in the present and in the future. Most would agree about that.
    Other things, are modern parenting conundrums. I don’t know how many times I have seen parents giving small children (toddlers) choices that they were not equipped to handle. Dialogues like “Would you like to go to the store with Daddy, or stay home with Mama? Would you like to get dressed or stay in your Jammies? Would you like to put your shoes on or go bare foot? What shoes do you want to wear? ” This to a three year old.
    Or giving them a menu in a cafe and letting them order something you know they are not going to eat.
    Don’t get me wrong, choices are appropriate for even very young children, but not all choices all the time. Parents these days have really dialed back their leadership role in child raising, and quite frankly I think it leaves the children confused. Confused about their role and their parents role, and confused about the process of choice. In my opinion, this kind of parenting really spoils kids, more than ignoring tantrums in public (although, I have to say, I think it often leads to them). I also think a permissiveness comes from so many parents having children in daycare from a young age. They are trying to connect and develop a friendly relationship with their child in the small window of time they have outside of work/day care, and so they don’t want to be the bad cop and deal with their child’s disapproval.
    Children need direction and leadership, in a loving, gentle way, of course.

  24. I think a spoiled child is essentially a selfish child. One who expects to get what they want with no thought whatsoever of how their behaviour/demands/expectations impacts others.I think very young children can appear spoiled when they are not…they are essentially egocentric in their world view, they are still learning manners, and how to interact with others in a kind way. If we parent well we (hopefully!) raise kids who are considerate, generous, polite – the opposite of spoilt.
    Lots to unpack here but I have to run. Good discussion, Moxie.

  25. I also feel like a conversation about spoiling isn’t complete without including that warren buffet quote about why he isn’t leaving his children all his money- something like “I want them to have enough so that they feel they can do anything but not so much that they feel they can do nothing.” My husband and I talk abou that quote a lot in reference to our parenting. When you are doing things for your child that they could and should be doing for themselves you are spoiling or when you are giving them so many material objects they no longer see the value in any one of them then you are spoiling. In both actions and objects it’s such a balance.

  26. @Gracefulgambill, I have to respectfully question whether some of the examples you bring up are really evidence of a lack of parenting leadership. I give my kids choices all the time, but only when either outcome of the choice is truly fine with me. And, _I_ am providing the parameters, so I am still giving guidance. The choice isn’t, do you want to go to school or not, it’s which pair of pants would you like to wear to school. I don’t think giving kids some (limited) control over their lives is either spoiling them or abdicating responsibility.I also have to take issue with saying that parents whose kids are in daycare are so worried about their relationships that they’re afraid to be authoritative. That’s painting with a pretty broad brush. I know lots of parents with kids in full-time or part-time daycare who have warm and loving relationships with their kids and who also do a great job setting boundaries. I know families with kids at home who do this just as well. In fact, I have to say that most of the families I know are doing their darndest to create this balance and create family relationships that are both loving and respectful.

  27. @Elizabeth, thank you, those were my thoughts. I think many normal behaviors of children and teenagers may make them appear to be spoiled, but once they’re adults… not so much. I think there’s a fine line to tread when making character judgments based on behaviors of someone who is under 18. Another indicator IMHO that our culture wants children to grow up too fast.You could say that true, dangerous spoil(ation?) is a form of sociopathy since it indicates a complete disregard for anyone else’s time, feelings, etc. and emphasizes self over all others. I know people with this problem and they run the gambit from growing up very poor, no running water in house, to growing up wealthy.
    When a child’s *emotional* needs aren’t consistently met, I think it can invariably lead to a troubled adulthood. This has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I think it ties in also with the jobs/relationship discussion. You can meet all of the child’s physical needs but if you are not meeting their emotional needs (consistently, most of the time, we all screw up) then that creates a lot of issues. Or if you are trying to meet an emotional need (“I want to spend time with you”) with an object (buy a toy), that can lead to an unhealthy relationship with material things.

  28. Cathy cracked me up.Also, my mother recently actually said something to the effect of “I know Chuckles wants a DS for Christmas, and I know you don’t want him to have one, but I am going to buy it for him anyway because I want him to love me the most.” AND THEN I DIED, because seriously, how little self-awareness did that display?
    Apparently, her love language is seriously distorted, and her lack of accepting boundaries of me as the parent is just screwed. No wonder I’m so bitter all the time.

  29. SarcastiCarrie, LOL, lack of self awareness is def funny (in a “if I don’t laugh about this I’m going to jump off of a bridge” kind of way) Someone I know (won’t name names) considers herself to be a laid back person, but over the weekend would not speak to me for an entire day because I knocked on the bathroom door while she was in there (she hates that apparently, because it makes her feel “pressured” while she’s trying to go) Yeah, real laidback.

  30. Also voting for Cathy. Too funny.I worry that I am spoiling DS through too many gifts, although really it is DH who is always buying things for the kids. DH is not at all worried about it. My love language is Words of Affirmation/Physical Touch. Surprise, surprise – DH’s love language is gifts.

  31. I think the acid test for whether or not a kid is spoilt is whether they can deal with being told “No”. And I think there’s a bit of latitude, because sometimes they’re having a bad day and it is harder than usual to cope. But if their usual reaction to being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, I’m too busy to play with you right now” is to express disappointment in a non-headache-inducing manner, and then move on to something else…they aren’t spoilt.

  32. I don’t think it’s spoiling if you want to give it. I do think it’s spoiling if they want it, you don’t want to give it, but you do give it either to stop a tantrum or because you fear they will start one. I think the spoiling is when you teach them a bad habit.That said, I do think kids can be over-indulged out of guilt or by relatives who feel giving gifts is a way to compensate for not being able to visit. A kid only needs so much stuff. A good clue is if there is nowhere to store the new stuff, or it just goes on top of stuff they haven’t even touched yet. Suddenly it’s not special anymore to receive.

  33. I had a couple of cousins my family thought were spoiled. They got a lot of gifts, sure, but I don’t think that was the heart of it — I think the heart of it was about lack of discipline. As a parent myself now, I think the discipline thing is a sliding scale with every kid. We’re used to the idea that children with developmental disabilities, for instance, can only be expected to do so much — whatever they are capable of and have the capacity to handle. The same is true of all kids, and I know when I’ve tried to get my kid to be too disciplined, because there’s a lot of tension and he stops pooping in the potty. So that’s a kind of anti-spoiling: when your kid is so disciplined it causes problems.I’d say spoiling is the same thing: when your kid is so undisciplined it causes problems. I think too many toys/gifts can go hand in hand with that, but it doesn’t need to. My cousins got gifts that, to us, were extravagant for the situation, as bribes for good behavior — and of course the kids didn’t come through on their end of the bargain, because they’re kids: they need to be shown how to behave, and need to have the situation managed to encourage increasing levels of age- and ability-dependent discipline. So the toys or gifts themselves are more of a symptom than the problem itself.
    For what it’s worth, these cousins are young adults now, and all of their pets somehow eventually wind up at their parents’ house, under their parents’ care. They have trouble holding down jobs and supporting themselves, and their parents still pay for things for them — cell phones, auto insurance, etc. I think having the end game in mind is good, and a possible litmus test. If you can answer “If this pattern continues, will little Johnny be leaving his dogs with me?” with a no, your kid is probably not (very) spoiled.

  34. I think “spoiling” is in the eye of the beholder, and the only beholder that matters is the parent. If you feel like things are getting out of control, then make a change.I mean, who cares if someone else makes a drive-by assessment that my 3yo is spoiled because I let her choose what shoes to wear to school? (hello, WTF @gracefullgambill??)
    We bought our daughter 3 presents for her birthday, totaling less than $60. Our families gave her many, many times that. She had presents to open every day for a week, and by the end was totally exhausted by it. But the Love Languages thing is totally accurate there. We’re lucky that they care so much, though our own values aren’t as much about quantity and “stuff”.
    Someone on the outside probably thinks this is “spoiling” but I’ll be worried about it when it starts affecting my daughter’s behavior.

  35. Spoiled children are those who are taught, through the parents’ actions and words, that the world revolves around their wants, needs, whims and desires. Essentially, a child who has never been taught to think about others (I know kids are naturally self-centered. I’m talking about a child who, through the parents’ actions or inactions, is abnormally self-centered for their age/stage of development.)In the end, I think it’s taught self-centeredness.

  36. I gave my kids gifts whenever I felt like it, We’re not much for birthdays and holidays and I’m not much into “stuff” so the feeling doesn’t come along often). Anyway, they’re not spoiled – not even slight rancid.Maybe spoiled come from giving into (and allowing) the gimmees, not what’s given freely from the giver’s desire to give.

  37. “Spoiling” is about the attitude it creates. A mannerful child (and to each his own on what that looks like) never comes across as spoiled.I think there are two major areas that people tend to view “other people’s kids” as spoiled in: stuff and permissiveness. A parent that overindulges in either, by someone else’s standard, is probably going to have a child that is seen as spoiled.
    For example: “Did you hear the way s/he talked to her mom/dad?” “What a spoiled brat.” or “Did you see s/he got a new x and it’s not even y?”
    Also parents of children of a certain age/gender with no experience beyond the one they are in tend to be the most judgy, imo. Perspective helps.

  38. I have a question. My 2.5 year old son doesn’t have many toys and I reckon he’s too young to ask for things at the store. He does ask, but has very little response when we don’t get it. So we end up not buying him hardly anything. He gets very excited to get things, but loses interest pretty fast too.Ok! Here’s my question! When do they start begging for stuff? When do they feel selfish or possessive? Of course all kids are different, but I hear all this stuff about the horror of three year olds and wonder if that’s when the begging starts?

  39. Hi @Lumberjack! T started “asking” for stuff at the store, sort of, around 2-2.5 but like yours, didn’t make a big deal out of it. I realized that actually she was just pointing stuff out, so I suggested that she say “look at xyz” instead of “I want xyz” and that keeps her happy, and me too!She’s 3 now and we still don’t have much of a begging/I want thing going on. But she doesn’t watch any TV with commercials and she just doesn’t seem to be too attached to her stuff in general. So maybe it’s a personality thing, or maybe it’ll hit us later ;D

  40. I suspect some family/friends may view us as spoiling our daughter (only child) with toys, classes, or experiences like going to the children’s theater. In each of those cases, money seems part of it– they might support the purpose of those purchases, but they don’t have the means to do it for their own children and/or choose a “simpler” lifestyle. That can be a bit awkward socially (no one’s breathed the word “spoiled,” it’s only implied in the contrasts).Setting aside others’ views, my gauge tends to be whether the purchase seems like it supports my daughter’s interests. She has a lot of interests! so inherently there’s some picking & choosing (and I wait to hear an idea mentioned a few times before even thinking about pursuing it). My parents provided similar things for me as a child but also modeled and discussed restraint around material purchases– I hope to do the same. Having junk or little trinkets everywhere seems so wasteful (but also part of being a kid? the trinkets just multiply and she never wants to throw away anything– crafts, valentines, plastic rings, etc). My MIL’s love language is gifts, and my daughter’s birthday is the week before Christmas, so the last part of December can feel excessive to me. But, her attitude so far is excited for and appreciative of the December presents, and when she seems saturated I put away the others until late February!

  41. @lumberjack – My son became incredibly acquisitive around his fourth birthday. He seemed to “get” for the first time how birthdays work, and there were a cluster of parties, including his and his brothers, around the same time. He had always enjoyed looking at catalogs, and saying, oh I’d like this, but it wasn’t demanding, and we could still take him into toy stores without a meltdown. Then at four, it clicked – people give me stuff I want. Why don’t they do it all the time? Why can’t I have something whenever I want? What’s the different between a toy and ice cream? He also took an interest in money at the same time, because we started to explain to him that you have to have money to buy stuff. So I think for him in a confluence of things – awareness of material possessions for the first time (my kids have never been particularly possessive of things, and we generally insist that all the toys “belong” to both kids, they are all in a shared space, not in a private room, as a result the kids have little trouble sharing toys with visitors); the pain of watching other kids open presents when you don’t get anything (tied to the appalling-to-me practice of gift bags, which makes my son think every party will result in a goody bag for himself); basically, an increased awareness of himself as part of a larger world that does not always meet his immediate needs. It’s frustrating for us – the meltdowns, the seemingly lack of gratitude – but it seems developmentally appropriate. Honestly, I would buy him more things if he didn’t respond the way he does, but given his stage, it would not be prudent.

  42. @mom2boy – Exactly, I think you’re right. All kids go through phases where they have tantrums, whine, backtalk. All that is frustrating but completely normal. To an outsider, nonparent, parent of a child of a different age, it can look “bratty” but you have to watch a parent and child very carefully to find out what might be going on, or you risk stumbling into the kinds of nasty hasty judgments that @Wilhemina has been subject to with her child (and parents with neuro atypical kids).

  43. I think of it this way: spoiling is giving things you don’t want to give. Essentially, caving into demands, either for objects or other things (more time to play before bed, not wanting to clean up,etc.) Anything that I give freely and happily, whether my child asked for it or not, I don’t consider spoiling. That said, I’m not one who is inclined to give tons of little gifts or say yes to every little thing they ask for. If I were, then this definition of spoiling might not work for me.

  44. Evidenced in some of these responses is the possibility that an accusation of “spoiling” may be prompted by underlying jealousy/guilt on the part of the accusing parent?I agree with several (@enu and others) who reflect that the spoiling occurs in the spirit of the giving. If I give to my children in accordance with my love-language (any) with an attitude of generosity, and not out of guilt or reaction to my own faulty history, then it cannot be spoiling–any more than holding a baby as much as we can. (IMHO)
    I tend toward buying toys that are really for me, as I grew up with almost no toys (we were really poor). I don’t even think the kids notice some of those things–but it is cluttery to do this, which impacts them. I want to stop; at least I’ve admitted some of the toys are for me.
    I don’t think spoiling is as much defined by “doing” as by “being”–IMHO kids imitate/reflect us more than we “form” who they are. By being what we want them to be, we can avoid spoiling; like being generous of spirit, caring for ourselves rather than spoiling ourselves, not being demanding of others, not having an expectation of getting.
    Not even sure if what I’m saying makes sense–sort of stream-of-consciousness. I’m still hoping hedra jumps in here, too.

  45. “like being generous of spirit, caring for ourselves rather than spoiling ourselves, not being demanding of others, not having an expectation of getting”And kids are works in progress going on instinct and modeling what they see… I still think unreasonable age-inappropriate expectations come into play here significantly. (Bratty is a disease that afflicts the under 10 demographic in much greater numbers…and also, see manners.) On any given (sun)day, ha, my child can be selfish to the point I think he’s a sociopath to so selfless I’m sure he’s channeling the dalai lama. You know, human-like.

  46. Right now, I sometimes buy my daughter toys for no reason other than I feel like she’s bored or understimulated with what she currently has to play with. Now that her 2nd birthday has passed and she’s got a few more things that are age appropriate, I’ll probably stop doing this so much. Once she’s old enough for allowance, she’ll be able to buy what she wants with that, and gifts will likely be for birthdays, Christmas, and maybe something small in her Easter basket. However, this is almost entirely due to our feelings about (a) stuff and (b) money, and not so much to whether we’re afraid of her being spoiled. In fact, if I do feel guilty about buying her things, it’s usually to do with spending the money – I have a strong drive to live below our means and feel like just because I CAN afford something doesn’t mean I should get it. As long as I can impart that same sensibility to our daughter, I don’t think it’s a problem if every so often I get her something “just because.”And I have to agree with most everyone else that spoiling is more about giving IN to your kids when you’d rather not that giving to your kids when you really want to.

  47. As an only child of divorced parents I was repeatedly told I was spoiled. Not by my parents but by others and my “friends.” My friends would use it as leverage to get their way, because I was spoiled and always got my way…As a child I felt entitled to almost everything… because I was a child. Because I didn’t know things cost money. Because I saw something and I wanted it. If I wanted it, I should get it…. I must imagine EVERY child comes that way and through life learns reality.
    Did I actually get everything I wanted? NO. Most… I don’t know. I know my parents tried to give me things I wanted when it made sense and they had money for it. (Now I know how tight money was, but as a child I never felt deprived) I assumed I would get presents at my birthday/Christmas because I always had.
    Not because I felt entitled, but because that is what I had come to expect because that is what had always happened.
    Just like I expected to be fed, slowly my parents showed and encouraged me to take some responsibility to feed myself (here is cereal and milk, walla make breakfast), and slowly overtime I learned about giving gifts, about making choices on how to spend my OWN money on things. When I wanted something at the store I was given my own money, so I learned somethings cost more than others, and gain that experience. Learning to make the tough choices between things I thought I desired. I also failed and made mistakes. I wanted a puppy surprise, I saved and saved, and when I got it, was totally let down. My mother showed compassion but didn’t wash it away, or buy me something else. I learned a great deal there, the hard way.
    Was I spoiled? I am not currently rotten. I am a generous person (I still like getting/giving gifts, but also time and attention and words of kindness).
    I think all babies and children start out assuming the world will provided them everything they desire because it must. (food, safety, warmth, cleanliness, love) and as parents it is our job to grow them into people who are gracious, kind enjoyable to be around. So to spoil a child to prevent them from learning how to be this person. And what is developmentally appropriate here is the same as in other areas… what they are capable changes over time.

  48. In my experience the ” brat” , “spoilt” and ” entitlement issues” labels happen most when my daughter has a severe tantrum. Thanks at @Erin!Because in those cases there’s always a straw that breaks the camel’s back that’s the tipping point. So people see a kid freaking out about being said no to, or told to go home, or no chocolate bar ( small one) now. It lightst the blue touch paper and kaboom, but actually what’s causing the tantrum is hours worth of emotional and stimulation issues.
    If your child is prone to over-stimulation and distress tantrums you will watch your child like a hawk to head trouble off. And I avoid drawing too many lines in the sand then.
    That has gotten me over-protective and over-indulgent, and your daughter will thinks she’s the queen all the attention you give her.
    Another way of saying spoilt.
    But if she’s happy, and balanced she is good at delayed gratification. I can say we will get that BBC kiddie magazine on Friday at the beginning of the week and she’s fine.
    And I don’t watch her the same way and let her move freely around and play.
    Ditto five minutes until home time. Or we won’t get chocolate today, another day. Or let the other child go on the slide now.
    Then she looks a model small citizen and I look like a sensible mother.
    In other words I don’t think you can deduce a sense of entitlement or a permanently grasping, selfish nature in a child from tantrums etc. in public.

  49. I think Claire has it pretty clearly.”spoiled” is not learning how to be a gracious, generous, grateful, polite, appropriate adult.
    The challenge is at what age is that learning mandatory, and when does it have to be locked in 100%? In different cultures, it is learned at different ages. Plus what ‘polite’ and ‘appropriate’ mean vastly different things in different cultures, too. Many cultures expect children to be unable to control selfish, self-centered, demanding behavior whatsoever until nearly teens, and so the behavior is indulged as a normal thing – duh, kids are just like that, you know – run around, break things, don’t listen, stay up late and refuse to sleep, demand gifts (NEED things), and you just give in because fighting it is crazy, that’s the way kids ARE. Later, when they have more maturity, then you teach them that they can’t have it all, but now, they’re just kids. :shrug:
    I get a lot of comments from certain people about how my kids behave, how fantastic they are, how self assured and polite and so forth, For Their Age. Because there’s no such expectation in the commenter’s culture of origin. My kids are great, but they can also act like spoiled selfish brats on any given day at any given time. (We’re currently working on the idea that you can ACT like you are spoiled without that meaning you are in fact rotten as a person, as it is a behavior and not a character trait.) Both 7 year olds were acting like selfish entitled weenies yesterday evening. Today, they are not. They’re still in the learning process.
    “Spoiled” adults are a problem in our work environment, so I would say that spoiling is a real potential issue. There are young punks coming in who think that they can just do whatever they like, show up when they like, work only as hard as they want to, and the company still owes them a promotion. and should think they’re good looking and talented, too. Uh, no. At the same time, I have a ton more people who will go the extra mile, help out their team, dedicate themselves to doing it better each time. The problem is that the spoiled ones do not grasp the difference, at all. They can’t see it. They think they ARE working hard because they’re doing something instead of having it done for them. Even if they can’t possibly show up on time every day of the week. And yeah, they don’t work for me very long, and are always SHOCKED (*SHOCKED* I tell you!) that we are less than pleased with them. Even after repeated warnings, guidance, coaching, etc. It’s always someone else’s fault, not theirs, and nothing changes.
    So – avoiding spoiled is avoiding that end point. Having it sooner than later in our culture (USian) seems advisable because of when the expectations are set for behavior. BUT, since I think only 1/3 of parents know what is actually possible normal behavior/capability for any age, and the numbers are worse for non-parents, the expectations are likely to be off on a lot of people who think ‘that child is spoiled’.

  50. @Heather: “I think that spoiling comes down to any indulgence that is out of the viewer’s comfort zone.”Oh, this is so me. *hangs head*
    To me, i’ve always maintained there’s a difference between “spoiled” and “spoiled rotten”. Spoiled is being showered with material goods, natch, but also being given trips to Disneyland and the American Doll store, etc. To be spoiled *rotten* would involve the kid getting the treats listed and then behaving with disrespect, selfishness, lack of gratitude and general ugliness.
    Maybe what i meant by the first term is “indulged” (or “overindulged”)? I say that because of multiple examples of kids i’ve known who get every freaking thing they want and then some, but who remain kind, hard-working and all-around good people. To me, they are spoiled and perhaps a wee bit entitled (though, as PPs have argued, some of that is part and parcel of being a child) but not spoiled rotten.
    I have a visceral reaction to the number of gifts they get. I’ve used the word “obscene” to describe Christmases with my in-laws before. (After the third round of gift opening, my 10-year-old niece couldn’t remember who had given her what which is the exact moment i decided to open 529 accounts for her and her cousins instead of participating in that circus again.) And my cousin’s daughter got an iPad 2 (to replace her first-gen iPad) earlier this year…for her ELEVENTH BIRTHDAY. This is why @Heather’s comment struck a chord: My distaste for all the stuff they get really has nothing to do with the kids themselves. Seems absurdly obvious, especially since i’ve wondered many times what it is their parents are overcompensating for…and yet, i’m just now realizing that.
    I also appreciate the whole Love Languages perspective! I haven’t read the book and wasn’t really interested in it until now. I think i had a head-smacking V8 moment because so many minor conflicts are suddenly making sense. While i love giving/getting gifts, i have weird rules (for lack of a better term) about them and get uncharacteristically judgy when others seem put off by my way of doing things.
    So many thoughts are tumbling around in my head now. Sorry for an incoherent comment – sometimes the path to self-awareness is paved with rambling – but thanks to Moxie and all the commenters for your varied wisdom. I’ve got lots of thinking and mulling to do! Looking forward to more comments.

  51. @Mavis, interesting point about your distress being about the ‘ing’ part rather than the ‘ed’ part – that is, it is the adult actions that perturb you, the spoilING act, rather than how the kids behave in response.I have a similar issue with the gift orgy thing, and the weirdness of counting numbers of gifts so that everyone has the same number from the grandparents. Uh, older kids don’t want a zillion things, they want a gift card. One. Done. We’re finally closer, but heaven forfend that these grandparents donate to the existing 529. Nooooo, that wouldn’t be Christmas. I can’t get past it. But I accept that I can’t force it or change it, so I allow without fuss anymore. (Birthdays are more toned down, fortunately.)
    So yeah, the actions do bother me at times (though I have less trouble with the random ‘kid will love this so I will get it for them’ gifting), as do the results when they show up (and I have to teach my kids to reason through a different result behavior than the adult behavior engenders – there’s definitely an expectation set that There Will Be Many Gifts, so teaching the kids to go in not expecting anything, so as to not act like entitled jerks, is tough. It doesn’t make rational sense to the average kid.)

  52. So interesting! My first instinct is to say that a child is “spoiled” if s/he feels entitled to the gifts. But I have no idea what it is that keeps a child in a fortunate situation whose parents are gift-givers from becoming entitled.I buy my daughter (3yo) gifts fairly often, but they’re usually books or something vaguely open-ended or educational (Duplos, dress-up stuff, play food, etc), and I pretty much always get them secondhand, because I’m a thrift store junky. I’d actually *rather* spread them out all year instead of waiting for Christmas and birthday, so that she doesn’t get overwhelmed, so she has time to play with each thing.
    So…. ::shrug::

  53. I love that my husband comes from a family with a gift giving Love Language. When I first spent Christmas with them, before we were married, I found their gift-extravagance extreme and overwhelming. Now, with kids, I love how gift-oriented they are. They definitely make up for the lack of gifts coming from my side of the family and my hubby is so generous to our kids and me.My father saw gift-giving as materialistic and limited us all to $20/person at Christmas and birthdays until we were 18. While we did a lot of arts and crafts for each other, which can be nice, I also felt like the limit was sort of cruel and just an excuse for my father to be a skin-flint, which he continues to be to this day.
    As long as my children behave in a grateful and gracious manner when they receive gifts, I don’t think they’re being spoiled and I like leaving gift-giving up to the prerogative of the givers.

  54. @ Charity. “I often (weekly maybe?) surprise my four-year-old with small things that I’ve picked up — a coloring book, some new crayons, maybe a pony.”I choked with laughter at this! Where we live a lot of children do ride and/or have horses, so thank you for the intended or unintended funny.

  55. Guess I’ll be the first to comment this post. scaeiply since it’s my only way to get everything out of my head 😛 I loved the book! It definitely lived up to my expectations. It was even better. But I don’t know how to feel about Rose, Adrian and Dimitri triangle. I really like Adrians character and want him to be happy But Rose and Dimitri are meant to be. Really hope that it happens in Last Sacrifice. There is A LOT more i could talk about, but this is enough for now.

  56. Looking at buying a used dodge Ram 3500 deisel and a three car trailer to start car haulling! I have done some research and it seems like a good investment. I would like to however get an honest opinion about the business of haulling car with a dually and three car trailer, how much minimum to charge per mile, how many miles per gallon I should expect to get on the highway when fully loaded.I would greatly appreciate honest opinions.

  57. / Suz, is it true? Did I miss it are you guys coming to Texas? I’ve been tknihing and praying for you and your precious family for months now heavy on my heart. I have so many things I’d love to catch up w/ you about .may the Lord provide the time to do so. I miss you lots dear friend.Hugs and love,Amy

  58. Ever since Desmond was introduced in his first flascbahk episode, he’s been my favorite character.I was really in awe with episode 5 it felt like a season finale and I’d have to say the best Lost episode, ever.The way they combined flascbahks/flashfowards and then that last scene with the phone conversation was just amazing.

  59. I feel the same way. There’s been slow going episodes, but even those were alwyas way better than anything comparable on TV. I haven’t read any Y: The Last Man, but it’s now on my to-read list, right after Chasm City, Eon and Enders Shadow.

  60. I wish you’d been my big sister. I have a yoenugr one, so she wasn’t in a position to give me pep talks in middle school. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m older than you are.Still. Your words of wisdom would have helped me decades ago.I always had a paralyzing need to be liked. The idea of ignoring the fact that someone hated me was not an option.As a result, I cared more about pleasing others than pleasing myself for most of my life.So. This lesson you’re teaching here?It’s valuable.I still think it’s worth trying to be nice; to put our best selves out there to the world; to be positive, supportive, kind.But if someone doesn’t like it?Get behind me.Or something like that.XOTwitter Name:

Leave a Reply

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