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?