Are My Kids Spoiled?

It seems that almost every parent I meet these days is concerned that people will perceive their children as spoiled.  I wonder why we care so much what others think. Besides, what is a spoiled child?

I googled images of “spoiled babies” hoping for a shot of a baby with gold chains, swaddled in money and bling, but all that came up were pictures of the Kardashians! haha. Maybe that’s where our fear is coming from.  

First of all, remember there is no such thing as a spoiled baby.  There are numerous articles and books that point this out, but of course, you can find a study to support any view you can imagine.  I will voice my opinion as a parent and someone who has spent years studying developmental psychology and play therapy, and a person who attended a great university graduate program to learn even more about the brain and how it develops in relationship to parenting styles.  I am as much an expert (or not) as the people who have been publishing a number of these articles.  Babies cry in order to get their basic needs met.

Please remember as a parent, the most GOLDEN OF GOLDEN RULES:  Trust Your Gut!  Remember to always listen to your own instincts.  If the pediatrician says “let them cry it out!” you certainly may want to listen.  I totally did.  I let my daughter cry for an hour straight one day, because the all-knowing pediatrician told me that would be a good idea, and I didn’t want her to manipulate me.  It was brutal.  I listened to the monitor, sweating too much, chewing the inside of my cheeks, watching the clock tick the minutes past.  Then I went to her, and I’m sure I said sorry a million times as I wondered why it didn’t work.  I proudly told the pediatrician about my accomplishment and all he said was “well, maybe only 20 or 30 minutes next time.”  Are you kidding me?  What?  Did I just totally break my baby?  Unfortunately, I began life as a mommy struggling to understand this world of infants, with no maternal leaders to provide wisdom, or to simply suggest I listen to my inner voice.  I had no idea that the knowledge was already inside me.  I really thought I needed to read information in a book or have a doctor tell me in order for it to be valid and true.  I didn’t realize that all these sources were simply opinions as well.  I had a lot of learning to do.

Kids are wired to get your attention.  Even bigger kids will not be spoiled by too much love.  Remember, things like material possessions are not equal in value to love.  They will not be suffering from some entitlement plague if you tell them they are special.  If you are honest with your children about how special they are to you, and how important they may one day be to the entire world, you will watch your kid grow like a plant in the perfect sunbeam.  That is not inflating their egos, it is giving them a sense of self and a sense of the potential they may have.  What if every kid in the world believed in themselves?  Would we become a world of mini-dictatorships?  I doubt it.  If kids believe in themselves, they don’t really have to prove anything to others.  They know they rock, and they know that their ability to rock can be used to make the world a better place, if we take the time to show them how because we believe in them, too.

Check out this link to a beneficial child development chart.  Often when we live with these mini humans, we truly expect them to behave with the emotional capacities of an adult.  They simply can’t.  Even the teenagers.  Take the time to fill them up with your hopes and wishes for their awesome futures, help them manage the distress that comes with failure, and encourage them to try again.  This isn’t spoiling.  This is parenting.

The child who will become the entitled one is the child who is never enough.  Their behavior must get bigger and more extreme to even be noticed by their parents.  We can all see this on a smaller scale with our own kids.  If we are tuned out, surfing Facebook, watching t.v., or texting our friends, our kid’s behavior will get more and more escalated if they are wanting our attention.  Maybe initially they simply wanted eye contact, but the more they’ve been ignored, the more amplified the behavior.  Attention is attention after all, the brain craves it, good or bad.  Let’s reward it with the good before they need to make a bigger ruckus.

The most important thing for us is to think about what we want out of this life.  Does it matter if the neighbors or your mother-in-law think your child is spoiled?  Because maybe that is not what they are thinking.  Maybe they are impressed by the connection you have with your child.  Maybe they are wishing they had done more of the same with their own.  Perhaps all that matters is what youthink about your parenting style and if you believe your child has the potential to become a person with no empathy on the fast track to a narcissistic and lonely adulthood.  Personally, I’m not worried about it.  My kid will grow up to be a kind and loving adult.  She might insist on living in our house until she’s 40, but otherwise she’ll be a perfectly normal and caring grown-up, who might even make this world a better place.  And while she’s in my house, she’s going to keep me cracking up and feeling loved.  That ain’t too bad.