It’s amazing how quickly sweet and innocent babies can turn into pint-size experts in getting what they want. Some are subtle and can get what they want without parents even noticing; while others, well, you don’t need articles to tell you that they’re spoiled. You just know.
Unfortunately, while it’s easy for us to point and criticize other people’s children, it’s usually a different story when it comes to our own kids. What others may call “spoiling” or “overindulging,” another may see as simply “treating,” “rewarding” or “protecting.”
Which brings us to the question: How do you know if your child is spoiled?
Most people immediately point to the toddler having a tantrum at the supermarket, the baby who is immediately picked up and carried with every whimper, or the child who has all the toys. But experts today are telling us to slow down and look again.
For instance, many people will say that constantly picking up a crying infant and soothing him will spoil him. But the great news is, according to research, you cannot spoil an infant!
David Elkind, author of “The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon,” says: “Infants cry when they need something, and it’s hard to spoil them because they’re not trying to manipulate or maneuver. In infancy, you really need to build the feeling that the world is a safe place.”
So, you can kiss, hug and carry your child because, at this stage, your job is to help them feel that they are safe and secure with you. The job requirements include an unlimited supply of love and affection for building the foundation of trust that all children need to have in their parents.
Research has also shown that infants whose needs were taken care of quickly grow up to be more confident and secure, because they know they can count on you to be there for them.
Having said this, I would also like to say that just because you can’t spoil an infant or a very young baby doesn’t mean that you can’t begin to teach him how to soothe himself once he is several months older.
You can start by offering his favorite pillow or an interesting object to soothe him when you come over, until he learns to pick it up for himself. You can also set the baby down shortly after he has calmed down, and encourage him to play with something.
And while meeting a baby’s needs are necessary, it’s also important for a mother to take care of herself. If you are in the middle of something that absolutely cannot wait, or you happen to be upset, give yourself a few minutes to wrap up what you are doing or to calm down. As long as the baby is in a safe environment, he can wait. Once you have everything under control, you will be in a better position to take care of your baby.
Having dealt with the crying baby, the next obvious candidate would then be the toddler in the middle of a tantrum. But again, child experts are debunking this myth. Maternal and child health doctor Peter A. Gorski says that, yes, toddler temper tantrums are a part of normal development, and not necessarily a sign of being a spoiled child.
Temper tantrums, which start in the Terrible Twos, and at times, last for another round during the Terrifying Threes, are not always about a toddler getting what he wants. Usually, they don’t even know what they want! It’s more a child’s way of trying to assert his newly discovered individual self and be his own person, and “they do that by saying ‘No!,’” says Gorski.
But just because it’s more or less normal, it doesn’t mean you will ignore it and let your child grow up thinking that there are no limits or punishments for his actions. Letting this behavior pass and chalking it up to simply a part of being a toddler may land you a stay in the Frightening Fours!
To avoid a prolonged stage of toddler temper tantrums, set clear limits on what is unacceptable behavior, such as kicking and screaming, and consistently give consequences when this type of behavior is exhibited.
Conversely, give your toddler sufficient motivation to behave properly by giving him a positive response when he does so.
As with taking care of crying babies, it is important to stay calm. Losing your temper when your toddler is in the middle of a temper tantrum will just make things go from bad to worse, and will not teach the child anything about controlling his own feelings.
There is a fine line between independence and limits, and your toddler needs you to help him balance the two. If you do things right, you’ll find everything okay and cruise right on to the Terrific Threes and Fantastic Fours!
While babies and toddlers are very obvious in everything they do, the signs to watch out for in children are slightly more subtle, causing some parents to overlook them entirely until it is too late.
Being spoiled is not just about a child who has every physical luxury. It materializes in other ways, too, which may not always be as obvious as the former. For instance, parents can give a myriad of reasons as to why their children are acting up—they are hungry, sleepy or tired.
But an overemotional young child who is always upset, anxious, nervous, etc. may be a child in need of limits and boundaries.
Consistent rules and expectations may seem like something a child does not want, but without them, we give a child too much control, which they are too young to handle and understand, thus giving rise to emotional outbursts whenever they are denied what they want.
While some children get emotional, others resort to a tried and tested method: the tantrum. As mentioned above, a toddler tantrum is a way of expression for babies and toddlers who are still incapable of properly articulating and understanding what they are feeling.
But for a five-year-old child who can already reason like a little lawyer, a tantrum is a different story. A toddler tantrum is borne out of a frustration to express, while a child’s tantrum is borne out of a desire to get what he wants, regardless of how.
While toddlers require some understanding when they get started on their tantrums, maintain a “Zero Tolerance” policy for tantrums of children who are old enough to think and know what they are doing.
Another sign to watch out for is not actually in your child, but within yourself. Feelings of defeat and helplessness stem from having a child who is in control. “A child who controls his parents is out of control,” says psychologist Richard Bromfield, author of “How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.”
Don’t be afraid to exercise authority, and put your foot down and follow through on the consequences. Children need to know that they have limits and you are serious with your statements. Without limits, they will continuously test the boundaries for as long as they can. We can’t expect a child to have the maturity and discipline to know when enough is enough, and it’s up to parents to put their foot down and let them know when they go too far.
It takes two to tango
Still on the subject of watching out for signs within yourself is the inability to see your child get upset. We all want our children to be happy and to grow up with the best of everything, but overprotecting and giving children too much at such a young age may ruin their ability to be satisfied and grateful for anything in life later on. It may set them up with a false sense of entitlement, and leave them unprepared to deal with the disappointments and problems they will eventually encounter in life.
Allowing a child to face the consequences of his actions, whether from others (such as in school) or from you, will give them one bad day but a lifetime of lessons and good character. Overprotecting and spoiling our children robs them of the opportunity to learn and develop into better people.
Children don’t end up spoiled on their own. It takes two to tango. On the other hand, no parent wants to raise a spoiled child. But whether it is due to being too tired to argue, not knowing what to do, being afraid of the “effects” of saying “no,” or the innocent desire to see our kids happy, we may end up doing more harm than good as we raise our children.
However, with the right frame of mind and healthy limits and boundaries, we can all look forward to raising children who will grow into thankful adults later on.