Am I spoiling my child?

Showering your tot with gifts and attention may seem natural, but you can overdo it. Our child psychologist explores the power balance between parent and child


Spoiling is hard to define. It’s less about how much you give your toddler (whether that’s presents, attention, or freedom), and more about the way these are given and the reasons why. The crucial factor is the balance of power between you and your child. Normally you set the rules, but if the balance of power swings in the opposite direction so that your toddler tells you what to buy her, and tells you what she is and is not allowed to do, then maybe she is spoilt.


Spoilt characteristics

Spoiling their children usually creeps up on parents without them noticing. Certainly, your toddler won’t complain about being indulged – she thinks, “This is very nice, thank you”.

The following are typical characteristics associated with a toddler who’s spoiled:

  • Selfishness – She thinks only of herself because she’s used to getting her own way.
  • Quick-temper – She knows that throwing a tantrum usually gets her what she wants.
  • Rudeness – She often behaves rudely towards others who stand in her way.
  • Insensitivity – She may hurt others as she thinks only about her own feelings.
  • Unhappiness – She lacks consistency at home, which may make her insecure.
  • Greediness – She’s only concerned with what she can get next.
  • Disobedience – She thinks rules don’t apply to her.

Why indulge your tot?

A toddler’s not to blame if he or she is spoilt. There are many reasons a parent might spoil a child such as…

  • They find it easier to give in to a demanding toddler than to say ‘no’ to her.
  • They want to give her all they can, as soon as they can.
  • They were spoiled by their parents.

If you’re starting to worry that you’re spoiling your toddler, spend some time thinking about the possible reasons you might be doing this. Once you begin to understand your motivations, you won’t find it quite so hard to change.

Try This…

When your toddler’s unwell or troubled by something, naturally you tend to spoil her because you feel sorry for her and want to make her feel better. However, don’t overdo it or you may face behavioural difficulties once she’s well, or happier, again. She might think, “This has been good fun. I want the spoiling to continue”, so as soon as she starts to recover, begin to return her life to normal.

Ways to stop spoiling her:

  • Don’t buy her what she wants every time. Make sure there are times when she doesn’t get her own way.
  • Ask her to say why she wants something. She’ll say “I want” easily, so ask her to explain why.
  • Encourage her to think about others. A spoilt toddler only sees the world from her own perspective.
  • Use consistent, structured discipline. You may find it hard to say “no” to your tot but she needs a clear set of rules.
  • Don’t confuse spoiling with loving. There are plenty of ways to show your love for your child without spoiling her.

Did you know…

There’s no evidence to prove that an only child is more likely to be spoiled than a tot with one or more siblings.

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