Is My Child Spoiled?

by Nancy Monson

Kids Are A Lot Smarter Than You Think
and They See A Lot More Than You Realize

What is spoiled? It is when something potentially ripe and beautiful has gone rotten. Let’s create a spoiled checklist: (there are overlaps)

  1. Addicted to Attention: This characterizes "the most special child in the universe" syndrome. The child needs all your attention, or to be the center of attention, and can’t stand to not be entertained. Parents have lavished the child with all the love, attention, time, and caring humanly possible, and now look what’s happened!
  2. Material Greed: The child who has been given everything is used to getting anything they want and always wants more. You take the child to the store and the minute you try to say no to any request you have a nightmare on your hands. Too many toys, games, TV's, computers, devices, etc. etc.
  3. The Demanding/Manipulative Child: This is the result of parents who can’t say "No," or parents who bribe their child to behave. There have never been any limits set. Children who won’t eat except what they decide to eat fit in here. They know their parents will eventually give in, so they hold out.
  4. The Disrespectful Child: This is the result of hypocritical parents. They tell their children one thing, and they do another. Children will only respect parents who "walk the walk" and "talk the talk," or at least try to. This is also the result of no limits, no daily routines, or sometimes a lack of quality attention for the children.
  5. The Whining Child: The child has been overprotected, everything has been done for the child, and the child has not had to deal with any adversity or difficulty. This child is afraid to try new things, won’t do things for himself, and has to have the parents there at every turn.

I do not bring up this painful topic to make parents feel bad. My experience is that most parents do these things out of love and ignorance of the path they are headed down. Then, all of a sudden, they realize that they just might have created a spoiled child. But the real pain is in the child, because something in them has been cut off, undeveloped, actually made rotten. Once a child is used to getting their way, they will go to endless measures to continue that pattern. It has become addictive. Me, me, me. This is the set-up for the take over of the self-centeredness and indulgence that dominates so much of our culture. (How often do you see advertisements about sacrifice and service or a focus on the realness of the internal world vs. the world of appearances?) Children are very smart and know their parents' weak points. But underneath that, there is a feeling in them that something doesn’t feel quite right, that they would rather be in a mutually respectful relationship. In the long run, that is so much more nourishing and ripe with potential. There are some key factors to helping your child to be confident, sensitive to their own internal sense of balance and centeredness, and able to communicate needs and feelings as well as respect others.

  1. Children must have structure and routine that is consistent. They need boundaries that help them know what is expected of them. This means the parents need routines! The family is the crucial backbone necessary for each and every member of the family to ride out the waves of the endless changes and stresses of every day life. So, such things as eating three meals at the same time without endless snacking in-between, sitting down to meals together, having bed time rituals, house chores, family meetings all fit in here. As children get older, they can be included in the process of deciding these routines through regular family meetings. Children crave structure and dependability (unless you have waited way too long and then it’s too late).
  2. Children MUST have alone time, quiet time, every day! Most of the time children are spoiled because they have been over-indulged and don’t know how to sink into themselves, to be at peace, deeply content with their own being. When children are always looking to satisfy all their needs by things or attention outside of themselves, it fragments their ability to be attentive to anything for very long. The internal "focus" muscle, the ability to be settled into anything without input, is not developed. Other problems are depression, addiction to stimulation, and obsessive attachments.
  3. Don’t give your children so much! Less is best. Take a good look at what’s happening in the world: something like 15% of the population consumes 90% of the world’s resources! We need to be the models of a consciousness towards simplicity and a sensitivity towards this planet. The greatest riches in life can not be bought; they are the result of a deeply and permanently internal relationship of gratitude, receptivity and loving engagement towards all of life. Focus on simple pleasures and creating experiences together instead of buying so much stuff.
  4. Teach children how to welcome and work with adversity, challenges and obstacles. Life is full of them. Do not do everything for your child. Children need to have chores, to do their part, to take care of themselves and take responsibility for what they can in being part of a family. They like to contribute, to feel that they are needed. During difficult times don’t be guilty and try and make everything OK. Be honest, try and show them it’s OK to have pain, to fail, to make mistakes, to be afraid, and give them tools to face life. Guilt produces manipulation and anxiety in children. Find your way beneath the surface, and know that you can not hide any of your feelings or thoughts from your children, even babies. They know it all, at least on an energetic level. So, talk to them, get the help you need to move towards a deeper inner stability, and try and share your children with other adults that can also provide that needed stability at times you are really struggling.
  5. Say no when you need to, but not when you don’t. Set rules before hand when you go to public places. Leave places when your child is misbehaving after one warning. And, if you have a reoccurring problem, GET TO THE CAUSE, don’t just shut it off at the symptom level. Try and understand what is going on. Be like a scientist and gather all the data you can, both about your child and about yourself (children are a reflection of all the things about ourselves, both our strong suits and what we don’t always want to face), and try and find out if there is something you need to change in yourself first. A lot of times it’s us we need to change!


© Nancy Monson, 2005. All rights reserved.

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