Why we shouldn’t spoil our kids

Promoting desirable behavior in a child should be done in a way that engraves positive values in his or her psyche. In doing so, many parents resort to bribery as a way of enhancing desired behavior. (Vladimir Pustovit/Flickr Creative Commons)

There is a difference between sporadic gifting and overindulging a child which commonly reflects in behavior patterns. Overindulging, or spoiling, leads to the misguided belief that a child can attain anything not because is it earned but because it is deserved. The notion of working toward goals is replaced with an innate feeling of superiority and, therefore, worthiness. The instilment of this mindset begins early on as a misguided attempt to discipline.

Promoting desirable behavior in a child should be done in a way that engraves positive values in his or her psyche. In doing so, many parents resort to bribery as a way of enhancing desired behavior. A discipline system where a child is gifted for good behavior will eventually lead him or her to expect a reward for every instance of good behavior. If a reward is not given, the child will simply stop behaving desirably and the whole system becomes ineffective. This doesn’t mean we should use negative enforcements like threats on our kids, but we need to instill values in them that will be reflected through positive behavior. Take consideration, for instance, as a value to teach a child. Instead of rewarding him or her with a material gift every time considerate behavior is expressed, we should teach the importance of being considerate through simple conversation or books to see consideration reflected in the child’s behavior.

Throwing tantrums is also a common result of a faulty rewards system of discipline. Once a child is used to receiving material gifts for good behavior, they develop the expectation that the gifts will keep coming as long as a certain desirable behavior is maintained. Failure to meet said expectation will confuse the child because they are now unsure what desirable behavior is. This confusion triggers a feeling of frustration because the child is no longer sure what behavior will result in a reward. Tantrums are a typical indicator of this frustration; they are an expression of the child’s anger at the lack of a reward. Through this system of discipline a parent ultimately teaches a child to value reward and material gift rather than the desirable values and behavior that instigate the reward. A child that is disciplined through a reward system easily becomes spoiled and lacks understanding of fundamental values because they have been replaced by the placement of value on material gifts.

Development of exaggerated treasuring of superficial perks and expectation of rewards following every display of positive behavior leads to impaired value system in a child’s adult life. The measurement of one’s worth is determined through these material rewards, whatever they may be. If the source of a child’s esteem is the reception of rewards and to maintain it through adulthood, one will continue to pursue material compensation. Seeing as most spoiled children come from more affluent homes, it is very likely that they will be able to sustain a level of fiscal compensation that is high enough to provide them a good sense of self through adulthood. The emotional consequences of this rewards system provide a sense of superiority to those who are not as highly rewarded. Common notions that spoiled kids are elitist and generally unpleasant can be explained through the behavioral expression of their impaired value system.

Despite the universal antagonization of overindulged children, many continue to spoil their children through faulty methods of discipline. Understanding what creates a “spoiled brat” is crucial to avoiding turning more kids into them. We commonly identify “spoiled brats” as people that were raised to appreciate superficial gifts, so in order to avoid spoiling, we must install fundamental values rather than teaching to cherish rewards .


Keren Blaunstein is a contributor for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.