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Is It OK to Spoil Your Kids?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

Can we spoil our children with love, or is spoiling about indulging them? Learn about when it is okay to spoil your children and when it isn't.

Parenting AdviceNone of us want "spoiled" kids - kids who are bratty, self-centered, demanding, inconsiderate. So, what spoils children and what doesn't?

When I was raising my babies, I was often told that I would spoil them if I picked them up rather than let them cry. Fortunately, I didn't believe this.

You can't spoil a child with love. Children need love as much as they need food and water. The problem may be in defining "love."

We are not giving love to our children when we give them everything they want on the material level. Parents often think they are loving their children when they pile them up with all the toys or activities they desire, but what is the actual result of indulging our children in this way?


The Consequences of Indulging

There are three big negative consequence of "spoiling" our children on the material level:

1) It fosters addictive behavior - filling up from the outside with things and activities, rather than filling up from the inside through caring and creativity. Too many adults are addicted to spending or other activities to fill up their emptiness. If they are stressed, instead of dealing with the source of their stress - which is generally some way they are abandoning themselves - they cover their feelings with some addictive behavior such as spending, TV, food, alcohol and so on. When we offer our children too many toys, too many activities, too much comfort food, or allow too much TV, we are not loving them. We are training them to be addicted.

2) Often, parents provide things and activities for their children while denying their own needs. It's not loving to children to give in to their every demand, especially if it means putting yourself aside. When you constantly give in to your children and deny your own needs, children learn that it's okay to disregard others’ needs, becoming demanding brats. Children may not learn to consider others if you do not expect them to consider you by considering yourself. They will learn to treat you the way you treat yourself, so it is not loving to your children to disregard yourself. When you disrespect yourself, you teach your children to be disrespectful.

3) One of the big issues in our society is that children learn to identify their self-worth with others' approval for how they look, how many toys they have, how expensive their clothes are, and their level of achievement. Unless parents show their children that they value them for their inner qualities - their caring, creativity, compassion, laughter, joy, passion for life - rather than for their looks, possessions and performance, children learn to attach their self-worth to externals and to other’s approval. True self-worth comes from inside, from knowing we are valuable for who we are, not for how we look or what we do. Unfortunately, our materialistic society fosters attaching self-worth and lovability to others' approval for things, such as a car or a house or clothes or wealth. When we "spoil" our children with material possessions, we foster dependency on things and others' approval for their sense of worth.

Love and Spoiling are Mutually Exclusive

We can spoil our children with material things, but we can't spoil them with love. Love is the energy of acceptance for who the child really is. Love is understanding, compassion, caring. You are loving your children when you spend time just being with them, hanging out with them, being fully present with them, really listening to them. The greatest gift you can give to your children is to value them for who they are on the inside. This is love, and nothing material can ever replace it.

However, if you do not know how to love yourself, you might find it difficult to give your children the love they need. This is why it is so important to practice Inner Bonding. Practicing Inner Bonding and providing a role model of personal responsibility is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children.

You might want to examine the values and expectations you are imparting to your children. What are you role-modeling? Perhaps instead of all the money being spent on presents for your children at holiday times, the whole family could participate in buying clothing and food for those who are in need. Imagine the real gift you could give your children if Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah were times of true service, in addition to feasting and sharing gifts with each other. Rather than "spoiling" our children by giving them too much, we can enhance their self-worth by providing them opportunities to be giving, caring human beings.

To become a loving role model for your childrenjoin Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Photo by Bob Dmyt


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Share your love with those who share their love. Bless and love from a distance those who withhold their love or have no love to share. One aspect of loving yourself is to discern who reliably shares love and who doesn't, and not to allow your sharing of love to be a one-way street.


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Share your love with those who share their love. Bless and love from a distance those who withhold their love or have no love to share. One aspect of loving yourself is to discern who reliably shares love and who doesn't, and not to allow your sharing of love to be a one-way street.



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