When someone describes a child as spoiled, they make a derogatory statement about behavior. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a spoiled child frequently demonstrates or expresses overindulgent, narcissistic, and selfish behaviors. The behaviors typically stem from a lack of age-appropriate limits and rule enforcement. Spoiled children often share several characteristics, including:
- Frequent tantrums
- Difficulty processing the word "no"
- Dissatisfaction with what they have
- Believing the world revolves around them
- Possessing an "I need" mentality
No parent wants to raise a spoiled child; they want to bring up a well-balanced, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent human being. Raising a healthy child primarily involves routine, repetition, and boundaries. As a parent, there are several things you can do to limit the likelihood of raising a spoiled child.
1. Practice Positive Reinforcement
As a parent, it is easy to focus on negative behaviors because they need correction and appropriate discipline, but punishment is not as effective as positive reinforcement. The concept of positive reinforcement has roots in behavioral psychology and involves using a desirable stimulus — a reinforcer — after a specific desired behavior. The reinforcer helps encourage the behavior, promoting it into a healthy habit. For example, a parent asks their child to clean up their toys; the child does so without complaint and is rewarded with screen time — the reinforcer.
Positive reinforcement may also promote negative behaviors. For example, a child wants a new toy, but their parent says, "No." The child throws a tantrum, and the parent buys the toy. Receiving a gift for performing a negative behavior only reinforces the behavior.
2. Set Guidelines & Boundaries With Children
Setting boundaries comes naturally to most parents, but they may not realize it. Adults often complicate things, so they may not realize that telling their child that hitting is not OK or not to interrupt when someone else is speaking are rules or guidelines.
While boundaries can be more specific and sophisticated, they all stem from the same place of social acceptance. Learning how not to raise a spoiled child is about recognizing and highlighting social norms for your child, helping them to understand and practice them.
It is also essential for your children to learn autonomy and self-advocacy, but they must understand how these concepts fit into their social group. A child should speak up for themselves, even against people in charge, but knowing when to speak up comes from understanding existing societal and familial boundaries.
3. Be Consistent With Rules
Consistency and commitment to the rules are crucial to learning how not to raise a spoiled child. Your little ones need rules to understand their place in the world and how to navigate it. Without rules, they have no structure; without that, they only have chaos.
That must become the norm if you tell your child they cannot play until their bedroom is clean or homework is complete. If they must adapt to daily changes, the rule will not stick.
While rules establish routine and healthy behaviors, you must allow room for interruption or change. Family emergencies or other activities may require priority over established rules occasionally. Consistency is not about rigidity; it is about establishing norms and expectations.
4. Connect With Respect & Be a Good Role Model
Being a good parent is about being a good and healthy role model. Your child will learn how to behave from the rules you set and your actions. While you are the parent and, in that respect, the boss, your child is not your subordinate; they are your protege.
If you want to raise an empathetic and well-rounded human being, show your little one what that looks like. For many adults, parenthood is a time of self-reflection and improvement because they want to set a better example.
Lead your relationship with your child with respect and empathy. Show them their needs and wants matter to you, and demonstrate why rules and boundaries are necessary. Your little one will mirror your behavior and, in time, understand your actions.
5. Teach Your Child Patience
Patience is an essential interpersonal skill. When a person can practice patience, they have healthier outlooks, better relationships, and an increased capacity for success.
Any parent knows that children are not the most patient beings on the planet. Little ones have no sense of time and want what they want when they want it. Giving in to a child's needs for instant gratification will only establish negative and likely selfish behaviors, putting them on a path toward becoming a spoiled child, teenager, or adult.
Helping your children practice patience with deferred rewards can make them better human beings. With patience, they will grow to appreciate everything they have, savoring every minute. Raising a spoiled child is not a certainty.