Are You Unwittingly Spoiling Your Child?-Part II

How to deprogram the “I have to have it” syndrome.

Posted Nov 29, 2012

Elizabeth Kolbert set the stage in her New Yorker article, “Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?” She wrote, “With the exception of the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France, contemporary American kids may represent the most indulged young people in the history of the world.”

Why You May be Spoiling Your Children

You can change unattractive patterns you may have inadvertently established. First, ask yourself if you grant unearned privileges or give your children too many things. Possible reasons why:

  • to gain your children’s approval
  • to compensate or assauge your parental guilt for limited time you have to spend with them
  • to make up for things you didn’t have growing up
  • a compulsion to keep up with friends and neighbors
  • what your children have is a status symbol
  • a delusion that what you provide gives your children an advantage in some way

Parental patterns and attitudes may be the biggest contributor to their children’s value systems. If you feel your children are spoiled, it is time to re-evaluate what makes you happy and may be best for your children’s moral development by redefining your own priorities.

Think about your own spending. Do you have to have the latest electronic gadget? Do you shop in an Imelda Marcos-like fashion? Buy into the lastest fashion trends? In short, tame your own excesses. They might be having an unintended effect on your children’s values.

Changing Patterns for the Long Haul

Adopting new approaches and instilling different rules go a long way in tweaking and even deprogramming the spoiled child mindset. They may not be welcomed, but they will help a child distinguish between a “want” and a “need.” Chances are the changes will also temper the “I have to have it” syndrome. And, they just might thank you in the future. Established patterns that directly affect your children and may need altering include:

  • Allowance: Stop giving it for no reason. Ask your kids to help out more, to take more responsibility for chores around the house in exchange for allowance. Talk about saving allowance for a future purchase. In that way, you’re introducing money management skills, if only on a small level.   
  • Indulging: In some families, this can be a problem especially around birthdays and the holidays. Ask for a list in order order of importance. Offer your children limited choices—we will buy you this or that, but not this AND that. Bring relatives onboard so they are not filling in with the item you do not plan to purchase.
  • Unnecessary gifting: Ask your child to shorten his or her gift list, be it for a birthday or holiday. Request an explanation of why for things that seem frivolous to you.
  • Buying into advertisements: Talk about advertisements for products that haven’t delivered. Remind them of a toy or household item that did not live up to its advertising claims. It is a surefire way to turn children of all ages into savvy consumers.

When Children Balk about the Changes
Remember, you are the parent. Parenting comes with the privilege of making and altering the rules. If the changes are because of financial pressures, explain that without frigthening your children. Reassure them that you will always keep them safe.  

Stay calm and stand firm if, for example, a child or teen asks why you are changing “the rules” now.  An effective reply is: “When you are a parent, you can make the rules.”

Also of interest: Deprogramming the Spoiled Child-Part I, Spoiled? Not My Child, and The Book of NO: 365 Ways to Say It and Mean It--and Stop People-Pleasing Forever

Copyright @ 2012, 2017 by Susan Newman 


Kolbert, Elizabeth. "Spoiled Rotten: Why Do Kids Rule The Roost?" The New Yorker, 2 July 2012.