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10 Ways to Avoid Spoiling Your Children

A kid opening a gift

1. Love, don\’t spoil

All parents love their children, and that love often tempts them to give their kids the world. Parents are run ragged by the divisive demands of parenthood and careers, that desire can combine with feelings of guilt or a flat out lack of energy to transform affection into spoiling. Even so, no one hopes to end up with truly spoiling children, but how do you avoid it? The line lies somewhere between loving your children and allowing them to become materialistic or uncontrollable. Here are a few tips to love your children without spoiling them.

2. Reduce the screen time

Being a parent is exhausting, and screen time can seem like an easy option to keep the kids occupied. However, too much television time is associated with elevated risks for obesity, attention disorders, and emotional issues. So, instead of letting your child spend all the hours they want on an iPad, set appropriate time limits for his or her age, hold fast to those limits, and encourage your child to pursue more active behaviors.

3. Teach good food habits

A lollipop seems like a harmless thing to exchange for good behavior (or maybe just something other than bad behavior), but leveraging food as a reward may cause your child to overvalue junk food items or desire them over healthier options. These early food habits can have lasting effects on your child’s health, so instilling healthy ones is critical. Instead of using salty or sweet junk foods as rewards, make them a relatively rare treat.

4. Sharing is caring

Sharing can teach your child to value friendships and people, while not sharing can teach him or her to value objects instead. As a result, teaching children to share is a critical part of developing their abilities to interact socially with others for the rest of their lives. Sharing is caring, and it has important, long-lasting effects that you want your child to benefit from.

5. Set boundaries

Many parents aspire to be the cool moms and dads or simply to be friends with their children because being the rule enforcer can be unappealing. However, children need boundaries, and it is difficult to set those boundaries if your child does not adequately see you as an authority figure. Parents and children should both remember that being a family may not mean that you are always friends and equals.

6. \”No\” means \”no\”

For some parents it is difficult to enforce the rules after a long day of work, and ‘no’ is the last thing they want to have to say over and over again during the hours they spend with their children. But setting boundaries means that ‘no’ is a word you need to say and that your child should know the meaning of. Enforce your rules consistently, so that your child understands that when you say ‘no,’ you mean it — they will thank you later.

7. Leave the kids at home

Take some time away from your children to prevent them from potentially developing an unhealthy attachment to you. If you won’t allow friends, family, or babysitters to take care of your children, you may be keeping your child from developing social skills that they would otherwise learn through these interactions. Some separation, if only for short periods, can help you maintain your sanity and teach your child to get along with people from different backgrounds.

8. Let them learn independence

Try to remember that helping your children is very different from doing everything for them. Giving your child homework help, while allowing him or her to solve most problems alone can teach him or her the independence and autonomy that will be critical for the transition into adulthood.

9. Give your child responsibilities

Giving your children age-appropriate chores can be a great way to let them learn about autonomy and, importantly, responsibility. Simply having them help with cleanup after dinner or rake leaves in the fall can provide your child with a foundation for the responsibilities they will need to take on later in life.

10. Teach respect

A lack of respect for adults can be a quick and obvious indicator of spoiling a child. If you are afraid of how your child will behave in public because it goes beyond the occasional temper tantrum, you may need to reconsider how you are teaching your child to respect you and others. One critical way you can start teaching your child about respect is by keeping them from interrupting conversations between adults.

11. Don\’t compensate with gifts

If you work long hours or perhaps spend limited time with your child because you are divorced, feelings of guilt can make parenting very difficult. However, compensating with gifts and treats doesn’t actually buy your child’s happiness and, for all parents, toys should not be used to correct poor behavior. Using a new toy to end a temper tantrum may simply teach your child that there are rewards for poor behavior. It is perfectly fine to buy your child a treat or present, but first consider why you want to give it to them and whether or not you will be reinforcing poor behavior.


  • ABC News. How Not to Spoil Your Children.
    Screen Time and Children.
    Nurturing Parenting. Myths and Facts About Spoiling Your Children.
    Oprah. Spoiled Children.

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