Spoiling Children

I’ve always recoiled at the phrase “spoiling children.” If you think about it, to spoil a food, it must sit out unattended for so long that it is no longer edible. So what, then, does it truly mean to spoil a child?

Everybody’s definition of spoiling is different. For some, it’s too many “things” – toys, clothing, expensive vacations, responding yes to any ask.

Some say that when children get everything they want, we do them a disservice because they are not allowed to earn and to learn. I agree that when you earn the money for something yourself, it is more precious to you.

Plus, I’ve seen with my own kids that when they have to decide whether to spend their own money on something, it may not always seem so important to them to have it.

Those are valuable lessons. 

After my first daughter was born, people told me not to hold her too much because I would spoil her. That, I believe, was horrible advice. Their rationale was that if held too much, she would not learn how to go to sleep on her own.

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That type of attention – holding, loving, cuddling, kissing – humans of all ages need, and I believe you can never have too much love.

When it comes to divorced parents, there is a great risk of the parents giving their children everything they ask for out of guilt – guilt from the divorce, guilt over changing their family’s definition and routine, guilt over the pain they believe they inflicted on their children. 

I get that. Children don’t ask to be born and when they are brought into the world in a loving two-parent family that they come to depend on as their foundation, it is unsettling and disruptive when that changes with a divorce.

But I believe not every relationship is meant to last forever, and sometimes a divorce can bring a healthier setting to a family than what they had before. That’s why I see divorce as a transition from one stage to the next rather than good to bad.

That said, it’s important for parents to think twice before responding to children’s demands post-divorce. Some yesses are deserved and important. Some are indulgent. And if children smell guilt on their parents, watch out!

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It’s common for newly divorced parents to unwittingly overcompensate by giving their children stuff and experiences because they feel badly about the divorce.

I believe some “spoiling” is good. Too much love, definitely!! Allay that guilt by planning movie nights with homemade popcorn and pizza on the couch, cuddling and laughing together.

Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

Talk more. Spend the time you do have with your kids truly listening to them, focusing on them, throwing the football in the backyard, writing with chalk on the sidewalk together. Get down and dirty to create new memories in your new definition of family, so the guilt will dissipate and the children will be reassured that family is family, even if the routine looks different.

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