There is a great deal of talk in the media about the dangers of spoiling a child. I would like to add to this debate. I contend that there is such a thing as good spoiling and bad spoiling. Personally, I believe that when spoiled the right way, children grow up healthy, and knowing they are loved. Hopefully these spoiled children will grow up to be spoiled adults who do not withhold love and freely give to others in a healthy and positive way.
When my kids were born, we got a great deal of unsolicited advice about putting our kids in a crib in their own room, and allowing them to cry at night. Don’t pick them up, you will spoil them, and they will rule you people would warn. My husband and did it anyway. Call us rebels. We felt that we would let our instinct guide us in raising our child, not the advice of old-school parents whose children were clearly not close to them anyway. So we set off to spoil our kids. The results have been good and bad.
I think at this point, it is important to define spoiling. I have slowly but surely learned to tell the difference between spoiling kids and ceasing to parent. Some would call what is now my definition of spoiling a child to be simply loving them. They would call the other option, ceasing to parent to be spoiling. For my purposes, I consider spoiling a child as attending to their NEEDS, I will call this “good spoiling”. I consider, ceasing to parent or “bad spoiling”, to be bending to the child’s WANTS and DEMANDS. Now that we have a definition for good spoiling and bad spoiling, we can proceed.
What we did right, Our experiences in good Spoiling. When the children cried, we picked them up. When they wanted to get down, we put them down. We adjusted our lives when they were babies by child proofing our home, so they could explore without getting injured, and therefore sacrificed adult designs and pleasures. We made sure they had plenty to eat, even when we didn’t. We put their comfort (clothing and shelter) before our own. We doted on them, and gave them a great deal of attention. We don’t regret a moment of this.
What we did wrong, our experiences in bad spoiling. We allowed our desire to tend to our kids needs to go too far. We failed to recognize at a certain point that they could start tending to their own needs. We did not teach them to make their beds at a young age. We did not teach them to clean their plates and put them in the dishwasher. At most, we would get them to pick up a few toys. We did not institute discipline as early as we should have and this resulted in mom (me) feeling unappreciated and unhappy. We are currently working on making them responsible for cleaning up behind themselves.
What we did best, our experiences in good parenting. Fortunately, we realized the difference between good spoiling and bad spoiling before it was too late. We never let spoiling our kids go as far as spending money on them that was not already designated for that purpose. We never let them throw a tantrum in a store or demand that we purchase anything on the spot. My kids learned pretty early that if they asked for something in a store, that would most likely eliminate the chance of them ever getting it. Through our actions they learned to let us know they were interested in something, and that it should go on a list, properly categorized between wants and needs, and then prioritized in order of desire. By learning when and how to ask for things based on level of need and desire, they not only learned to delay gratification, but they also learned how to prioritize spending their own money.
While my kids are not quite grown yet, both being teenagers. They still like to play video games a little too long. They still complain and bicker. They still pout when they don’t get their way. But they are growing every day, and looking back, we are glad that we spoiled them and gave them our best. We are rewarded every day with hugs, smiles, and I love yous. We are comforted that they appreciate what we have provided for them, and they know they are blessed to be our kids, as we have been blessed to be their parents. With that said, I pray that these children that we have spoiled in the best of ways will become spoiled adults who will not withhold love and caring for others as we have not withheld these things from them.