Are we spoiling our kids?

With all the appreciation and pampering, are we spoiling our kids? Read on to find out.

By Aparna Samuel Balasundaram

Are we spoiling our kids?


Aparna Samuel Balasundaram, a psychotherapist and a Parent and Child expert, gives us guidelines to identify whether or not, we are over-indulging our children (www.LifeSkillsExperts.com, www.Aflourishing.Me)

How do I know that I am pampering my child? I love her and so I do whatever is in my power to make her happy. I cannot see her cry!

Great question! Let’s start with what we mean by ‘pampering’. Loving your child is not the same as pampering your child. So, giving hugs, telling her that you love her, spending time with her, helping with homework and studies, appreciating and complementing her...is not pampering!

Pampering is treating your child with excessive indulgence, kindness or care. This is especially visible when you do things for your child on a consistent basis that she is capable of doing by herself. So, if you always find yourself cleaning up your child’s mess, packing her schoolbag, sharpening her pencils, doing all her homework, giving in when she whines for more TV time or chocolates, buying her anything she asks for...you are pampering and spoiling your child.

So, take an honest look at yourself and check to see if you are confusing loving your child, with pampering her and making her a spoilt child.

I had a hard childhood and I believe that my duty and desire is to give my child a perfect childhood and be the perfect parent...so, yes, I do everything for him and pamper him. What is wrong with that?

I have heard this question many times in my practice, so you are not alone in this belief. However, the scientific fact is, children are born with an innate desire to do things for themselves. As parents, we are familiar with the ‘physical’ milestones that progress from crawling, standing, and walking - to running. Similarly, children also have psychosocial milestones to achieve.

When your child was an infant, you had to do everything for him from bathing to feeding to carrying him, as he was not capable of these tasks and was completely dependent on you. However as he grew physically, he also grew ‘psycho-socially’, which meant that he now needed and wanted to feel more independent.

Remember, when your child was 2 years old? He must have said ‘me do!’ often. That was an expression of him trying to ‘flap his wings’ and test his skills. But as a parent if you always stepped in and because you loved your child, you did everything for him, you inadvertently robbed him of an opportunity to flap his wings.

Pampering and praising your child in the name of love, is really taking away from your child, his innate and developing confidence, capability and esteem. Instead, demonstrate your love by not constantly pampering  ‘doing’ for him, but rather helping and teaching him ‘to do’ for himself. I am sure you have heard of the saying ‘Give a man [or child!] a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man [or child!] to fish and you feed him for a lifetime!’

We chose to have only one child as we wanted to do our best job as parents. We felt we could focus all our attention, love and financial resources on him. However, my in-laws are pressurizing us to have another child as they feel that all single children are spoilt and pampered? Is that true?

As many couples choose to have only a single child, this question comes up often. You are right, an ‘only or single’ child is often labelled as spoilt, selfish, lonely and stubborn. And I am sure we all can cite examples that support or deny this stereotype.

When compared to a family with more than one child, an only child may receive more focused parental attention and more opportunities and experiences that money can buy. Yes, the parents may have to make a conscious effort to teach their only child the value of sharing, but the fact remains that just because a child is an only child, it does not mean that he will be a guaranteed spoilt brat!

What is more significant is the parenting style of the parent, rather than the number of children they have. An over-indulgent or pushover parent would end up spoiling or pampering their child, whether they had one or ten. Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of ‘Parenting an Only Child’ shares that many research studies illustrate that only children are no different from their peers in their behaviour, social or emotional skills.

So, you may choose to have another child for many other reasons, but not out of fear that an only child will definitely get ‘spoilt’!

My 9-year-old daughter never pesters me to get things for her, she is not materialistic. But I do a lot for her, from getting her ready for school, packing her school bag, feeding her, cleaning her room, getting her bath and clothes ready, making only her favourite foods ...I do not mind doing these, but am I spoiling her?

I am happy to hear that your child is not caught up in the world of brands and materialistic things! However as shared earlier, part of a child’s growth is in her psycho-social areas that directly feeds her sense of esteem and self-motivation.

It has been proven that children who are given the opportunity to try and succeed on their own and children who are given responsibilities around the home and are made accountable for things that are expected of them (for example, a 9-year-old should definitely pack her own school bag and be responsible for her homework), have a higher sense of confidence.

Furthermore, children who are not shielded from the ups and downs of life, but are instead, taught how to deal with it, realise that they are capable. Hence, when a child is bullied, instead of protecting her and taking things in your hands, teach her to stand up for herself (only if things are dangerously out of control do you step in as an adult). This ‘Standing Tall’, for herself, gives your child a sense of control and belief in her abilities.

A life-impacting and enhancing part of your role as a parent is to support and train your child to flap and test her wings, and like a parent bird, prepare her for the greatest job and joy of all...of soaring towards the vast opportunities of life with confidence! 

Aparna Balasundaram is the co-founder of life skills expert that enables parents to raise happy, confident and successful children. www.lifeskillsexpert.com