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10 Signs Your Child Might Be Spoiled and What To Do About It


In my post, “Are Your Kids Spoiled? [2]” I got several comments and emails wondering what exactly makes a kid spoiled and what parents can do about it.

I have made some observations in my 8 years of teaching in the public schools [3], 17 years of parenting 8 children, and 12 years of being involved in homeschool groups.

Before you tell me I’m judging you, let me remind you that I don’t even know you. I don’t see the interactions with your children in your home, and I don’t know what your goals and ideals are.

I am, however, judging behaviors and attitudes that I have seen to be destructive. Some of these I have seen in my own home, and we are working to correct them.

Here are 10 signs your child might be spoiled:

It is human nature to want to get your way and set about trying to get it. It has happened that I have told my children that they may not have a new toy, extra cupcake, sleepover, or whatever it is they want, and they have cried or whined about it. If I relent and change my no to yes so they will stop the whining, I am making them spoiled.

You may have noticed this in action when 2 teens in the youth group sign up for feeding the homeless in the slums of your town as opposed to 27 who sign up for the “mission trip” to Orlando, Florida. I believe it develops the character of children to require that they regularly serve others with no compensation or special recognition. Daily chores [4] that benefit the whole family, not just care for the child’s own personal needs, accomplish this nicely.

This is painfully obvious when homeschooling [5], because there are many necessary corrections that the parent must point out to the child each day. Explain to the child, “I am telling you 2×2 does not equal 6 because I want you to be smart and capable. Getting angry when I correct you is foolish.”

Proverbs 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” If you want to know how to rid your child of it, read the rest of that verse [6]. Proverbs 12:1 “He who hates correction is stupid.”

Hey, I didn’t make these up. I’m just reporting them.

When it is another child’s birthday party, don’t get your child a gift. This only encourages him to believe that he is always deserving of attention and gifts. Children need to know that sometimes it is someone else’s turn to be in the spotlight.

If the sign says, “No food or drink” make your child leave his food or drink elsewhere. The sign applies to everyone. It doesn’t matter how thirsty he is.

I have participated in a conversation in which a child blamed not being able to locate her shoes on a strict bed time.

Mom: “You should have put your shoes away when you took them off. You will have to look for them.”

Child: “I would have put them away if you hadn’t made me go to bed. It’s not my fault I can’t find them.”

Mom: “You could have put them away at any time. It is your fault. Next time put them where they belong and this won’t happen.”

Place the responsibility where it belongs.

My children know that I expect them to use good manners, but they also know that saying “please” is no guarantee that they will get what they want. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if it is for the best, even if your child has said “please”.

If I am changing a diaper [7] or milking a goat [8] or driving the van, my children know they must wait for whatever it is they want. It is good practice to require your child to wait for things.

This is in reference to things you know for certain are not beyond the physical or mental capabilities of your child. Here is an example of how this played out in our family recently:

Mom: “Get your car seat buckled up.”

4yo: “I want you to do it. I caaaaaaan’t.”

Mom: “Yes, you can. You are strong and smart. Buckle it up.”

4yo: “No, I can’t. I’m too tired. It’s too hot. I caaaaaaaan’t. I want you to do it.”

Mom: “I am going to count to 20 in my head. If you are not buckled up by the time I am done, I will come back there, and you will not be glad about it.” (Mom begins humming cheerily while child frantically buckles up.)

4yo: “I DID IT!”

Mom: “Good! See how strong and smart you are?”

Notice how I did not say “please” or “thank you.” This is not because I am against good manners. It is because I am against begging and pleading my children to do favors for me.

If you find yourself reluctant to displease your child by demanding anything of him, you know there is a problem. Strengthen your resolve, put some steel in your backbone, and put on your big girl panties. You are training your child up in the way he should go [9]. This is serious business. Do not let these things slide.

Lest you think I am being too harsh, look around you. Do you see adults who are self centered and manipulative? They got that way from a lifetime of being spoiled.

That is not “the way he should go,” so don’t train him to go there. Your child deserves better.

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