Don't turn your kid into a spoiled brat

6 ways to avoid spoiling your child

spoiled kids, don't raise spoiled children

The last time I heard an adult call a child a "spoiled brat," I was a child myself. In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt was the quintessential "spoiled brat" prototype.

She was also fictional, and a walking, talking hyperbole.

Parents don't call children "spoiled brats" any longer. At least not out loud. Definitely not someone else's kid. That carries a risk of possible bodily harm in 2019. Them's fightin' words.

But every parent knows what it means and has labeled another child with the term at one point. Sometimes even their own.

Anyone can raise a spoiled brat
A "spoiled brat" refers to a child who frequently exhibits problematic, age-inappropriate behavior. Often victims of parental overindulgence, they usually possess an inflated sense of self-importance.

In 1989, pediatrician B.J. Macintosh coined the term "Spoiled Child Syndrome." Initially manifesting in children, if not addressed, it usually will continue into adulthood. Common characteristics include immature behaviors, sole focus on themselves and their needs, gross overreactions to minor issues and a need to control or manipulate others.

Ron Lieber, New York Times money columnist and author of The Opposite of Spoiled adds that both rich and poor families can spoil children, though access to money does make the job easier. Spoiled children lack the perspective of their privilege and usually lack familiarity with peers who are different from themselves.

Spoiled kids are unprepared adults
Psychologist Brenda Scottsdale knows most parents just want their kids to be happy. Yet, spoiling them can wind up doing the opposite. When my 12-year-old feels upset with me, I remind her, "Anyone can be your friend, but only I can be your mother. Therefore, that's the role I will always choose first to be."

In adulthood, spoiled brats cannot often solve their problems. They end up continuing to rely on others to fix nearly everything. Spoiled brats have often never learned how to support themselves. As a result, they frequently struggle to carry out many adulthood-level demands.

Lifelong spoiling can lead to ample unpleasant consequences throughout adulthood. Dependence on one's parents remains necessary, and irresponsible choices are often made. "Spoiled brats" also struggle to make and keep relationships as adults, too.

Ron Lieber offers financial tips to help kids better manage their own money and autonomy. He says, "Allowance is 'practice money' and it gives kids some freedom with spending decisions." Lieber also recommends allowing some impulse purchasing, balanced with lessons on wants and needs.

Modeling good money habits is also important according to Lieber. "Celebrate milestones modestly while still making them special," he suggests.

Moms share tips to not spoil kids in today's materialistic world
Raising kids that are not spoiled in today's materialistic world isn't easy. But local moms seem well-prepared.

Heather Heddleson of Kingston believes keeping expectations reasonable and age-appropriate is key. She models kindness, empathy, and understanding, without giving into her 2-year-old's every demand.

Laura Nordstrom, also of Kingston, agrees. She teaches her 3-year-old son how to handle disappointment. She says, "I tell him that he is allowed to be mad, but he can't hit or scream."

Nordstrom's message to her son lets him feel his feelings but teaches him how to handle unpleasant feelings appropriately. The presence or absence of an ability to self-regulate clearly differentiates the spoiled from those who are not.

Older children can learn respect and consideration through their daily life expectations. Taleeya Parker of Pine Bush expects her kids, ages 10 and 12, to complete daily household chores each day. "It's important to me that they can care for themselves," says Parker, "and respect the value of hard work."

Kids can't always get what they want
Hudson Valley psychology professor Dr. Paul Schwartz offers advice to parents struggling not wanting to spoil their children but also wanting to give their children material things. He says, "Sometimes children cry. They can't always get what they want."

Some parents feel guilty when they hear their children cry, no matter what the initial reason. Call me "Mean Mom", but I don't. If my 4-year-old is hysterical due to her own unrealistic demands, crying is helping her learn how to get over it.

Schwartz also reminds parents to not let guilt lead to overindulgence. Time away from children often results in parental guilt. As a working mom, I know this feeling well. But Schwartz warns, "Showering children with gifts is not an adequate substitute for your time. Your love and attention are always more valuable and desired."

It's possible to unspoil kids
Educational psychologist Dr. Michele Borba says yes, it's possible to unspoil children. She suggests, "Start by not apologizing for things outside your control." If weather cancels an anticipated outing, empathize and encourage acceptance, but don't be sorry.

Teach patience and empathy to your child. Point out other people's emotional reactions and praise any efforts to help others when they occur.

Borba insists that parents need to stand their ground and not tolerate selfishness or rude behavior. Don't give in to unreasonable demands, even for your own sanity and stick to consequences if verbal disapproval fails to work.

Jill Valentino is a wife, mom of two, elementary educator and lifelong resident of the Hudson Valley. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Medium @doublesmom77.