Sunday, August 5, 2012


Ari has been throwing massive tantrums lately if he doesn't get what he wants. For example, if Wil or I tell him that he can't watch any more TV and he has to go to sleep he freaks out and starts crying and writhing on the floor. If we ignore it, eventually he stops, but it's really intense and hard to deal with.

Last night Wil said to me:
"Babe, I think we spoiled him, that's why he acts like that."
"What do you mean?" I asked
"We buy him toys all the time, he needs to listen to us and behave to get what he wants."

I agreed with Wil that I wanted Ari to listen to us. I also expressed my want for him to not to writhe on the floor in protest when he doesn't get what he wants. But this whole conversation got me thinking about the word "spoiled."

Is it possible to "spoil" a child? I love my son. He means the world to me. I want to do everything I can to give him a good life and make him happy. I want him to be content. Does this mean I'm "spoiling him?" I don't know.

Some people might equate spoiling a child with the absence of discipline. If a child doesn't receive "time outs" or the like, is this child spoiled?

The questions began to brew in my mind:

Is a child who receives a lot of toys spoiled?
Is a child who tantrums but still gets his/her needs met spoiled?
Is a child whose needs are met considered spoiled?

Because to me, spoiled has a negative connotation. If milk is spoiled it tasted wretched and needs to be thrown out. I don't think children should be equated with rotten milk.

What's the opposite of a "spoiled child?" Is it a child whose needs are not met, a neglected child?

We do our best as parents to meet the needs of our children. I think the word "spoiled" should be thrown out with the rotten milk.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as a spoiled child?


  1. that is such a good question. we are really battling that ourselves. my 5 year old is so entitled. it is driving us nuts. "mommy, everyone watches tv before they go to bed. didnt you know that." "mommy, i hate chicken, i told you that yesterday, i am not eating this dinner." "there is nothing on this plate i can eat. i hate it all. why do you make dinners like this?" he does get everything he wants, and we are not strict displicarians but we are not over the top.

    i tell him that he is integral to our family but our family meals/activities/schedules do not revolve around his whims, likes and dislikes.

    what else can a momma do?

    1. See I think that just means that you're an attentive parent. You're trying your best to meet his needs. He might be acting in a manner that irritates you, but you're just trying to keep the kid happy! :)

    2. haha, tell that to my mom!

    3. Haha! I hear that. I think that's part of the problem. Some grandparents, friends and relatives perpetuating that word. "Look how you're spoiling that child!"

  2. Actually, I think a spoiled child is someone whose needs are NOT met, so they act out in terrible ways or have an over-developed sense of entitlement to compensate. I mean, think of all the spoiled, entitled adults you know. Isn't their behavior usually a sign of something they are lacking or insecure about? Why is that not the same reasoning for children?

    And if this is indeed the case, wouldn't that be the way of solving it? Instead of looking at it as, "I buy my child too many toys", maybe we should stop and think, "what needs to be balanced? If there is too much of one thing, what am I accidentally neglecting as a result?" and take it from there. Maybe that is the key to stopping 'spoiled' behavior (I don't like calling it 'spoiled' either, it seems like it's a blanket term that doesn't really express individual issues that are unique to each child and family)

    1. That's a really good point! I never thought about it that way. Maybe it does come from insecurity. Hmm... I think you're right, balancing is the key and looking at the whole picture.

  3. I think a spoiled kid is one whose needs are being met when they act out, so they learn to act out to get what they want. For instance, going to the store and a kid wants a cookie. The parent says no and the kid freaks out. The parent can get the kid a cookie to keep him quiet, which at the moment satisfied the kid, but what happens next time his wants aren't met? If the parent keeps doing this, the kid learns a way to get what he wants.

    If a parent is out and they KNOW the kid is hungry and they didn't bring a snack and the kid is gonna freak out, it might be a good idea to get a healthier snack, that way the kid gets something, it's not junk food, and he's not hungry.

    Or the cookie can be used as a reward if the parent plans ahead. "We're going to the store, if you clean up your toys/put your shoes on nicely/whatever, you can pick out a treat."

    I personally think my kids have way too many toys and its because my mom likes to buy them things (she sees them once a week or whenever). I don't think they're SPOILED in that way per se, I just think its a lot of stuff.

    I think kids can be spoiled with TV because it makes them not able to entertain themselves. Mendel always wants to either watch something or play on the Wii and it drives me nuts. I make him do like, a million things beforehand until i run out of ideas. He already may have ADD and TV ain't helping.

  4. Oh, that's a really good point. I suppose if a child acts out and you respond by "rewarding" the behavior by giving him a cookie, that could be considered reinforcing the problem behavior. I'm just guessing. This is probably what people are referring to as "spoiled." Don't even get me started on TV. I wish Ari never started watching it. It's like a drug!

  5. I don't like the word "spoiled" either, as a description for a child. BUT. There is a huge difference between "needs" and "wants" and getting them met. Obviously watching TV 24 hours a day would be a "want" for many kids, but it's not a need and that would be ridiculous, so we do not mee that "want."
    We're dealing with lots of tantrums here, too.

    Our approach is not to reinforce them with getting the want ment (usually it's a want, and not a need, in Lilah's case) JUST for crying/screaming. If it's a reasonable request, L needs to ask us using a pleasant voice. If it's something she can have, just not now, we are careful to say, "yes, you can have that, AFTER you..." or "yes, you can have more TV, TOMORROW" so that we are not always shutting her down with a million "no"s - Kids hear NO way too often as it is. If it's completely ridiculous or dangerous, obviously we have to say no.

    Tantrums will happen no matter what, and sometimes kids need comforting (like yeah, it sucks, we don't have the crackers you want, I know that must make you mad, and it's okay to be mad, but it's not okay to hit me) through them.I think the important balance (which can be hard to find) is in validating their feelings while still letting them know that behaviour is not gonna fly.

    With urning off the TV, we've had the most success with warnings (5 more minutes, then 2 more minutes, or when that show is over), and then asking, "Are you going to turn the TV off, or should I?" Usually she wants to do it herself, and it really helps with cooperation.

    Good luck, Mama!

    1. The warning system is a great idea! I find when I remind Ari of things, he's more amendable to the change. I'm glad to know it's not just me dealing with the tantrums, oy! I agree that I feel like "no" is in the air way too often over here. I feel like it's the only word he hears!

  6. YES. There is such thing as a spoiled child, but they don't come into play until the child is much older. It's when they have the ability to comprehend that they are receiving a gift and yet refuse to be thankful about it but EXPECT everything they want when they want it. I think it's hard to have a spoiled toddler though.

    1. That's true! I think age does play a factor in gratitude. But I believe you're right, it's too complex of a concept for a toddler/pre-school age child to grasp what it really means to be grateful. They can say thank you, and you can reinforce that idea, but I think they're still learning.


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