Who’s Spoiling Your Child?

If I asked you for a quotation using the word ‘spoil’, I’m sure almost all of you would come back with: “Spare the rod and spoil the child”.

We’ve got over our fixation with corporal punishment of all kinds (we’re fixating in the opposite direction now), but the principle still exists.

You don’t want to spoil your child – “spoil her rotten” is the phrase, as if she is an apple, and would rot from spoiling. 🙂

You want to make sure he grows up disciplined, knows how to behave in public and in private, learns how to keep house reasonably well, is focused towards achieving career and other goals… all the components that go into making a productive, successful and fulfilled adult.

It’s so difficult to ‘teach’ her the rules that the slightest loosening of the reins in your parenting hands makes you feel she’s in danger of losing the script. So you enforce your rules with an iron hand. NOs resound loud and often, all day long every day.

When a grandparent or an aunt or uncle sneaks your child treats, or turns a blind eye to his misbehavior, you intervene to say, “Don’t spoil him. It’ll take ages to get him back on track.” You keep a hawk’s eye on what he’s getting away with.

And yet, I believe it is essential that somebody spoils your child. I prefer the word ‘indulge’ to ‘spoil’, but yes, your child must be indulged if he is to grow well.

Why?

Because every child should know the feeling, the pleasure of having at least one ultra-indulgent person in his life. This person is the child’s bulwark, building his self-esteem, his self-belief, bolstering his conviction in his intrinsic worth as a person.

If there is no such person already, you might consider becoming that person in your child’s life. After all, who better to know when you need to snap the rules back in place? 🙂 

I ask you: “Who’s spoiling your child?”

My daughter was about 6 or 7, and we were on holiday with a whole bunch of people. I’ve always considered her fairly well brought up (yes, I know I’m immodest 🙂 ), and never found anyone to disagree with my assessment (There I go again! 🙂 ). Imagine my shock when one gentleman turned to tell me, “Your daughter is really spoilt.”

I gaped at him as I groped for a response. Eventually, I said: “Obviously! If I don’t spoil my own child, whom will I spoil – the neighbor’s kids?”

You must think I am very contrary. On the one hand, I say ‘too much love is not enough’, and on the other, I advocate it’s a good idea to indulge your kids!

When I say ‘indulge’, I don’t mean giving your child gifts of things – toys, clothes, sports equipment, accessories, vacations, expensive meals, movies and so on.

The indulgence I’m talking about has more to do with your attitude and behavior. Indulgence can take several forms:

  1. You might choose to be patient with your child when he is crotchety or throwing a tantrum.
  2. You might choose to hear out whatever ridiculous ‘great idea’ he has. (One child whose birthday is at the height of summer – we’re talking 45°C here – told his parents they could host a water-themed party for his friends in the bedroom. They’d throw water on each other right through the party! “And what about the furniture, furnishings and books?” We’ll empty the room, Mom. “And the walls, doors and windows?” Come on, chill, Dad – we’ll be careful. I promise! 🙂 )
  3. You might consciously bite your tongue to suppress a sharp retort when you feel she’s slow to understand what you’re saying.
  4. You might let her do things ‘her’ way – even if you know it is the ‘wrong’ way.
  5. You might choose to gracefully accept an apology he makes, without a single word of reproach.
  6. You might choose to withhold the “I told you so” that comes so naturally and quickly to you.
  7. You might choose to set aside the ‘urgent’ work, or news program or telephone conversation you’re having because your child is asking for your attention NOW! And you might choose to give her your attention immediately – without saying, “Just a minute, honey.”
  8. You might occasionally want to let him eat junk that is ‘bad’ for him, for no particular reason, but just because he is so special that rules can sometimes be set aside.
  9. You might let him tell you what to wear to a dinner, or at least to ‘help’ you choose. And yes, this applies equally even if you are a Daddy! 🙂
  10. You might choose to empathize with him when he is troubled and/or hurt by someone or something, without acting the adult and giving him a list of ways he could solve the problem. Give him a chance to share how he feels.
  11. You might choose to wake her up lovingly, even though she’s late, you’re stressed, and you both have to hurry through the morning routine to make it to wherever on time. Or you might decide you’ll set aside her sulking through the evening and wish her a warm, caring “Good night” as you close the day.
  12. You might ask her for an opinion or advice on some decision you have to make.

Of course, all this indulgence works only when you enforce the rules! 🙂

So long as your child knows your rules, he will know that you are indulging him – you don’t need to hit him over the head with it. He will appreciate your indulgence.

You will appreciate each other. You will enjoy being with each other. You will learn – she from you, and you from her – how to be more considerate to (and of) each other. What a lovely upward spiral! May it keep going up and up forever… 🙂

2 Responses to Who’s Spoiling Your Child?

  1. Preeti Hans February 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    I find the 10th point, really important…. 🙂

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