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Overindulged Children

Feb 19, 2018 10:50AM ● By Don Short

There are three ways that parents can overindulge a child. The first way is materially. This happens when we buy things for our children that they do not need, we increase our debt to buy these things or we buy these things because the child demands it. 

The second way is giving our child too much permission too soon. This may include watching movies and playing video games that are above their maturity level. The third way we overindulge a child is relationally. This is where the parent takes on the role of a friend instead of being the parent the child needs. Parents who do this often say that they are afraid of losing their child, but what really happens is that the child loses a parent.

The consequences of overindulging a child may include 1. Over-dependency on the parent. 2. Lack of concern for others. 3. Self-centeredness. 4. Lack of motivation and self-reliance. 5. A feeling of entitlement. 6. Lack of age-appropriate skills because everything was done for them.

 Why do parents overindulge their children? What are the thought processes and the feelings that drive this type of behavior? Some parents believe that unconditional love means that we should give a child anything that he or she wants. Some believe that children should be shielded from the consequences of their bad choices and negative behavior. This is often connected to the feeling that happiness should be the highest priority of the parent for that child. For some parents, it is the belief that we need to make up for the mistakes our parents made when we were growing up. As result, we tend to overcompensate with our own children.

Let’s evaluate our own parenting process and assess if we are overindulging our children.

Guilt - Do you have a hard time saying no to your children for fear of upsetting them or the fear that they may reject you? A few weeks ago, I took a toy from my five-year-old grandson because he was not listening to me. He became angry and said that he would never come back to my house. I said that would be fine. He added a couple more similar threats. He was trying to emotionally manipulate me, which is normal for children. Whenever a parent comes from a place of guilt, they have a hard time setting these types of boundaries with their children. They feel their child must always be happy and are afraid to anger or upset him/her.

Scarcity – As children, some of us grew up in poorer households than the other children around us. This meant we saw other kids playing with toys or in clothing we had wanted but couldn’t afford. As a solution, some have decided to correct this by making sure their children not only don’t do without anything but also has a lot and the best of what they want

 Competition – In broken families, it is not unusual for one parent, or both parents, to compete with the other for the love and affection of the child by overindulging them. The child may also attempt to play one parent against the other. Competing also occurs by comparing our family to others in our extended family, other kids in school, and the broader community.

Skill deficits – Parenting is difficult for many of us in different ways. The skills we bring to our family are based mostly on our own upbringing. We lack skill in managing our children, so we indulge them by giving in to their whining as a quick fix to the problem. We don’t know how to set appropriate boundaries. We are afraid and don’t know how to deal with our child’s anger and fear confrontation. Our choice is the path of least resistant because of the lack of time and energy.

What thoughts came to your mind as you read through these four areas? All these issues can be identified and corrected through attending some informative parenting classes or seeing a counselor who understands parenting and relationship issues. Self-awareness is the first step to bringing healthy and positive change to your life and the life of your family. Make a commitment this year to healthy change and growth in your life.

 Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or

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