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Are we overindulging our kids?

Ask any parent and they will say, “We want to raise children who are grateful, responsible and respectful.” Parents start out with a good heart filled with the best of intentions going down the path of parenting. But sometimes, we make a detour down a path of overindulging children. It often seems like the right thing at the time, but often ending up in overload. How often do we look at others or read on social media and compare our parenting and want our children to have it all too? What starts out with the interest of our child can become more for the parent than for the child. This happens so easily without our awareness. We can easily give too much stuff, too much freedom, do for them, give them few responsibilities and over schedule their time.

Steering clear of overindulging children begins with knowing what that even is. “Overindulgence is giving children too much of what looks good, too soon, and for too long. Adults overindulge when they do things for children that they should be doing for themselves. Adults overindulge when they give a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children. Overindulgence does harm.” (Clarke, Dawson & Bredehoft 2014)

Although hazards don’t always appear in the short term, they do eventually show themselves through:

  • Trouble with delayed gratification
  • Trouble not being the center of attention
  • Trouble being competent in everyday skills
  • Trouble taking personal responsibility
  • Trouble knowing how much is enough
  • Demanding and unappreciative behavior

Avoid the detour of overindulging. Author and parent educator Jean Illsley Clarke says “Give it the Test of Four”.

  • Does it get in the way of the child learning a developmental task?
  • Does it use a disproportionate amount of the family resources: money, space, time, energy, and focus, to meet the wants, not the needs, of one or more of the children?
  • Is this more for the parent than or the child? Does it insist that the child focus on activities that the parent likes, but that are counter to the child’s interests and abilities?
  • Does it deplete or in some way harm others, property, the environment, the community?

Adapted from: How Much is Too Much? Raising Likeable Responsible, Respectful Children – From Toddlers To Teens – In An Age of Overindulgence (2014, DaCapo Press Lifelong Books).

What can parents do?

  1. Encourage giving thanks, not only for what they have but for those in their world
  2. Take a break from the latest and greatest, from technology, and from activity.
  3. Have a family meal.
  4. Give responsibilities at home and in the community. Volunteer as a family.
  5. Hold your child to their commitments.
  6. Establish family rules and let consequences teach.
  7. Model – model – model.
  8. Give it the “Test of Four”.

Check out this resources from PBS Parents. 10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Kid

Upcoming parenting session in January: How Much is enough?

For more information or to register for the January class, contact West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center at 701-456-0007.

The West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center is a collaborative partnership between Dickinson Public Schools and NDSU Extension since 1997. For more information call 701-456-0007 or toll free at 1-877-264-1142.