“Will I Spoil My Child?”

by Dr. Kyle Pruett, Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member
child looking over a mother's shoulder while being held

Most adults believe a spoiled child is one who behaves in a way that the adult finds objectionable. But what’s “objectionable?” The answer varies widely among cultures and individuals. 

What’s important to one person can be irrelevant to the next, what’s cute to one can be bothersome to another. In our multicultural society, the key is for you, others in your home and those who care for your child to agree on the basics. 

Once those basics are set, reason and consistency are your best tactics. Giving in from time to time won’t ruin your rules or spoil your child. If something is really important to your little one, let them win on occasion (except where safety and minimal behavior requirements are concerned). It shows them that their views have merit and teaches them that perseverance on things that really count may be rewarded. Especially give in on those instances where your initial position was extreme or unnecessary — something all adults do from time to time, even with other adults. 

If caving becomes a habit, however, you do no one a favor, least of all your child. The boundaries they need to feel secure get muddied, and they will spend untold effort to reestablish them — a big waste of resources for them and a big test of your patience. 

Within the limits you set there is never a need for limits on your love. Care and affection don’t spoil a child. In fact, they provide the best teaching model a child could ask for. You are demonstrating the very behavior you want to encourage. There is no downside to this. 

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