Spoiled Child - What Next?

Updated on January 30, 2013
D.S. asks from Prairie Village, KS
10 answers

Hello Mamas and Papas!

I just read this quick "Is your child spoiled" survey (link below) and while I know it is not the be all and end all of parenting education, it totally struck a chord. I'm not really surprised, but my 5 year old son is a definite match for 7 of the 10!

I was really hoping the end of the survey would give some basic tips or resources on reversing the trend. But alas, no.

I could be wrong, but I feels it's not really - or only - a discipline issue. After all, we are consistent, firm yet loving, reasonable (e.g. only threaten/promise what we are really going to follow through on) and I hope, clear on our expectations. He is allowed some control and choices like Love and Logic. He is an only child but spends MANY hours of the week with peers at school, play dates, activities and whatnot, while also getting attention (too much?) from us at home.

As I said, I am not surprised. We have been aware of these behaviors for years and listen to his teachers, OT, other parents when seeking advice on helping him. However, I didn't think of it as "spoiled" - as in he doesn't get everything he asks for. But this is a new way of thinking so maybe the beginning of a new approach!

But what approach? Any tips?

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So What Happened?


Victoria: I agree, it is aimed at 4 and older so that is why I am a bit concerned. I think many of these things he should have outgrown and now I really need the resources to help make that change!

To clarify, he has an OT for Sensory Processing issues. He is also on the wait list for Behavior and Development for an evaluation, possibly aspergers/autism - recommended by his pediatrician and OT.

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answers from Chicago on

Sorry, but the OT/Sensory etc changes a lot. Expectations are different - they have different needs, different reactions to needs.

I know first hand as a parent of a child who has different needs that most of that list does not apply.

Children with sensory issues meltdown all the time, not because they are spoiled but because they do not always feel their own feet under them or because they actually feel their body and are freaked out.

Chidlren with aspergers/autism do not always understand the difference between adults/children etc - they have SERIOUS social issues and understanding those differences can be difficult.

Many of the "signs" can easily be understood if you understand children who have other needs.

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answers from Kansas City on

i think that only children can seem "spoiled" in some ways - i.e. having mom and dad's undivided attention, expecting it from others just as a matter of course. my son has a habit of feeling his opinion holds as much weight as the adults'. but that is because, with just three of us, we have the luxury of really listening to his thoughts and validating them. no, he does not always get his way. he knows what "no" means and hears it often. but that doesn't mean i brush off his opinions or thoughts - he talks, i usually listen. he's used to that luxury.

we are also dealing with adhd, and with all of that, we have realized that some of our issues are behavioral - some are related to the adhd. talking out of turn, for example, is a sign of adhd, but can also be just plain old habit because he's the only one vying for mom and dad's attention, so he rarely has to wait for it. ya know?

it's a hard pill to swallow, realizing some things about "us" might be contributors. ugh.

so during this process we have really had to re-evaluate our habits at home. we have gotten firmer about interrupting, some minor sassiness and "backtalk". things like that.

as parents of onlies we already bear the stigma of having "spoiled" kids (even though that is a bogus stereotype really). at our house, we have made a strong effort to NOT spoil him, knowing that people often assume he will be. however, things like attention just naturally fall on him, even though we make the extra effort not to buy him everything he wants, make him help with chores, etc. i mean come on - if we had 3 other kids, of COURSE he'd be used to having to wait to talk to mom and dad. we just don't have that environment. it's a small price to pay imo. but it does take effort to circumvent.

(*i do have to respectfully disagree with Hazel on a couple points, and yes, this is the one-and-done defense coming out in me - my son definitely plays by himself - not ALL the time, no. but he is quite capable and happy to do it. i do think that a child - especially a 6 year old like mine - should be able to entertain himself. also, sharing is taught - same goes. being an only child does not have anything to do with being able to or not - unless that child has lived in a bubble and his parents just simply have chosen not to teach him to share.

for parents of onlies who are sensitive to their child being stereotyped like i am, i can tell you that most of the "only child syndrome" issues are behavioral. my son is living proof of that.

as far as the survey goes, fwiw, my son somewhat falls into two of those categories, occasionally. so the whole "only" thing should not, once again, be a stigma.)

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answers from Portland on

First, here are a couple points I slightly disagree with:

(Doesn't play by self) "Needing a parent or playmate to play with demonstrates her need for attention." Wow, guess what. Kids do actually need attention-- and lots of it. Kids also have to learn how to play by themselves with our help, and we have to make sure to give them plenty of attention during other times. [Taking Adansmama's comment into consideration: my son is an only and also spends a lot of time by himself. My point is that WE as parents need to teach our kids to play alone; it does not come naturally for some kids who are very connected with their parents. I wasn't suggesting that the kiddo's couldn't, just that they do need to be taught. Many children are inclined to being in constant contact, so we must teach them how to feel comfortable on their own.]

(Unwillingness to share) "Sharing is a difficult concept for lil ones to master, but once a child reaches the age of 4, she should be more willing to share toys, snacks, etc. with friends and siblings." Some kids, esp. onlys or kids who *have* to share a lot, can be challenged by this. I know kids in their 6s and 7s who are still anxious about other kids using their toys. It's not ideal, but they are out there, and it's not usually 'greed' or 'spoiled' I see, but some anxiety.

I want to say here, before going any further, that I really don't like these sorts of surveys and articles. They are often long on the theory of 'what' might be wrong with your kid (or parenting-- and I think this article didn't do any favors in labeling the child 'spoiled, because some of these issues are parent-driven) and short, as you noticed, on any advice. This is part of the problem with the media and parenting in general and contributes, I believe, to the dissent between parents.

Here are some questions I would want to ask:

Are you able to make clear limits with your son regarding the time you spend with him and the time you want to be spending otherwise? Does it feel balanced to you?

Where in your son's day/life/activities do feel you are making above-and-beyond adjustments for him to function smoothly or making compromises to what you feel is reasonable to avoid his getting upset? Those would be areas I would look deeper at, to see what it is you are avoiding. Is it an outburst? What could you, the parents, and the OT come up with to help him adapt/transition to new, more reasonable expectations during those times?

Does he have an allowance, or do you and your husband find yourself buying toys and desired items 'on demand' instead? If 'on demand'-- what does that look like? Are you happy to have made the purchase, or do you make the purchase to solve a problem? If your son doesn't have an allowance, look into how Love and Logic suggests doing it. (our son is five and knows that he has to save up money for most things; we support his art supplies, because this is his favorite endeavor, but we do not buy toys or specials very often-- those are reserved for Christmas/birthdays, etc.)

Do you find yourself working around your son's needs all the time, or do they feel manageable? Do you run the day, or does his day run you? This would be another one to talk with the OT about-- what are reasonable 'needs' for your son (in their opinion) and what do they think might be excessive concessions made on your part? Does the day feel like the needs of the entire family are being met?

I can't say that there's a simple approach because I do not know exactly what your child's particular needs are. Each kid is different. Since you have an OT who knows your family and has worked with your son (and loads of other kids) I might be asking them for advice. (I don't know why your son is seeing an OT, so I'm trying not to assume what, if any, underlying issues there may be. I will say this, however, I really *hate* the word 'spoiled' when used regarding children. It insinuates that they are irreparably damaged, and it's a degrades the parents as well. So many parents are caught out by their child's level of need that they often make concessions to make things go smoothly. That, to me, speaks of the parents who need more support and resources, not more judgment. Unless a parent has some issues (usually mental health ones) where they are expressly grooming their child to be a demanding, controlling little person (and some do, due to their own unaddressed issues)-- then, yes, THAT is spoiling.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know what to tell you. I clicked on the link and went through the list. I have two children (ages 14 and 11). All of the items on the list are directed at children ages 4 and above, correct?

At no time did either of my kids do ANY of those things as a matter of routine. Might have happened a time or two on one or two items (trying to direct adults and in control when adults are not peers seems like something I had to nip, but it only happened with certain adults that tended to encourage the behavior).

So, I don't know what to tell you. My kids are far from perfect, but according to the list from the link, they are not and never have been spoiled.


Since your child is atypical, then I would ignore the list and focus on what the specialists tell you.

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answers from Grand Forks on

My kids passed the test with flying colours. I don't know if it because of anything I did, or if it just their personalities (although we do practice "delayed gratification). I think this test is geared toward typical children, and many of the behaviours you are seeing likely have more to do with the Sensory Processing disorder. It sounds like you are already working on it with your OT.

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answers from Chicago on

I did read the article and I think those behaviors are typical of kids growing up. Hey, I even know some adults that throw tantrums on occasion (Whaaaa, I want an iphone!) I did some googling and found this article to be much more informative:


It gives a clearer definition of what being spoiled means “A spoiled child is one who’s demanding, self-centered, and unreasonable,” says Harvey Karp, MD. And talks about parenting mistakes that can cause a child to be spoiled.

It's always good to keep in mind that every child is different and what works for one might not work for another.

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answers from New York on

Absolutely a typical child over the age of four should not be displaying those symptoms regularly. But you need to continue to listen to the experts about your particular child and guide him from where he is and hear the expectations his teachers have for him. Dont stress over this survey, find out if his teachers and OT agree you should should change how you react to him.

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answers from Washington DC on

Hazel W., you are right on!

Reread Hazel's post. I especially agree with her on giving kids attention: They DO need it; it's how they learn and grow; and they must be taught to entertain themselves when they're at the right age and stage to start doing so. It's not hardwired. What's hardwired is the need for attention. And there is nothing wrong with that!

Also...I dislike surveys that turn life into neat little packages so we can just count off a certain number of steps and we'll have all the answers. Look on them with intense skepticism. And I boggle at "surveys" that come from out of nowhere....authored by no one with a name or credentials other than owning a computer!

Don't label your son "spoiled" or anything else based on some list by some faceless blogger.

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answers from Chicago on

I wouldn't take what a survey says as the final word in whether your child is spoiled.

However, when I met my SD she was 10 out of 10 on that list! It appalled me how she controlled all the adults in her life, would beg and beg for things, if you offered to buy her something she wanted TWO of them, or something more expensive, you couldn't get her to do anything without some bribe (she'd often say "what are you going to do for me?"), she couldn't do anything by herself, she couldn't play alone, she would ignore you if she didn't feel like answering, and while she didn't throw loud tantrums, she would just pout.

However, we worked on all those things and now at age 11 she is NONE of those things. She is helpful, generous, thankful, caring and is able to get along with kids AND adults.

So I wouldn't worry about what your child scored on some magazine test. Just keep loving them, encouraging them, modeling behavior, praising good behavior, being intolerant of bad behavior and basically showing them the way. They will grow out of all of those things.

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answers from Portland on

Oh lordy, I'd better reign in my 7 year old. I never really thought of some of those traits as being "spoiled" either. I thought he was just the kind of kid who is an extrovert and needs people around at all times. lol. Actually, I looked back at the list and he really only does two things on that list consistently, but I guess I was combining my two kids when I read it. haha.

I'll keep trying positive reinforcement for them, since that works best for us.

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