There is a growing and dangerous trend in the United States – it’s called overindulgence. Experts warn that parents are spoiling their kids; not just with gadgets and toys, but by failing to set limits, not requiring that chores be done on a regular basis, not making the child wait or earn money for items they want, and smoothing away all the child’s frustrations in order to keep them happy, no matter what. According to experts, this type of parenting can lead to substance use and abuse.
Parents think that they overindulge their pre-teens and teens out of kindness, but in reality they are training kids to be irresponsible and helpless. The truth is that overindulging your children can undermine their competence and confidence.
Two thirds of parents say their teens are spoiled and lack responsible behaviors appropriate for their age group. While parents uniformly agree that self-discipline and self control are important for their kids to learn, only one third said they have successfully imparted these qualities, according to a recent study (Parents shouldn’t coddle their Kids).
It’s an unexpected legacy of the affluent 90’s: parents who can’t say no. This generation of parent has always been driven to give their teen every advantage. Now a growing number of psychologists, educators, and parents have come to the realization that all this overindulging is producing lazy, self-involved, and irresponsible teenagers that are prone to drop out of school, continue to live with their parents into their mid to late twenties and beyond, and may develop a dependency on drugs and alcohol. Many parents want to be their teen’s best friend, make sure they have fun, and shelter them from the real world. However, what children need most is for parents to be parents.
The stakes have never been higher; recent studies of adults who were overindulged as children paint a discouraging picture of their future. Kids, who have been given too much, too soon grow up to be adults who have difficulty coping with life’s disappointments. They have a distorted sense of entitlement that gets in the way of successful relationships at home and in the workplace. Psychologists report that parents who overindulge their children may be setting them up to be more vulnerable to promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, anxiety, and depression.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child sees more than 40,000 commercials a year. There is virtually no escape from them; this generation of parents is uniquely ill equipped to deal with the pressure. Today’s parents put in more hours on the job; at the end of the work week it’s tempting to give in to the guilt for not spending quality time with their kids, or to buy peace with a “yes.”
These parents are confusing permissiveness with love. In their zeal to make their teenagers happy, they fail to impart the very values and ethics they say they want to teach. Too little structure is giving children too much freedom and license. Firm structure includes establishing and enforcing rules, creating firm boundaries, monitoring teenager’s activities, and imparting effective living skills. According to psychologists parents need to find is a balance between the advantages of an affluent society and the critical life lessons that come from waiting, saving, and working hard to achieve goals. (Just say No).
Parents who overindulge ultimately fail themselves and their children at the most important task of parenting: helping their children grow up to lead happy, successful, and productive lives.
“Parents shouldn’t coddle their Kids” The Seattle Times. 2004. 21 Aug. 2005
“The Challenge: Just say No” Common Sense Media. 2005. 21 Aug. 2005