7 Signs of a Spoiled Child and How to Deal With Them

Image of spoiled girl

Most of the time, parents are doing everything they can to ensure that their children are happy, safe, and content. As much as these wishes are natural and good-willed, it turns out that they can also lead to spoiling. Sometimes, there will be people who will comment: “you’re going to spoil that child” good-naturedly, and sometimes the comment is uttered in all seriousness and meant as a warning. If you’re worried that you’ve been raising a spoiled child and aren’t sure how to deal with the fact, we’re here to help you figure out what to do.

“Spoiled baby” is a myth

People will sometimes advise young parents not to “pamper” their infants too much out of fear that they’ll be spoiled when they grow up. Experts, on the other hand, have something else to say. A professor of child development at Tufts University by the name of David Elkind, says that you can’t spoil an infant. Infants are completely helpless, they cry when there is something they need, and it’s virtually impossible to spoil them because they can’t manipulate or deceive you. Infancy is a crucial time in the child’s development when parents are supposed to help children adjust and show them that the world is a safe place. As the child grows, however, it’s possible (and quite easy) to spoil them by shielding them to much or giving them too much.

Toddler temper tantrums

It seems as if the moment your 2 year old learns to say “No”, it becomes the only thing they keep saying over and over again. No, they don’t want to eat; No, they don’t want to get dressed; No, they don’t want to go out and no, they certainly don’t want to go home. Even though this might make some parents worried, temper tantrums in 2 year olds aren’t the signs of a spoiled child. These are simply a regular part of the development and a way for them to differentiate themselves, as well as to test the boundaries you’ve set as a parent. On the other hand, this does not mean that you should give in and allow them to do anything they say but quite the opposite: you should stand your ground and set boundaries because indulging and giving in will lead to raising a spoiled child.

Signs of a spoiled child

We’ve established that there’s no such thing as a spoiled infant, and that temper tantrums aren’t a sign of spoiled children, but how can you tell if your child is spoiled?

Frequent tantrums

There’s a huge difference between your 2 year old who refuses to eat his veggies and a five year old who starts screaming, crying, and kicking every time you tell them it’s time to go to bed or refuse to buy them chocolate in the supermarket. Throwing tantrums when they don’t get what they want is purely a way to manipulate their parents into giving them what they want because it has worked before.

Gift-hunger

If a gift-giving occasion is something you partially dread as a parent because you know your child will dig into the pile of presents without acknowledging others or saying ‘thank you’, it’s a sign of entitlement. When your child tears into their gifts without pausing to say ‘thank you’ even after you remind them to do it several times, it’s time to have a talk with them. You should also pay attention to how they react when they see something that other children have and they don’t – do they demand the same thing immediately? If you keep making excuses for them, buying them whatever they want, and keep saying ‘thank you’ on their behalf, they will never learn to change their behavior.

Extreme dependency

You might daydream about leaving your child with their grandparents or a sitter so you could go out and get some work done, but it’s impossible – your child simply refuses to be away from you and won’t let you leave without them. This is a problem, because they won’t go to sleep without you and won’t let you leave them behind, and you’ll have a hard time getting any work done. Remember that small children depend on their parent, but as they get older, they should be able to be on their own longer and be comfortable with other people.

Not willing to help

Toddlers and preschoolers love being around their parents when they’re doing something, and they will soon learn to help clean up, put away their toys, place spoons in the drawer, and putting their shoes away. Toddlers are too small to actually get any work done, but as they grow, children should be able to help you out. If your child refuses to do any work around the house, even if only cleaning up their own toys, it means they’re spoiled and that they’re waiting for you to do everything for them.

Special meals

If your child has special dietary needs, you will naturally bend over backwards to meet them and make your child happy. On the other hand, there is no need to do so every time you make dinner. If your child demands a special dish every time you make dinner, giving in will only make the problem worse. Doing this once or twice is okay, we all have days when we’d rather have a pizza than meatloaf, but if this is a regular occurrence during mealtimes, it might be a sign of a spoiled child.

Disobedient

Children should listen to their parents and be obedient, but spoiled children refuse to do so. Instead, parents have to bribe the children with candies, toys, and other treats to make them obey, and they have to make all sorts of promises. If parents say “No”, they simply ignore them and pretend they didn’t hear. They also refuse to do as you say unless you ask them super-nicely or even beg. Making parents listen like they’re the adult and expecting to be obeyed all the time is a sign for alarm.

Seeks attention

Of course children want their parents to pay attention to then, but spoiled children want everyone’s attention all the time. They will even deliberately embarrass their parents in public so that others will stop the conversation they’re having or put their work on hold and pay attention to them instead. They will interrupt others (even adults), be rude to them, and brag about things excessively so that everyone will notice them.

Characteristics of a spoiled child

You want to give your children everything their hearts desire because you love them and want them to be happy and content, but if you’re not careful, you will easily turn them into self-centered, spoiled children. Being spoiled is a bad thing, developmentally as well as socially, and less-flattering characteristics of a spoiled child include:

Poor relationship skills

A spoiled child has been indulged and pampered too much, and they don’t understand that relationships involve giving as well as taking. They might not have a hard time making friends, but keeping meaningful friendships will be a hard task for them, while there will be those who won’t be able to do it. Insensitivity to others’ needs make them ‘difficult’ playmate, and other children might not want to be friends with someone like that. As a result, spoiled children end up being rather unhappy loners who don’t even like being alone.

Irresponsibility

Because there’s no such thing as boundaries and limits for them, spoiled children never learn to behave responsibly. As a result, they can develop serious problems like gambling, and drinking and eating too much as adults. These children are also often described as unmotivated, lazy, and angry, and their problem-solving skills are poor because they’re used that others will take care of things.

Disrespect, defiance, and dependency

Disrespect, defiance, and severe dependency are some of the characteristics of spoiled children. These children will most likely whine when they don’t have it their way, beg for things you said you don’t want to buy them, ignore you, and try to manipulate you to get their way. Spoiled children also can’t be away from their parents for too long and greatly depend on them, which can cause them to grow up and become unhappy adults. They will believe that being alone is what makes you unhappy and that other people are the source of their happiness. They are often so overindulged that they don’t know any other way to express themselves than through negative behaviors, so they start rebelling.

Image of parents and kids talking

How to deal with a spoiled child

Good news is that no matter how spoiled your child might be, there is always a way to deal with them and lessen their sense of entitlement. First thing first, though – you need to restrain your own overprotective instincts. You should start giving them more responsibilities and encourage them to solve problems on their own. There are many things they can do on their own, you just need to let them do it. Children can recover from disappointment quickly and you shouldn’t change your position once you say ‘no’ to something. Not giving them everything they want is the key: if they want a fancy toy, they will have to wait for Christmas, Easter, or birthday, or “earn” it with good behavior.

How to correct a spoiled child

Give them a chance to learn and earn

Giving them more responsibilities is a great way to prepare them for the real world, and it’s also an opportunity for them to “earn” the things they want. When they’ve earned their toys, electronics, and games with chores and good behavior, they’ll appreciate them more than if they got them just because they wanted them.  

Tell them what’s really important

When your child brags to others because they have the best toys, the newest games, and the most popular accessories, they begin to feel that this is the only thing that matters. Talk to your children about real values; tell them that honesty and kindness are more important than toys, that talent and hard work is something to be cherished, and that their self-worth shouldn’t be determined with material things.

Stop making excuses for them

It’s easy to make excuses for your spoiled child to other parents and their children, but as long as you keep doing it, they will keep being rude and inconsiderate to others. Instead, you should encourage your child to take responsibility for their actions and reap the consequences of their actions. Sometimes the lessons will be tough, but this is the best way for them to change their behavior and learn.

Zero tolerance

You have to be consistent and to stop turning a blind eye to their bad behavior. You shouldn’t tolerate talking back and deliberate disobedience, you shouldn’t back down once you’ve said ‘no’ to something just because they’re throwing a tantrum, and take a zero-tolerance attitude when they’re behaving like a spoiled child. When they say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ say you’re proud of them, show your appreciation to the effort they’re making, but also show your displeasure to manipulation and rudeness.

Positive feedback

Remember, it’s not just about being strict and forbidding your child from behaving in a ‘bad’ way or doing bad things. A lot can be done and achieved if you offer positive feedback to your child: when they start acting less rude and spoiled, praise this change and tell them how proud you are of them for making an effort. Stop focusing solely on the negative because they will learn more when you show your pleasure over something good they’ve done. Give frequent feedback and teach them to associate good and appropriate behavior with your positive reaction.

Raising a spoiled child is one of the parents’ worst nightmares come true because spoiled children grow up to become adults who are ill-equipped to deal with life’s problems. As much as you want to protect your child from dangers of the world, remember that taking risks and making mistakes is how we learn and grow, especially in younger age, and if you let your children test their limits, they will know their own strengths better. If you recognize signs of a spoiled child in your children, take the steps to change it and make it right.

Author: Mary Lynn Holden
Author: Mary Lynn Holden

Proud mom and stepmom to an adorable bunch of kids aged 7 and up. Deeply appreciates three things in life: the help of older siblings in the house, texts on parenting, and strong coffee. Shares her stories and experiences in order to help others navigate the unpredictable waters of parenting.

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