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Spoiled Child Syndrome

Spoiled Child Syndrome

How to make sure you’re not raising a brat.


“Is Sweden raising a generation of brats?”

So begins an article in the Wall Street Journal, discussing the book How Children Took Power by Swedish psychiatrist David Eberhard.

The book has sparked intense debate, suggesting that Scandinavia’s parents have become wimps when it comes to discipline. As mothers and fathers have allowed their children to routinely make family decisions like what to eat for dinner, what to watch on tv and where to vacation, the kids have become chief decision makers in their homes. The culture has grown overly sensitive to children’s wants and desires breeding a nation of ‘oupptostrade,’ which is translated into ‘badly raised children.’

Dr. Eberhard argues that as children get older, he has observed an increase in anxiety disorders and self-harming problems. He feels that these children are not able to deal with the stresses of everyday life that adults must face. He warns that a child-centric society causes more harm than good as these kids will end up anxious or depressed, unable to handle the real world.

He describes teachers who were confronted by parents arguing that their children’s rights have been violated after their kids cellphones were taken away because they were texting or playing games during class.

We don’t have to travel to Sweden to find children who resent being told ‘no,’ are argumentative, demanding, ignore parents and teachers, and fall into tantrums or rudeness if denied a request or desire. Each week I communicate with parents describing such children from all over the world. This is the Spoiled Child Syndrome – kids who are self-centered, excessive, narcissistic, immature, who show lack of consideration for other people, recurrent temper tantrums, and are unable to handle the delay of gratification. Bruce J. McIntosh, writing in Pediatrics, attributed Spoiled Child Syndrome to “the failure of parents to enforce consistent, age appropriate limits.”

When we over-indulge our children or make them the center of our universe to the point that they believe that the world revolves around them, we begin to lose control of our homes. Our teens are unhappy and self-absorbed. Nothing is good enough, no rule makes sense or applies to them. Emptiness gnaws within; satisfaction is an elusive emotion.

Stop Spoiling Your Kids

We teach our children how to treat us. If we want to regain control of our homes we need to make clear through our actions that we are serious. We must be willing to say “Enough!” We have had enough tantrums, yelling, screaming, stomping, and slamming doors so that you get what you want. The moment we decide to stop spoiling our children, we will feel hopeful and strong. We will realize that we are preparing our children for real life. We can’t fix every hurt or fulfill every desire, but we can provide a home filled with emotional and spiritual security. We can create a bond of love and path of wisdom.

We can help our children live with respect for others and gain genuine self-respect based on purposeful living. This is the formula for success. It is not your toys, iPads, name brand coats and sneakers that will define your happiness in this world. It is the knowledge I have imparted to you; the awareness that this is how the world really works and you, my child, can be successful as you build your character.

Regaining Control

  1. Commit to your Goal

    Be determined to accomplish your parenting mission. Realize that we cannot always give our children everything they want. Constant buying or giving in to demands is not responsible parenting. Sometimes the answer is ‘no’. Don’t allow guilt to get in your way. If you are making yourself feel better by overindulging your child, the truth is you are shortchanging him. Commitment means that you have made it clear that the manipulation, pouting, and defiant behavior will no longer make an impact.

  2. Be Consistent

    Parents who fail to give clear and consistent discipline send a confusing message to their children. Empty threats, long lectures or haggling over rules show kids that we do not mean what we say. Children learn to ignore parents because at the end, they realize that they can manipulate the situation. They simply tune us out. Instead of over-talking, debating, or explaining, simply give a consequence and enforce the rule.

    For example, if you cannot turn off the computer when it is time for bed, there will not be any computer time for you tomorrow night. And until you can show me that you respect the rules, you will be unable to use the computer.

    There is no debating, begging, or caving in to tantrums and whining. You do not have to scream or yell. Be strong and consistent. Your child realizes that he is responsible for his decisions and behaviors.

  3. Stop Overindulging

    Whether you have created this situation by constantly buying things and giving gifts or you have overprotected your child to the point that she knows you will deal with her infractions, now is the time to stop this behavior. Some parents cannot afford to buy for themselves, but will overextend their budgets for their kids. The day has come for you to teach your child that happiness is not gained through shopping. Children have no idea that they have a financial responsibility to save up, or not buy everything their hearts desire. Our ‘things’ cannot define us. Self-worth is acquired through who we are; our hard work and efforts, how we treat others, and what we contribute to make this world a better place.

    If you step in and protect your child by allowing him to sleep late each morning or do the homework for him, understand that he will never gain the skills needed to deal with real life. Even if you nag or get upset, the bottom line is that you have carried his load. Allow your son to face the consequences of arriving late for school, missing homework assignments, or dealing with the pressure of a deadline. Shielding your child is stunting his emotional growth.

    It is true that many of us are overworked, exhausted, and have limited time and patience to discipline. We find it difficult to deal with angry or defiant children. Children who seem happy with all that we provide make us feel better about our parenting. But this happiness is short-lived. Growing up entitled, never handling responsibility, unaware of how to deal with life’s stresses creates children who become adults who find life overwhelming. Relationships seem dull and unsatisfactory.

    We love our children best by knowing how to give our time, forge a path of courage, and stand steadfast in our ability to set boundaries for life.

Published: March 1, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 11

(8) HH, September 6, 2014 12:02 PM

How do you manage this when the child self-harms?

The article talks sense - but not necessarily to the parent who already has the spoilt child. Particularly when the spoilt child (who has had their own way for their whole life) decides to self-harm. The adult then feels trapped into being even more indulgent. How can this cycle be broken ?

(7) Mirna Baiz, March 6, 2014 5:23 PM

I blame the "System"

I agree 100%. But, we now live in a society governed by Child "Protective" Sevices! They are like a "mafia!" Children are DYING or being abuse in there "care!" You can't punish you can't scream you can't spank you can't dicipline your children anymore! They come and remove the child, put them on Foster "Care" another mafia, where they are really being abused! I am a Foster kinship grandmother, and I've been"to hell&back with these CORRUPT Agencies! They just separate family's!! Please PRAY!

(6) Shoshana, March 5, 2014 9:14 PM


There is a time for everything. I applaud the advice here, but it isn't new. We're just talking about different toys. Torah is replete with insolence, be it amongst children, adults, communities, what have you. Temper tantrums have long been diagnosed as a cry for guidance not neglect. It is true that in today's era parents - unfortunately - often face dual income situations. Technology, like any addiction, appeals as a quick fix, the new crib mobiles. The rights of children are denied when they are stripped of an education, not a cell phone. Perhaps the parents in these polls need to mature. As for grandparents and other family members who continue to spoil a child, they need limits too. A man must cling to his wife and leave his parents' home. Yes we must respect our parents, but that doesn't mean we should allow them to make a bad situation worse. We must also not forget that there is a completely different paradigm in Europe where secularization is manifesting once again with lightning speed. For every illness Torah is the cure. B'H

(5) Anonymous, March 4, 2014 7:29 PM

grandparents input

Slovie, I absolutely agree with everything which you articulated so beautifully. However how does one deal with a situation where there are grandparents who are very involved in our lives and extremely indulging towards the children, constantly bringing them presents, more clothes, things, and then not only are the children being spoilt, but the kids begin to resent us for not giving as much as "granny and grandpa" and translate the situation as "granny and grandpa love them because they always give them things, unlike our parents who don't buy things all the time? would love to hear what you think?

Anonymous, March 5, 2014 5:27 PM

As hard as this is for some (myself included), you must set boundaries. Reasonable ones, of course, but stick to them. Don't be afraid to explain yourself either. Do it tactfully. Let them know you don't approve of so many toys. Put a limit on the number and size per year, if applicable. You can also let them know you want your children to love their grandparents and appreciate them for their presence, not for the things they bring. The earlier in the relationship you do this, the easier it will be.

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