Most relational problems can be described as either having too much, or having too little. For parenting, too little is called neglect and too much is termed overindulgence. Is spoiling a child by giving them too much, too soon, and too long harmful for the child’s healthy development? Dr. Bedehoft (Ph.D, Professor of Psychology and Family Studies) and his research colleagues at Concordia University have found evidence to strongly suggest it does. Bedehoft’s research identified three ways parents overindulge their child, with the resulting risk factors.
There are 3 main types of overindulgence
1) TOO MUCH
How it Happens: Parents give too many clothes, privileges, toys, activities (overscheduling things for child to do, sports, extra classes), entertainment,
Risk Factors: Not knowing how much is enough, disrespect of things & people, expecting immediate gratification, being self centred
2) OVER NURTURE
How it Happens: Parents doing things for their child they should be doing for themselves, hovering over them, over-loving, etc.
Risk factors: Trained helplessness, confusing needs & wants, poor self-control, sense of entitlement, instant gratification
3) TOO LITTLE STRUCTURE
How it Happens: No home chores, too much freedom, allowed to dominate the family, not taught skills, no rules, rules not enforced, etc.
Risk factors: Child has lax boundaries, trained irresponsibility, lack of gratitude, overblown sense of entitlement
The research identified two groups of people children could be identified with according to their overindulged classification: Externals and Internals.
To become rich and super wealthy
To be famous
To achieve a ‘unique look’
To have people comment about how attractive they are
To grow and learn new things
To be able to look back on their life as meaningful and complete
To share life with someone and have a committed, intimate relationship
To work to make the world a better place
To help people in need
The data showed that when parents overindulge their child it results in External behaviours rather than Internal. Dr. Bredehoft makes this important observation in summarising his research: “The bottom line is that if parents want their children to grow up to be greedy, self centred, and never satisfied – overindulge them! On the other hand, if they want their children to grow up to be caring adults who are focused on meaningful relationships, and want to work to make the world a better place – it is plain and simple – don’t overindulge them. It’s not surprising,” he adds, “that some of our favourite TV shows are American Idol and Who wants to be a millionaire.”