Every year at Christmas time, there’s a sudden rush to share articles warning us about “spoiling” our kids.
Don’t get them everything they’re asking for!
Don’t give into their whims!
Don’t SPOIL them!
This one particular piece (titled We’re Killing Our Kids and Calling It Love) that recently came through my news feed brought a dire and overwrought prediction of killing our children through our generosity. We’re too concerned with our children being happy, she tells us. So we’re spoiling them, and in turn we’re harming their character. But wait, is it really so wrong to want to our children to be happy?
According to this author it is.
Isn’t that what we’re after? Happy children?
I hope not.
The measuring stick of successful parenting is definitely not happy children. Well-adjusted, responsible, kind, and selfless? Absolutely. Happy and spoiled? No way.
Later on, she says:
The truth is that giving them everything they want and ask for is the opposite of showing them love. It’s showing them that they’re the center of the universe, and it’s teaching them that the purpose of their lives is fulfillment of their material desires.
Here’s the thing. The article is making two rather large and erroneous assumptions. The first is that parents who are generous with their children believe that “things” will buy their child’s happiness, and the second is that spoiling occurs when children are given too much.
Neither of these are true.
To start, happy and spoiled are oxymorons. A child who is genuinely happy cannot be spoiled, and a child who is genuinely spoiled cannot be happy. True spoiling occurs not when a child is given too much, but when a child is given too little … No, not too little material things, but too little love, too little attention, and too little connection. The problem isn’t “stuff”: the problem is an unhealthy base relationship. The problem is that the child is not being shown and modeled generosity, or kindness, or respect. The problem is a lack of a human connection, or an emphasis of stuff in place of relationship.
Giving of ourselves, sharing abundance, and showing our children generosity is not synonymous with “spoiling”. In fact, you know what happens when you show your kids kindness? They become adults who are kind. You know what happens when you show your kids generosity? They become adults who are generous.
Giving of ourselves as parents is what we should be doing. We’re hard-wired to selflessly give to those we love. I see it as my job as a parent (and for that matter, as a conscientious human being) to give more. Not less.
More generosity. Not less.
More time. More attention. More kindness.
And yes, when we can, more of those material things that make their life more comfortable, or colorful, or enjoyable. I do want to raise children that are happy. I want to raise children that are “well-adjusted, responsible, kind, and selfless.” Of course. I also want to raise children that know how good it feels to give to the people we love. I want to raise children that understand that when we give to others it creates more abundance, not less. I want to raise children that understand that while yes, material things aren’t what make the world go round, that they don’t have to carry any sort of guilt for enjoying them. (She says as she sips on her overpriced coffee and types away on her laptop on her high speed wifi) We all have and appreciate certain material things, and to justify our own baubles but purposely deny our children – in an effort to teach some sort of lesson – is inconsistent, hypocritical, and counterproductive.
Giving to our children… truly giving, from the heart… does not spoil them.
Truly “spoiling” a child requires a relationship that is insincere, shallow, and detached.
A relationship in which a child is treated with kindness and generosity is very much the opposite.