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Family Files

Too Much is Not a Good Thing

While on vacation a few weeks ago, I noticed there were many elementary and middle school aged children present at our resort. I also noticed that many of them had something in common.- their rudeness, lack of manners, and disrespect for others. What was interesting was that when I looked around for their parents, either I found the parental figures acting in the same manner, or they weren't paying any attention and were oblivious to how their child was behaving, or they simply weren't to be found. While it is easy to get irritated with the children, they are just the victims of overindulgence by their parents.

Overindulgence can be separated into three categories. Material overindulgence or when parents give their child too many things like toys, electronics, junk food, sports, money, etc. There is also structural overindulgence or soft structure where children are given excessive freedom for their age. These children have no real rules and no accountability. And relational overindulgence or over-nurture which is another form and results when children are smothered – they are given too much attention and not allowed to do many things for themselves. All three types end up negatively affecting the children and they often experience difficulties as adults.

Research has found that overindulging children can result in:

  • Always wanting to be center of attention
  • Difficulty learning self-care and interpersonal skills
  • Not knowing when is enough (food, alcohol, personal boundaries, money)
  • Feelings of confusion, embarrassment, and guilt
  • Being ungrateful, irresponsible
  • Feeling entitled

So how can parents avoid overindulging their children? Parenting Press is a great resource and provides a simple list of suggestions:

  • Have children learn chores. It is important to start children out young with simple household and self-care tasks that can be taught and supervised by parents and modified as the child grows older.
  • Teach children rules and enforce them. Children actually feel more secure if they have boundaries.
  • Always know where the children are. Have children and parents report on where they are going and when they will be home.
  • Provide opportunities to negotiate. Giving children situations they can negotiate (chores, allowances, etc.) allows them to develop responsibility, problem solving and decision-making skills.

Most parents that overindulge are just wanting the best for their children and don't realize the harm they could be doing. Any parent that takes a moment to examine their situation and decides they might be guilty of overindulgence can follow the suggestions and could also visit the Parenting Press website at for additional information.