Most people would agree that raising a spoiled child is never an objective in parenting. But sometimes, good-intentioned efforts lead to spoiled and entitled children. In our mind, we’ve done everything for them, why are they so ungrateful?
Well, as every child and situation is different, there are a few reasons why children become entitled, but a spoiled child doesn’t necessarily mean the parent is 100% at fault. Kids still have their own choices to make in life, but our influence should be greatly considered.
It doesn’t help if you live in Westernized culture, which continuously fuels dissatisfaction. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we strive for bigger, better, stronger, and faster — even if you’re doing your part to help your child practice gratitude, there is a society that pulls for their attention and tells them they aren’t enough; that they need MORE.
If you allow your child to access social media with no parental controls or safety measures, know that they are entering a digital world that will always tell them they are inadequate, that they don’t have enough, and they need x, y, and z in order to fit in. This virtual world is just as real to them as if they were physically present. All the more reason for families to practice digital wellness as to keep their kids safe online and on social media. (See more on safer options for kids’ phones.)
It’s also important to note that a certain amount of dissatisfaction and discontentment is absolutely normal in children; it’s normal in everyone. If you look within, can you say you’re always content with what you’ve been given? If we are honest with ourselves, we all have something to work on when it comes to gratitude.
Now, let’s talk about the part you play with your child and how it can negatively or positively impact their outlook on life.
Connect before you correct – HEART WORK
Parenting is hard work. It’s also HEART work — digging deeper and not only correcting the behavior but understanding their heart and unraveling the source. Heart work is also connecting before correcting. It’s being intentional about your daily interactions to truly understand who your child is as a person, not just giving out harsh consequences as a result of bad behavior. When they’ve made a mistake, it’s walking them through the process of healing, teaching them to take responsibility for their actions, and empathizing with them all that the same time. See an example of steps to take after your child has been unkind to someone.
Model gratitude and have your child practice it
The best way to teach your child gratitude is by modeling the behavior you wish to see in them. You can also teach through play, helping them work through their bad choices and getting to the heart of the matter instead of punishing their behavior, and also responding with gentleness and respect.
Other beneficial ways to encourage gratitude is to have your child write in a gratitude journal, ask them to tell you three things are grateful for before bed, or make it part of your everyday conversations. Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic. Instead of complaining, you could say something like, “I’m so grateful those hard workers are willing to do unsafe work to keep our roads safe for us.” By pointing out the positive in any given situation, you can not only redirect your heart and mind but model healthy responses to frustrating situations.
Is it a personality trait or a heart issue?
Some children come into the world with a naturally caring and considerate disposition — they usually don’t put up a fight with instruction, are quick to adjust to their surroundings, and are generally easygoing. But some kids come into the world knowing exactly what they want when they want it and do whatever is in their power to get it. Some might call this strong-willed, spirited, stubborn — there are many names for it. And while that’s not a bad thing, it’s important to intervene early on before this personality trait becomes an issue of the heart — entitlement.
While a child’s strong will, with the determination to accomplish something by whatever means necessary, is an incredible attribute, they will need some guidance on how to manage their impulses and be considerate of those around them. They need a caring individual, such as their parent, to help them understand their heart, not just correct their behavior. Children need to learn that in life there will be disappointment, that we won’t always get our way, and that our actions can sometimes hurt others.
Be aware of external unhealthy influences
Along with monitoring their digital devices, parents should be invested in their child’s social interactions. This doesn’t mean you can control their friendships, but be aware of who is influencing them. You can gain more insight in this article on bad influence friendships and how you can help your child make wise decisions and establish healthy relationships.
There are two instances that can lead to a spoiled child.
One – a naturally strong-willed and determined child who isn’t taught by their parents the proper social and emotional skills that help them consider others or own their mistakes.
Two – a child who is given whatever they want, and never taught by their parents how to be considerate of others or own their mistakes.
The one thing these scenarios have in common is that the parent failed to discipline (teach) them the proper skills to be grateful, considerate, and kind.
While some children have a natural bend towards entitlement, it’s still the parent’s job to teach them a better way, even if they don’t always listen. Ultimately, the choice is theirs to make. But the earlier in life you give them the tools and guidance, the better.
Your child’s brain development
Did you know that the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 20? As we grow, our brains are constantly changing, and those changes sometimes influence how we react to any given situation.
For example, children before the age of four, haven’t developed the part of the brain that controls impulses. And even then, it’s not fully functional. What’s even more interesting, at puberty, the brain goes through yet another huge change in development which affects impulse control once again. In essence, when parents can have an understanding of their child’s neurological changes that affect their behavior, it enables us to have more grace.
That being said, toddlerhood is a time children learn boundaries, self-regulation, impulse control, and to do things even if they don’t feel like it, all while NOT wanting to do ANY of those things. And because of this, toddlerhood is often the most frustrating age for everyone involved, along with the tween and teenage years. But it’s also the most misunderstood. If we step back and EXPECT these years to be challenging, knowing they may need a little more of our patience, we might find ourselves enjoying them.
“Every child will rebel at some point in their lives. The extent to which they rebel is often determined by our response to it.” Bill McKee
Is it too late to turn a spoiled child around?
The earlier parents can enforce boundaries, teach good habits, and establish an emotional connection with mutual respect and trust with their children, the less challenging a child will be.
If you haven’t implemented these practices from a young age and you find yourself raising a spoiled child, it doesn’t mean there is no hope. It’s never too late to turn your parenting around. Because at the root of a spoiled child (most often but not always) is a parent who isn’t enforcing boundaries, isn’t protecting their child from damaging digital or otherwise influences, isn’t being gentle and kind in their responses, and has a lack of respect for their child.
So before you start looking for solutions to change your child, look within to make sure your child’s behavior isn’t a result of something you need to change in your parenting.
What are some behavioral characteristics of a spoiled child?
Here are some common behavioral attributes of spoiled kids.
- Struggle with an answer being ” no ”
- Lack empathy and don’t hide their disdain when things don’t go their way
- Refuse to follow boundaries and rules
- Their tantrums become more than a way to empress themselves, rather a way to control those around them
- They don’t get along with their peers and have very few if any friends
- Are involved in unhealthy relationships
- They don’t express gratitude
- Unwillingness to compromise
- They don’t own their part when their behavior hurts another
- Have poor self-esteem
- Demand special treatment
- They bully others
3 Signs Your Child is Spoiled and Entitled
1. You Have a Toddler
Yes, this is the first sign. If you have a toddler, it’s most likely you have a spoiled child on your hands. As mentioned above, this is normal. But the toddler age is VITAL to begin to teach them they can’t have everything they want.
You can often avoid power struggles by allowing them their independence and giving them options — something to look forward to as you announce bad news.
“When we get in bed, do you want me to tell you a story or read a book? Your choice!”
If you have a really smart one on your hands like I do, this may only work for a few times before they’re on to you. In that case, You might have to ride out the tantrums (a toddler’s way of expressing they are upset). If their tantrums stop at just being upset and they calm down a few minutes afterward, then this is normal. Just let them know you’re there for them and you understand they feel frustrated but don’t give in. If you give in, they will learn that tantrums get them what they want.
Redirection or distractions are also a good way to dissolve a tantrum, but make sure you’re still acknowledging their feelings.
Words to help your toddler self-regulate
“We have a problem here. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to be unkind. How do you think we should solve this problem?”
You can also say. “I can’t wait to figure this out with you! I’m ready whenever you are.”
Or, “I understand it’s hard, but this is my boundary.”
Along with being respectful, calm, and gentle with your toddler, it’s equally important to not give in to what they want and enforce the boundary that you set.
Sometimes it takes my toddler a few times of explaining and tantrum having, followed by a few “time-ins” to help him understand he is, in fact, not going to get what he wants. Sometimes, I throw a funny look his way and everything is instantly better. Depends on the day.
But most often, I have to patiently wait, not always succeeding in allowing my emotions to also take over.
It’s important for parents to self-regulate if they are to expect their kids to do so. Remember, being a good example is often the best way to teach your child. But since we’re all imperfect, I often have to apologize for letting my emotions get the best of me. This also helps them learn what a kind response is if they make a mistake in the future.
“I’m sorry. It wasn’t okay how I talked to you. Can you forgive me? I’m going to try again.”
2. They lack empathy
The more your child is equipped to feel, identify, and know what to do with their emotions, the more they are likely to empathize with others. Every child is different. Some kids’ personalities aren’t naturally empathetic. My older son is very empathic and my younger son is more strong-willed, and often doesn’t recognize quickly how his actions affect others.
So if your child has a personality that lacks empathy, then you might need to spend more time teaching them than you would another child who’s naturally empathetic. You can do this by reminding them of how they feel when someone is unkind to them.
“Does it make you sad when your brother is unkind to you? Because I know you don’t want to make your brother sad, you can make it right by saying your sorry.”
It sometimes takes my three-year-old a few hours before he decides to apologize. But eventually, he does. If he isn’t immediately ready to apologize, I revisit the situation later and he’s usually ready. The point is to make sure he’s in the right headspace to understand his part and make a genuine apology, not force him to do so. Again, having an understanding of where they’re at in the brains with impulse control will benefit the disciplinary measures you take as a parent.
3. Your home is a battlefield
Once a toddler gets a glimpse of acting out X and Y and getting Z, they will use it to their advantage for years to come and before you know it, your home is a battlefield about every. little. thing.
If you have a strong-willed child, they will fight for whatever they can because they know they will eventually win. This isn’t manipulation, it’s learned behavior.
Unfortunately, parents are often at the root cause of this happening, and at some point, they don’t know how to operate differently. They become afraid of their child and find themselves giving in so as to keep the peace. I know because I’ve been there.
But at some point, I realized that my strong-willed toddler needs to be told “no” sometimes and learn how to be okay with it. I can use all the fancy wording in all the world, but at the end of the day if my child can’t healthily respond to “no” then there will be others in his life he won’t respond healthily to when they say, “no.” That doesn’t mean I throw around the word ” no ” at every possible opportunity. It just means that if there is no other way around ” no ” then I need to allow him the freedom to feel while also enforcing the boundary.
“I see that you’re angry and that’s okay.” Then I wait. “Can I hold you? It’s hard to be okay when something doesn’t go the way we want. But we still have to choose kindness and accept it.” Or “I’m okay with you questioning me, but I’m not okay with how you did it. Try again in a kind voice.”
As I’m writing this I’m realizing that we all need grace. At the core of it, we are all spoiled in some way or another. It’s human. And when we can teach our children with grace and patience how to be kind and not always expect everything to go their way, we also need to live up to that same standard. But we don’t, do we? So there’s a little thing called grace that we can have for our kids when they mess up, knowing we are just as capable.
This doesn’t negate the responsibility we have to teach our kids right from wrong. But it does help our response to their disobedience, knowing they are learning and growing just as we are.
Positive Parenting Tools
Bark Premium (Parental Control App – use this link or code WFTBBLOG to try it for an EXTRA one-month FREE) – Read more about Bark Premium in my review here; perfect if your child already has a phone, but you need a parental control app to do the heavy lifting of content monitoring.
The Bark Phone – Perfect for parents looking to find their children an affordable phone that protects them from all angles – internet, unsafe apps, messaging, cyberbullying, emails, etc. Starting at $49/mo, all plans include a phone, Bark Premium, and wireless service, with no contract commitment. For younger kids, you, as the parent, can enable the phone for messaging and calls ONLY. And as they mature, you can allow more freedoms/apps (any app you wish). This phone grows WITH your child and eliminates the need to purchase multiple phones at various times in their maturity.
Computer use – When it comes to their computers, you can use Covenant Eyes.
TV’s, gaming consoles, and at-home protection – Bark Home (manage screen time and filter websites on all of the internet-connected devices in your house — including gaming consoles, TVs, and more. VidAngel (Skip or mute what you don’t want to see or hear on popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.)
Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below.
Book List for Kids and Parents:
Check out my recommended books for parenting.
Journaling for Kids
When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination.
Chores for Kids:
Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge
Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a beneficial tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their progress and keep you from constantly reminding them of their daily tasks.
If you’re looking for something simpler, this is also a good option.
Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer.
If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”
Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids:
Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to share their questions and emotions without judgment.
We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences.
Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!
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