Spoiled to Spoiled Rotten

We love to spoil our children. We love to give them more than we had when we were kids. We love to see their smiles on Christmas morning when they open exactly what they wanted and patiently waited for all year long. We love to give them presents and rewards for good behavior. We love their heartfelt thanks and childlike wonder when they look under the Christmas tree and see piles of presents just waiting to be opened and loved.

At most houses on Christmas morning, there are hugs and kisses, thank yous and hot chocolate, and sugary candy canes on the Christmas tree.

Then comes the week after Christmas. And the week after that. The new toy loses an arm after finding itself in the middle of a sibling war, becoming chipped and marred from being thrown into the middle of a living room WWF cage match.

Two weeks after Christmas, your darling little “Sweetness” is sticky and angry and demands you go get her a new dolly that will not break like this one did. It doesn’t matter that you waited for hours in the cold on Black Friday.

You’ve all heard (and probably used) the expression, “Eat your beans. Kids in China are starving and would die to have just one bite.” You rolled your eyes at your mom, and I am sure your kids roll their eyes just as successfully as you once did. But you don’t buy into it. You make them eat their beans, to teach them to be grateful and appreciate what they have. And because beans are good for them.

We live in a country that is one of the richest nations in the world. The person living in the greatest poverty in the U.S.A. is richer than the poorest in the urban slums of India.

So, parents, think about it: will qualities of generosity, appreciation, gratitude, joy and wonder be developed if we think our job is to make sure all of our kids desires get gratified and immediately? That’s not our job. Our job isn’t to make our kids eternally “happy.” It’s to help them grow up to be pleasant, grateful, giving, hopeful adults that have respect for others and themselves. Giving them lots of stuff whenever they want doesn’t build character. Teaching them gratitude does.

Here are some things we do as a family to keep our kids from turning “Spoiled” into “Rotten”.

  • We don’t give gifts to our children unless they do something that deserves a reward or it’s Christmas or a birthday.

  • We take negative behavior seriously and take action when someone’s attitude needs an adjustment.

  • We practice gratitude to the extreme. “Please” and “thank you” are some of the most important and frequently repeated words at our house.


  • We give. We find others in need and give them whatever we can to help. We do this materially, financially, and in offering of our friendship to people we wouldn’t normally include in our circles of friends.


  • We Spoil our kids with hugs, kisses, and encouraging words. They need these confidence builders more than they need more stuff.


Get out the duct tape, put the dolly back together again and save her for a rainy day WWF living room cage match. Your spoiled, but not rotten, kids will thank you someday.


Tips from Other Parents

I only buy gifts (as in “wants”) for birthdays or Christmas, or if they really rocked a tough thing at school. I know too many parents that buy gifts all year long… phones, iPods, DS, anything they want, and then at Christmas they try so hard to make it special (as if it isn’t already). The kids are like, what are you getting me next?? Also, when my kids want to spend their own money, we go look at stuff then I make them wait at least two days to actually purchase it. ~ Cheryl

We teach our kids to share. We were blessed to be a blessing. My kids have been donating toys, food and time to others right here in our own community for as long as they’ve been alive. ~ Heather

My parents always made sure we kids had what we needed, especially my dad since he was a Holocaust survivor. He wanted to make sure we had enough of everything. Our parents did a great job of balancing this with performing good works for others. My parents were always ready to help someone in need. I hope I turned out okay. ~ Helene


This article appears in the January 2012 issue of The Family Magazine of Michiana

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