Dr. Phil: If You Spoil Your Kids You’re a Child Abuser

Dr. Phil spoiled children

One of the most difficult balancing acts as a parent is wanting to give children the things they want while not giving them too much as to spoil them. The fact is that your children will likely be much better off if they don’t get everything that they want, even if they don’t like this at the time. Dr. Phil takes this thought a step further. In his eyes, if you spoil your kids, you’re a child abuser. In fact, spoiling your kids is one of the worst types of child abuse that you can thrust upon them. As he says, spoiling children “is one of the most insidious forms of child abuse.” Below are a number of things that he says happen when you decide to over-indulge your child:

You Don’t Provide Real World Preparation

One of the main jobs of any parent is to help prepare their children to live as a part of society in the real world. One of the facts that you learn in the real world is that you don’t get everything you want. Kids who are spoiled don’t ever have to learn this lesson as a child when it’s much easier to deal with (although not necessarily fun) than when they’re an adult who find this out after having everything they wanted handed to them.

You Fail to Teach Unconditional Love

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to show your children unconditional love when the child is spoiled. When a parent/child relationship has its basis grounded in material goods, money and the material possessions become the signs of love for the children instead of the unconditional love that a parent should show. It’s important that unconditional love doesn’t mean that the children always get what they want, but that the parent is always doing what is in their best interest, and sometime that means not getting what they want.

You Aren’t a Good Role Model

Another important job of a parent is to be a role model to their children. Children have many people that they may look to as role models, and the parents are just one of these. It’s precisely because they aren’t the only influence that Dr. Phil believes that it’s vitally important that parents are the best influence in their children’s lives.

You Fail to Teach Caring

It’s important to fully understand what care for your kids means, and whether or not you are providing the emotional support for the needs they have. When you spoil a child, you teach them that it’s through material goods that bonds are formed rather than from spending time together. There’s the distinct possibility that when you spoil your child, you’re teaching them that material objects are what is needed to heal emotions rather than communication.

You Succumb to Parental Guilt

One of the worst reasons that parents spoil their kids is due to parental guilt. With as busy as life can get these days, they begin to substitute material things for their time because they fail to spend the time they know they should be spending with their children. Dr. Phil makes it clear that it’s important to remember that the job of a parent isn’t to make themselves feel good by being able to give their children everything that they want, but to give them the skills and confidence needed to succeed when they go out into the world on their own. It’s vitally important for children to learn that things don’t magically appear for them when they cry, pout or manipulate others to feel guilty. They need to understand that getting what you want takes a lot of hard work.

You Teach Happiness through Status

One of the biggest mistakes that parents make when spoiling their children is that this teaches them that their happiness is predicated on what they have. They learn that their material status and the things that they own is what they believe will bring them happiness. By not spending the time to explain to kids that it’s the person they are and the qualities that they possess which truly defines them as a person, you’re likely to leave the impression that it’s what they own that defines them. Parents should be spending as much, if not more, time talking with their children about creativity, caring, work ethic and similar themes than they do shopping. If parents fail to spend time and talk to their children, they will encourage their children to believe the consumerism images that constantly try to convince them that happiness can be bought.

You Teach Extrinsic Instead of Intrinsic Value

As a parent, your job is to teach intrinsic value and motivation to your children (doing things because of the feelings of accomplishment and achievement that come with doing a quality job). When you spoil kids, you’re teaching them the exact opposite of this. Instead, you’re teaching extrinsic value and motivation. That is, you teach them to do things for an external reward such as money, a privilege, or some other material thing. When you constantly reward children with materialism, the kids will fail to learn self-motivation to do things simply for the pride that comes with doing them the best that one can. They become materially oriented because it’s only material things that motivate them to do anything.

You Fail to Teach a Work Ethic

Possibly the worst thing that spoiling your kids does is that it fails to teach the importance of hard work. There’s important value that comes from learning to work hard for the things that you have. When everything is served on a silver platter to your children whenever they ask, they fail to learn these skills and values. Success and wealth rarely come without a lot of hard work as an integral part of the equation. While neither of these are necessarily bad things to strive for, if your kids think that they can have them without making any effort on their own part, they aren’t going to be a productive member of society.

You Don’t Allow Learning from Disappointment

Many parents end up spoiling their kids because they don’t want to disappoint them. The problem with this is that disappointment is a vital part of life. Everyone experiences it, and most people experience it quite often. If a child never experiences disappointment growing up, there’s a good chance that they won’t be well prepared to handle it when they inevitably experience as a young adult on their own. Part of parenting is teaching kids how to grow and learn from disappointments so that they become better people from them.

You Fail to Give Tools to Reach Goals

If children never have to set and attain financial goals on their own because everything is already given to them, they will never learn the important lessons of how to set goals and break those goals into steps so that they can be achieved. It also robs them of the essential feelings of self-worth and accomplishment that comes with achieving the goals that are set, and the experience hard work provides which goes into the entire process. Learning how to set goals and earn things that they want is an important lesson that children fail to get when they are spoiled.

While the intention behind the spoiling of a child is often not one that is bad, the results of doing so can be devastating. Again, Dr. Phil equates it to one of the most insidious forms of child abuse and a failure on your part as a parent. In the end, giving your children everything that they want is one of the worst things that you can do to them.

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6 Responses to Dr. Phil: If You Spoil Your Kids You’re a Child Abuser

  1. ben says:

    While I do think it’s bad to spoil kids, I think there are degrees. Dr. Phil isn’t who I would go to for parent child relationship advice.

  2. Karla Twomey says:

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Awesome post! Dr. Phil says it like it is and it makes perfect sense. The negatives that he points out are NOT how I want my kiddos to turn out.

    Karla Twomey

  3. Robin says:

    No, child abuse is beating your child or locking them in a closet. It is constantly tearing them down and making them feel like garbage. It is making them live in a constant state of fear. It is NOT overindulging them. That is stupid and irresponsible, but it is not abusive. I am so sick of these advice quacks throwing around words like abuse when what they are talking about is nowhere near what the definition of those words mean. Believe me, a true victim of child abuse would not even come close to thinking that a spoiled child was abused, now would a spoiled child think he was abused. I understand the point of the article and agree generally with what you are trying to say, but using the term child abuse here is a flagrant abuse of the term and trivializes what victims go through.

  4. jim says:

    Well said!

  5. Minny says:

    As an abused child as described by Robin I agree with him, spoiling is not abusing.

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