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Ep #22: 5 Signs of a Spoiled Child and What You Can Do About It

Raising Healthy Kid Brains with Amy Nielson | 5 Signs of a Spoiled Child and What You Can Do About It

How can you tell if your child is a little bit spoiled? This is a question every parent asks themselves and becomes concerned about at some point. The good news is there are signs we can look for, and there are things we can do about it while having a lot of compassion for ourselves.

It’s hard not to be critical of yourself if you feel your child is spoiled, but the truth is this is all part of their learning process. So, how do we love our children, give them things they want and need, and make sure they’re having amazing experiences, while also making sure that we’re not spoiling them?

Listen in this week to hear the five signs your child might be spoiled, and the opportunities available for you to work in the direction you want to go. I’m offering ways for you to start seeing places where there’s room for improvement, and my favorite little games that, over time, become powerful in teaching them new skills.

To thank you for being a listener here, we made you a special freebie. It’s an amazing alphabet activity you can begin using with your kiddos that is so fun, so get started by clicking here to grab it!

What You’ll Learn:

  • The 3 C’s we all need to be happy.
  • 5 signs you might be raising a spoiled kid.
  • How being able to create strong and stable boundaries increases a child’s sense of safety.
  • The importance of giving your children the opportunity to contribute.
  • How you can teach your children consideration for others, while letting them get their needs met.
  • The value of teaching your children the skills of waiting and anticipation.
  • My favorite gratitude practices you can share with your children.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

How can you tell if your child is a little bit spoiled? This is something I think every parent asks themselves and becomes concerned about at some point. And the good news is, is that there are signs that we can look for and there are things we can do about it. And we can do this while having a lot of compassion for ourselves. So this episode we’re going to be talking about five signs that your kid might be feeling a little bit spoiled. And some really, really good opportunities for you to kind of work towards the direction that you want to go with that. Stay tuned, we’re going to talk about it right after this.

Welcome to the Raising Healthy Kid Brains podcast where moms and teachers come to learn all about kids’ brains, how they work, how they learn, how they grow and simple tips and tricks for raising the most resilient, kind, smart, compassionate kids we can. All while having lots of grace and compassion for ourselves because you know what? We all really need and deserve that too. I am your host, Amy Nielson. Let’s get ready to start the show.

We love our children and yet we worry, are they getting spoiled? How do we love our children and give them things we want to give them and make sure they’re having amazing experiences and they’re getting things that they want and love and need and also making sure that we’re not going over into spoiling them. I was reading a really interesting article on CNBC written by a psychologist and she was giving five signs that you have raised a highly spoiled kid and then what you can do to undo that.

And so I wanted to just kind of go over this a little bit with you, kind of share some of my insights around it too and we can talk about this and what this looks like for your child. So I think point number one is that if we shield children from challenging experiences, it reduces their opportunity to build resilience. Children need resilience to be happy because life is not just a cakewalk and as they get older they will continue to run into resistance and challenges and being able to meet those with confidence and curiosity. It’s part of that resilience that’s going to help them be able to go through life with confidence and happiness and joy.

So another thing that I’d heard recently was that we need three things for people to really be happy. There are these three C’s that really everyone needs. One is connection, one is contribution and one is challenging ourselves. So we’re going to refer back to those three C’s as we go through this list from this article because I think that they’re really, really helpful as we’re trying to understand this.

And in the article it talks about the kids that aren’t challenged and encouraged to connect and contribute can be really selfish and unhappy and constantly dissatisfied as adults. And that’s not what we want at all, of course we don’t want that. And sometimes it’s hard to be thinking about that when they just really want something right now and they really, really, really want this toy so bad. And we just know that they’re so upset and they want it and we want to just give it to them.

And so I wanted to go through this list with you, let’s talk about it and we’ll kind of get some ideas on maybe some things we can do to notice if our children are maybe running a little bit on the spoiled side and then some actions we can take around that if we need to.

So number one in the article that she talks about is children not being able to take no for an answer. Now, children actually thrive on boundaries. So they don’t like hearing no. Obviously we tell them no and they cry any they maybe throw a fit and whatever happens. They’re upset. They don’t want to hear no. They want a thing. But children actually thrive on boundaries. That doesn’t mean they don’t push them. They are constantly seeking to find their fences, their boundaries so they know where they are safe. So us being able to say no even when it’s hard because they’re sad and upset and whatever they’re doing.

Us being able to create those strong stable boundaries actually increase a child’s sense of safety. It builds their awareness of where they are safe, what the rules are, where the boundaries are. And so that actually increases their sense of safety, which is really, really good for their growing developing brain. And the research says that kids that hear no and are raised with structure and boundaries actually grow up with a higher sense of self-worth and with more empathy for others which gosh, we want them to have that. Okay, so that’s number one.

Number two, a sign that your child might be spoiled, being more into receiving than giving. Now, this one I think children are naturally, their brains because of how they’re developing, they are naturally kind of thinking about themselves a little bit. So we’re kind of working through this. And I think it’s normal for children to want to receive and to be a little bit self-absorbed. That’s just part of their growth and development, but we’re gradually helping them work out of this. We’re trying to help them work through some of this. And so when you notice if they’re struggling with this, maybe a lack of appreciation for what you do for them or what you give them.

And what they are really needing is having lots of opportunities to contribute and to give back and to help. And we want to give kids those opportunities. Now, what’s really interesting is as we do that, children actually really love to participate in this. They love to help others, they love to give back. They love participating in food drives and in making blankets for the hospital. They love participating in things like that. And I find that they often like contributing back in the home as well if it’s done in a stable ongoing way that they’re allowed to have maybe some autonomy over or that there’s structure built in there.

So if we go back to those three C’s. This is one where they’re allowed to contribute. People that do not contribute do not feel very good about themselves. It’s an important part of being able to be mentally healthy and happy, is having the feeling that you’re able to contribute. And so if we’re not giving our children the opportunity to contribute we’re really blocking them from that part that they need for their own emotional wellbeing.

Okay, so let’s go on to number three that she talks about is demanding things ASAP. So if you have kids that are like, “I need this, I need it now, give it to me now. I cannot wait. I have to have all the things right now. That is a little bit of an issue. That might be a sign of feeling a little bit spoiled. And so it’s important for kids to learn consideration for others and recognizing that others may be inconvenienced by their requests. And so I think this one’s really interesting because we want to meet our children’s needs.

And part of that secure attachment that’s so critical for their brain development is feeling like they are safe and that their needs are being met. So that’s really important, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t help them learn to kind of stretch their waiting. And actually learning how to be considerate of others is really important. So how I like to help my kids learn how to make sure their needs are getting met whilst showing consideration for me, I will challenge my children to ask themself the question if they need something. And say, “Okay, so help me get to where it doesn’t even make sense for me to say no.”

And I’ll have them think about this. How could you ask this in a way that I just am going to have the hardest time even saying no to you because you just made it make so much sense. And so I have them work through that. How could this be mutually beneficial or what is something that you could do to maybe contribute where then you come and say, “I’ve done this.” And so it makes it just an easy yes for me.

For example I have a son that likes to play computer games or video games. And I don’t want him on screens all the time obviously. And so sometimes during the summer it becomes a little bit of a challenge where he’s wanting video game time and asking for screen time. And I find myself in this position of having to do kind of number one that we talked about which is saying no a lot and setting boundaries and fences. And so that can be helpful, those boundaries and fences.

But then another option is how can I help him learn to maybe stretch his waiting or also instead of demanding it right now and so much, how can I help him find a way to make that an easy yes for me. And so one of the things I talk to him about is, “I am trying to make sure that your brain gets all kinds of different activities and gets to do all kinds of different things and I don’t think having screen time is necessarily terrible, but it is if it’s blocking you from doing all the other things.”

And so I’m like, “Let’s make a list of all the things that we want your brain to be able to do during a given day.” And then just make sure you’re getting all those things. And if you come to me and say, oh, my goodness I connected with friends and I did this with other humans. And then I also went outside and I rode my bike and I got some great time outside. And I took some time to learn some things with my brain, like maybe reading or building a project or whatever.” And I kind of gave him some of these things around what I would need to see that his brain was doing lots of different things.

And then it would make it such an easy yes for me to say yes to some screen time. And it’s been so fantastic because he now can come and do that. And he’ll come to me and he’ll say, “Look at all these things I’ve done with my brain.” And I love it because he’s recognizing that he’s doing it. And so it’s allowing him to, he’s still going to get some screen time but it’s stretching his waiting, it’s encouraging him to wait. And also to notice the other things that we want him to do in the meantime.

So also learning to wait and that anticipation of waiting sometimes we want to surprise our kids. Maybe you’re surprising with a trip to Disneyland or something and that can be really fun. But sometimes when you give them notice and they’re waiting for months and building anticipation and thinking about what’s going to happen and getting excited about what’s going to happen. That anticipation can actually be just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, than the actual thing at the end.

Think about if you celebrate Christmas, sometimes that build up to Christmas is maybe even more exciting than opening your gifts on Christmas morning. So we want them to experience that anticipation and learn to wait and stretch that waiting a little bit and build their communication skills and their problem solving skills. And then allowing them still to express the emotion of it being hard to wait because it is hard to wait. I loved the waiting song from a couple of episodes ago where they got to express the difficulty of waiting, but still learn to do it. And be able to accept and sit with that discomfort of waiting as they’re learning that skill.

But this helps them build awareness and feel accomplished and successful when they have completed their waiting. And research actually shows that being able to pause and wait and delay is highly correlated with future academic and financial success. So it is worth it even though it’s hard to teach our kids to wait, we can do it and help them and encourage them and support them in that waiting, being able to express the emotion of waiting, but also practice it because it’s so valuable.

Alright, number four, of signs that you might have a spoiled child and maybe want to do a little bit of work around that is if they’re only thinking about themselves. If they feel entitled and expect special favors, maybe if another kid in the class gets some kind of award and they’re upset because they think they deserved it more. So this is again a little bit how their brain is working and so we kind of have to help them gradually work their way out of this. I think one of the number of ways to do this is building connection. So if we go back to those three C’s that we talked about.

The things that people need, not just children, you guys, adults as well to be happy and feel fulfilled in their lives is connection, contribution and challenge. so we’ve talked about contributing, we’ve talked about challenging ourselves to wait and not just get things right away. But connection is so important, we are human social creatures and we have to have human connection. And the more that we build connection, we build empathy.

And so building connection with other children, giving them opportunities to play and to be with other kids and learning to celebrate the accomplishments and the wins of others without it challenging their identity or making them feel less than what they are is such a good thing. They can find joy in that and be happy for another person, while also continuing to try to challenge themselves to get better and better so that they can also receive those accomplishments and things that they want.

I think another thing is watching our praise that we give our kids. We hear a lot of talk about this but being careful in our praise that we’re not just praising their wins and their outcomes and their accomplishments and telling them that they’re the best and all of those things. But instead praising character traits and process. So instead of saying. “You’re the best at soccer and I can’t believe that you didn’t win because you’re the best.” Instead we can say, “Oh, my goodness, I love how hard you worked today. I love that you show up to practice every week and you just put in your best effort every time.

And I love watching you grow and improve. And I love that when it’s hard that you keep going and you don’t quit. So we’re praising traits and process instead of outcomes and accomplishments. I think also starting to build awareness and self-reflection habits and helping them kind of look at maybe some of the things that they’ve done. So if they’ve done something that maybe wasn’t the nicest, if they handled something poorly they yelled at their sister or they took something away from their brother or something like that.

Helping them just have a habit of doing some awareness and self-reflection not in a way of you’re a bad kid, you hit someone, or you yelled or you did something that wasn’t great. But noticing okay, you are so frustrated and you’re a good kid inside but you were so frustrated and you did this thing. And trying to help them have some compassion for themselves as well as compassion for the other person. And that was hard for you and you reacted in this way. And this person was sad because of this thing that you did and you’re a good kid, let’s talk about maybe a thing we could try next time that looks different.

And so giving them just kind of building a habit of doing awareness and self-reflection. And I think practicing compassion for ourselves is really important to be able to practice compassion for others. And so I think when we’re having them do that reflection, making sure including that piece instead of just helping them feel like they’re responsible for the feelings of other people.

Alright, number five, our last one. Never feeling satisfied with what they have. This one’s tricky because we want more. And I think it’s almost built into that we’re trying to encourage kids to go for more, get better grades. We want them to be more successful. We want them to work harder and get that next, win more games or get better at the piano or whatever it is, read more books. We’re always encouraging them to go for more. And yet at the same time we have to balance that with encouraging them to be satisfied and grateful for what they have. And that’s a tricky balance.

And so I think we are encouraging our kids to push themselves and to go for more and to go after things they want and to go for their dreams and all those things. But then maybe making time in between to set up regular gratitude rituals, sitting there for a moment and being so grateful for what they already have while continuing to encourage themselves to do more. And I love this word I heard someone say and I use this a lot. When we say, “Okay but.” You have this or you want this but, and instead switching it out with and.

So the way I use this, my kids, we have this and this and this and this. And it’s amazing, we’re so grateful and we can keep working on pushing ourselves to do more. So I love the word ‘and’ and that’s what I use as I’m kind of helping them go from I’m so grateful for all of these things I already have, it’s amazing and wonderful. And I want to keep pushing so I can be able to do this next thing. Regular gratitude rituals, there’s so many options. You can draw drawings. You can write in a journal.

One of the things I tend to do with my kids almost every week is we just do our five grateful or you can do this at night. A lot of times during our bedtime routine we do this as well. But I just have my hand in a closed fist and I learned this from my mom actually and it’s just one of my favorite things that I’ve taken now into my parenting. But I have them pull out just one finger at a time. And as they pull up one finger at a time from my hand, they get to tell me something that they’re grateful for. And it’s just a fun way for us to bond together and have that secure connection time.

And then also build that in with gratitude and a gratitude practice every day. We sometimes make it silly by saying, “Okay, you can’t say anything that you’ve said this week.” And we have to think of new things. And another one I really like to do is to be silly with it because silly is so fun, children connect with that so much, is coming up with really silly things or the most boring things we’re grateful for. So sometimes, because I find that a lot of times they say the same things over and over again. I’m grateful for my mom. I’m grateful for my dad. And so I try to get them to stretch a little bit and think even more.

What is the most boring thing that happened today that you’re actually grateful for? Or what’s something that you’ve never said you’re grateful for before that you’re grateful for? And find fun ways to just keep it interesting and keep going and build that.

We also have a really fun gratitude game on our website that is with Skittles. And we use this a lot at thanksgiving but you can use it at any time during the year. And for each color, I give them a little mini snack size bag of Skittles. And as they pull those out for each color there is a category with it and it comes with a cute little printable, that they get to say something they’re grateful for that goes with that color.

So there are things where they get to say things they’re grateful for, for themselves or things that they’re grateful for that are people or just different kinds of categories for them to challenge their brain a little bit, to think about additional things that they’re grateful for.

I hope that was helpful and I hope that you feel not guilty around this but encouraged because first of all, I think all of our kids experience a lot of these things at some point some of the time. And so have a lot of compassion for yourself and don’t freak out because a lot of these things are fairly natural and it’s part of their process and learning. And I think what’s important for us instead of being critical of ourselves or feeling upset or bothered by it, but to just start noticing and be aware and see maybe some places where there’s a little bit of room for improvement.

And then just work on one or two at a time and just noticing and be aware and start working on it a little bit. Because that’s what we’re trying to do is just make small little gains. And small little gains over time get bigger and bigger and bigger and become really, really powerful in the end. I’m working on it too at home with my kids. So we’re doing this together. Have an amazing rest of your week and I will catch you here for the next episode.

Don’t you just love all the fun things we’re learning on the show together? Well, we wanted to give you a chance to practice a little bit of it at home. And so we made you a special freebie just for being a listener here. And you can grab it at\special-freebie. That is\special-freebie.

So what this freebie is I’ll tell you, is an amazing alphabet activity that you can start using with your kiddos. And it is based in play and is so fun. You can use dot markets with it. You can use Q-Tip painting. You could use circle cereals. There’s all kinds of options, but you can print it out today and get started. Just head over to\special-freebie and we’ll send that to you right away.

Thank you for hanging out with me today for this fun chat on Raising Healthy Kid Brains. If you want to see more of what we’re doing to support kiddos and their amazing brains, come visit us on our website, See you next week.

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2 Responses

  1. I really enjoying your articles. the article about children being spoiled was great. I am planning to have my hubby to listen to this. he has a very hard time to saying no. The thing is I am the bad guy because I am always saying no which isn’t fair

    1. Someone always has to be the bad guy it seems. I hope it helps give hi some insight. I’m glad you are finding the podcast helpful. Be sure to give us a review to help more people find our show!

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