This Is the Subtle Way You’re Spoiling Your Kids Without Knowing It

You could be setting your child up for a lifetime of unhappiness—and you don't even know it. Here's how to break the cycle before it's too late.

Sorry, moms and dads. The way you spoil your kids comes in all shapes and sizes, and it’s not always as obvious as buying them whatever they want. Some parents don’t teach these forgotten manners. Others do things like tie shoes and make toast for children who are old enough to do it by themselves.

Sound familiar? Parenting experts call this behavior “over-indulgence,” and it can get dangerous pretty fast. Not only are overindulging parents more inclined to give their kids expensive toys or vacations, but they are also less likely to enforce household rules or expect their children to do chores. (By the way, your child should be doing chores—and this chart tells you exactly which ones.) Some even allow their children to participate in activities that are not age-appropriate, or react to negative behavior with rewards rather than punishments.

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Though most may not even realize they’re over-indulging their children, even the best intentions can go awry.

“I think a lot of parents are doing it from a good place,” Carol Passmore, a licensed practical counselor and director of Care to Connect, a family educational and therapeutic practice in Connecticut, said. “They don’t mean to hurt their kids.”

But that could really be what they’re doing. (Don’t miss the signs you’re a toxic parent.) According to a 2001 study, overindulged children are more likely to grow up believing that their happiness depends on material things and the opinions of other people.

Thankfully, it’s not too late to break the habit before the damage is done. First, you can memorize these habits of parents who raise successful kids. Experts also emphasize the importance of fostering emotional intelligence in your children, from teaching traits like patience and responsibility to providing lessons that value hard work and motivation.

“Your job as a parent is not to make yourself feel good by giving the child everything that makes you feel good when you give it,” Dr. Phil says. “Kids have to be socialized in a way that they understand you work hard for what you get.”

So, the next time you want to give in to your child’s pouts, cries, yells, and slamming doors, stand strong. Remember, it’s for their own good—and yours.

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