I’ve often heard people (and I’m writing this because I just heard it yesterday)—parents—get quite upset at the thought that someone might suggest that they are spoiling their child or children. The retort is generally, “There’s no such thing as giving a child too much love!” Well, no, there isn’t. But spoiling isn’t about too much love, spoiling is about too little discipline.
It’s probably been said to death, but parental love includes discipline. It’s a challenging, hard, wonderful world out there and our job is to prepare our kids to the best of our ability for fledging the nest and thriving in that big ‘ole world. If the world thinks they are spoiled, or they don’t know how to cope in a world of boundaries, “no”, and delayed gratification, they will have a pretty tough time of things. All that loving permissiveness from early childhood will not counter-act all the bumps and bruises of adult life. Self management, competence, respect and other marvelous humanitarian characteristics will.
Now, before you think I am a big, snarling ogre (and not of the endearing, green animated variety either), I’m not lumping plenty of food and snuggles and kisses and some quaint parental indulgences into the lack of discipline category. I’m talking about the we don’t say “no” or teach our child to wait his turn or respect her elders (what old fashioned notions) variety. Plenty of love doesn’t mean plenty of permissiveness.
I absolutely agree that there is no such thing as too much love. In fact, this is how my eldest daughter explains the positives of growing up in a family that has been rearranged by divorce—she tells people it means, “More people who love me!” Spoiled children do not have more love than other kids–what they have, in fact, is less discipline. And, like Veruca Salt and her father in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, we parents do have the power to change that.