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Health & Parenting

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Is Your Child Spoiled Rotten?

Experts tell parents how to decode the spoiled child.

Defining "Spoiled" continued...

A spoiled kid is someone who sits inside on a cold day -- sipping hot chocolate and watching TV -- while her dad shovels snow in the driveway, says Kindlon. He notes that such children often feel entitled not to have to contribute to responsibilities. They also usually have parents that emotionally indulge them -- for example, excusing them from chores because they already have a tough school schedule.

"What's spoiled for one parent may not be for another," says George Cohen, MD, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on the psychosocial aspects of child and family health. "Many parents think what their kid is doing is okay. Others are much stricter."

Whatever one's primary definition of spoiled is, arguably, there are children who could use a bit more discipline. They usually find it hard to share, wait their turn, appreciate what they have, and accept that they cannot always get their way.

Life, for these kids, is often difficult, says Schmitt. "They are constantly in a tug of war with their environment," he explains. "They keep smashing into walls because they are living in a world that's different from the real world."

Causes of Spoiling

Many experts agree that most moms and dads love their children, and simply want the best for them. Their efforts, however, can sometimes have the opposite effect if they're not mindful.

"There are parents who don't want their kids to experience hardship or emotional stress of any kind," says Schmitt. "In the process, they teach the kid to have a personality that gets into all kinds of emotional stresses, because their behavior is unacceptable."

Pressures from the outside world can also make it tough for parents to exert enough discipline, says Kindlon. With a greater consumer culture than ever before, more demanding academic and extracurricular requirements for children, longer work schedules for parents, less family time, and a generally more lenient society, many mothers and fathers feel more inclined to go easy on their kids.

Plus, some moms and dads may use their kids as "Prozac," says Kindlon. "In past generations, the parents didn't care whether their kids liked them or not," he explains. "Now, given there are other things in our lives that aren't that satisfying, having good relationships with our kids is something that makes us feel good."

Then there are the persons who simply do not know how to be firm with their young. "There are people who cannot tolerate anger from another person, including their child," says Constance Katz, PhD, a psychotherapist based in New York City.

There are, indeed, many obstacles to the proper disciplining of kids. The bottom line is, however, that children need parents to raise them to be responsible and social adults.

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