Many adults complain that the younger generation is full of entitled kids, teens, and even millennials, and that a spoiled athlete is hard to stomach.
I am not writing to debate that issue. In fact, I’m advocating something that may cause some of you to do a doubletake, and that is this very simple fact: it’s okay to spoil your kids!
Yes, you will end up with spoiled kids if you do it all the time, but if you are choosy about when, why and how you indulge your kids, you can do it without raising children who have an entitled outlook on life.
It’s funny that we use the word “spoiled” when we refer to heaping rewards upon our kids because the word actually means to: Impair, damage, or harm the character of nature of someone by unwise treatment, excessive indulgence.
As I talk about “spoiling” in this article, I will use the term to mean indulge, pamper, or show extra favor.
Too much indulging will inevitably result in “spoiled” and entitled kids, and athletes are especially known for acting entitled. I don’t care how great an athlete your child is, you must be very intentional about how you “spoil” or indulge them in order to avoid the immaturity that normally characterizes a “spoiled” child. Here’s how it’s done:
- Outline responsibilities and expectations. Whether it’s chores, grades, or simple cleaning her own uniform, be sure your child knows what is expected of her. Give her time to prove her faithfulness in those areas so that being responsible becomes a lifestyle–for the most part anyway!
- Look for the occasions when your child really does need some grace. Even though your child has exhibited dependability, there will be days when life will overwhelm him and you will sense that it’s time to let him off the hook. Maybe you offer to do his chore or wash his uniform for him because he has a lot of homework and he got home late from practice and you can tell he’s exhausted and needs to go to bed early. Or perhaps you offer to buy him a new pair of basketball shoes because the ones he got with the team are pinching his feet and it’s too late to exchange them.
My daughter actually went through a basketball season with shoes that were too small and her toes were bruised. She didn’t tell me because she’d ordered a size too small when her team ordered shoes at the beginning of the season and she felt it was her fault so she had to live with it. I was horrified to learn this at the end of the season. If I’d known this sooner, I would have bought her a new pair and not made her suffer for making the wrong choice of size!
- Spoil your child “just because.” Not because he made the all-star team or because she was the leading scorer or because he made the elite team–athough it’s okay to celebrate these achievements–but “just because.” Because she works so hard, shows leadership, exhibits a team player attitude. Because he doesn’t try to shirk his responsibilities on the team, at home or in school. Spoiling your young athlete is much more fun when he doesn’t expect it, or even earn it.
- Don’t use “spoiling” as a bribery tactic. Indulging your child for doing what he should be doing anyway–and doing this consistently–will plant and water the entitlement seed in your child.
- Indulging should never be a substitute for being present in their lives. You may feel guilty because you couldn’t make the big game or because you come home too late from work to hear about practice, but spoiling your child to make up for it is a poor substitute for your presence in his life. If you feel the need to make up for it, spoil him with your time, not your money.
- Loving your child will not “spoil” her. Supporting her with positive encouragement, saying “I love you” every day, telling her how proud she makes you–these are not acts of indulgence, they are deeds of love. Your child needs to know this. Don’t hold back because you are afraid that saying it too much will spoil her.
Entitled athletes are constantly making news. The superstar who thinks he’s worth way more than he’s getting. The talented athlete whose personal life is a mess. The “hero” who blows it by making poor choices. It may seem that it comes out of nowhere, but the honest truth is that it takes a lifetime to reach that state.
Remember the right way to indulge your kids as you raise them if you want to “spoil” them without spoiling their character.