American children are spoiled

Spoiled Child: Myth or Reality?

Now Julia is boring. While her mother is sitting with a friend in the living room, the five-year-old is always a nuisance. Can mom read something to her, set up the ink box, get the scooter out of the cellar and the puzzle out of the closet?

No sooner has one wish been fulfilled than the next follows. Until Julia begs for sweets and watching TV. "You spoil her too much. She's going to be a real little tyrant," says the friend. Julia's mom rolls her eyes in annoyance. She is in a quandary. On the one hand, she has to agree with her friend. She would like to ask Julia: "Don't bother us for an hour." On the other hand, she wants to be there for her daughter. Is it pampering in a negative sense when she grants the child one wish after the other in this situation? Or is it positive affection that is good for children?

Mom's mind says, "Don't be spoiled!" Your emotions speak a different language: "I can't just send my daughter away." In the end she will decide on a compromise, and that is not bad at all: "Please leave us undisturbed for an hour and then we will do something together."

Ambivalent feelings: Parents are increasingly insecure

Most parents are familiar with such ambivalent feelings. According to surveys, 75 percent of Germans believe that children today become egoists because their parents spoil them too much. Nevertheless, it is difficult for them to consistently say no. In the age of helicopter upbringing, according to which the offspring's every need is met immediately, and tiger mothers who demand learning discipline with regard to careers even in kindergarten, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right balance.

In questions of parenting, pampering is mostly rated negatively. After many books have appeared in recent years in which penalties, grades and competitions have been presented as conducive to good development, the American author Alfie Kohn is now proving the contrary.

In his book "The Myth of the Pampered Child" it shows why a lot of educational advice, which - as a counterpoint to excessive pampering - is aimed at pressure, drill and discipline, is wrong and scientifically unsustainable.

He found that such recommendations are primarily based on devaluing children. "They only have one goal, namely to adapt the little ones to social conditions through obedience, subordination and performance." Much better is a "gentle rebellion" that encourages children to ask questions, to critically examine what is given and - if it seems right to them - to break rules sometimes.

Parents should be willing to compromise and be flexible. You have to be ready to get involved in discussions and also to accept solutions that do not adhere to strict principles.

Children have to feel comfortable even without success

If adults claim that their child would not learn anything without pressure, they are mistaken. Because in the long term, learning can only succeed if you have an inner motivation that, in turn, only self-confident people can muster. "Anyone who attaches a child's self-esteem to the fact that they achieve what society expects of them is wrong," says the author. He refers to studies that show that children have to feel comfortable in their skin even without impressive performance. "If you want to stay mentally healthy, you have to develop an unconditional sense of self-worth."

Why do parents still like to refer back to old parenting traditions today? In view of the endless possibilities in parenting matters, even adults seem to yearn for clear instructions. Methods that are controversial even among experts are of little help, but are very unsettling. Especially when parents "only want the best for their child" - who doesn't want that? - they invoke discipline and order because it seems simpler. Coexistence becomes more difficult where authoritarian announcements are obsolete.

Pampering: a blessing for adults, but harmful for children?

In addition, the term "pampering" has different meanings. Adults usually understand it to be something positive. Namely, that they treat themselves to something good that they truly deserve. Prompts like "let yourself be pampered" assume that someone is entitled to have tedious things done for them, not to have to exert themselves and to enjoy it.

Why should this good feeling be a benefit for adults, but harmful for children? "Because children still have to learn," parents would reply. In theory, it sounds pretty easy not to spoil your child. But in practice it always requires new decisions.

What is best depends on each individual situation. A baby, for example, is so helpless on its own that it is naturally pampered by the parents carrying it and comforting it when it cries. With a three-year-old child, mom and dad will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to kidding. With six-year-olds this is just the exception.

A guilty conscience and fear lead to negative pampering

The search for the right balance is complicated because it is not just rigid principles that prevent disputes. Conscious love in the sense of "taking everything away from the child" or "immediately fulfilling every wish" is also not good for the offspring.

Often it is your own bad conscience that leads to negative pampering. "I have to work so much, I'm rarely at home, have little time for my child. I don't want to argue in the few hours I spend together," are typical parenting arguments that justify some pampering.

Can our child go out alone? Can something happen to him? Will it make it to school without parents? The fear of crime or traffic accidents makes parents so insecure that they do not allow many things that used to be taken for granted and prefer to pamper their child by driving them around.

Give in under the cloak of love

Last but not least, exaggerated perfectionism leads to a form of pampering that parents usually do not even notice. Anyone who sets out to raise their child perfectly and to spare him any misfortune is fooling himself. Because often there is convenience behind it.

Those who give in immediately often only do so under the guise of love. Usually it is done to avoid discussion. Rejecting is exhausting, leads to arguments or a bad mood. Parents are unwilling to take the time that is appropriate. You can't bear to see your little darling frustrated and let tears blackmail you. You dress the child yourself, although he can do it himself for a long time, tidy his room, tie the son or daughter's shoes so that it goes faster and does not lead to frustration in the child. This prevents the child from proudly saying: "I can do this on my own."

Care, support, listening, guiding, weighing, negotiating

Parents should have the courage to listen to their gut instincts instead of calling for set rules and humiliating punishments. "Raising children is at its core - or at least in the best sense - a process of caring, supporting, listening, guiding, weighing, teaching and negotiating," says Alfie Kohn.

He admits unsettled parents that there may be days when the time and patience are missing. But it is enough to develop an awareness that coercion or violence is no solution. "It makes a huge difference whether we forgive ourselves for an occasional slip-up or whether we don't even realize that we have made a mistake."

In Kohn's conclusion, it is not the children who take too much out of themselves, but adults and their institutions. Instead of solidifying traditional negative attitudes towards children, adults should question whether beliefs continue to make sense, with which little people can only develop self-esteem if they perform well and win competitions.