Bad Parent: Spoiled Rotten

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The "Bad Parent" column on the parenting website delves into the unspoken realities of being a parent. Rufus Griscom, founder of, returns weekly in January with a taboo-smashing discussion. This week: Is spoiling your kids such a bad thing?

Do you spoil your kids rotten? Does spoiling create little monsters, or are you just giving your kids what they need to get ahead? Tell us what you think. Comment below!


Rufus Griscom

Comments [44]

Alice from Brooklyn

Define "successful." Maybe the people in Gladwell's study made more money later in life, but what were they like? I find Rufus' second-hand thesis pretty weak. And speaking as a parenting expert on the basis of having a four-year-old? Give me a break. See how your theories work when your kid grows up. Oh wait, but all that matters is what your kid "gets" in life, not how he treats other people. Now I get it! Takes my breath away.

Jan. 28 2010 02:59 PM
uggh from

as a former gym member @ 92nd St. Y, just hearing the interactions btwn kids and their nannies and/or moms taught me to move far away from that neck of the woods prior to procreating. thank heavens we did. ues truly the dark side.

Jan. 28 2010 01:58 PM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Sylvie [41] - I agree with everything you say, except that it is easy! It sounds like you and your husband did a fabulous job, but I think that you are being entirely too self-deprecating.

Jan. 28 2010 11:12 AM
Sylvie Slater from Scotch Plains, NJ

Loving your kids and spoiling them are two different things.
My sister sent her children to private school, overindulged them, allowed them to make all thir decisions and did not rebuke them because she did not want to hurt their feelings. Neither of them graduated from college despite scholarships, and she is still supporting them financially at 26 and 24.

I have two sons and we enjoyed their company every single day. We ate dinners together, drove across the country 5 times visiting national parks. We corrected them and told them what we expected of them. Both my sons are Eagle Scouts, The oldest is getting a PhD at Columbia and the other is premed at Cornell. My husband and I are flawed people but great parents.

It is easy to raise a child, give them love, food, direction, and encouragement and prepare yourself for a wonderful experience.
Race or ethnicity has nothing to do with parenting.

Jan. 28 2010 11:06 AM
allen st. john from Montclair NJ

That great philosopher Bruce Springsteen told this story in concert.

He's talking to a friend about his kids and he says, "You know, they might not have to struggle the way I struggled and that might not be a good thing."
And his friend says, "Don't worry. You give them the best because the world's going to take care of the rest."

Jan. 28 2010 11:06 AM
Pat Burns from New York

Comment on the Boston Accent. If you have a Boston accent you say I pohd, not I pahd when you are trying to say Ipod

Jan. 28 2010 11:05 AM
m from NJ

I am always suspicious of anyone citing Malcolm Gladwell. His stuff is so thin on real depth and instead relies on the equivalent of sound bites: seemingly insightful and counter-intuitive ideas which in the end missing some larger point or a bigger picture.

I am not saying the specific studies cited in Outliers are flawed, but I have seen Gladwell's essays picked apart by actual experts on the subject enough times that I cannot take him seriously without some other support.

He's a very skilled writer, and some of his ideas are important and solid, and overall I am glad he's brought attention to certain things like education.

But see links below if you're skeptical...

Jan. 28 2010 11:05 AM
Christine from NJ/NYC from NYC

Regarding the study on upper middle class kids negotiation better. I consciously encouraged this. Starting at age 3, I told my one and only child (the prince) that after I said 'no', if he whined at all, that 'no' became set in stone, BUT that if he could, in a nice voice, give me a reason to change my mind that I would consider it. I emphasized that giving reasons to change didn't necessarily mean I would - it would depend on how compelling his argument was - but that there was a chance vs. no chance at all if there was whining or moaning. I helped him come up with reasons at first and he quickly caught on even at such a young age.

Jan. 28 2010 11:04 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Kathryn [24] - excellent point! A lot depends on your definition of "success" and too often in our society, that is a judgment based solely on material gain.

Jan. 28 2010 11:04 AM
Lilia from brooklyn

It's all about balance. Sure, spoil your child, but make sure you explain to them who worked so hard to harvest the sugar cane that makes their ice cream taste so sweet.
Sure, give them toys etc. but make sure you explain to them where their toys came from. Most importantly, encourage them to give to others so that they may experience how good it feels to give as it does to receive.

Jan. 28 2010 11:04 AM
Suki from Williamsburg

#9 Sbrand - perfectly said! I am copying that to my files for use on my future children!

Jan. 28 2010 11:02 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I briefly dated a divorced woman with 4 mostly-grown children (youngest was about 16 or 17) who lived on the UWS of Manhattan.

Her kids would each order takeout from 4 different restaurants! But she insisted her kids weren't spoiled!

I countered that if in the perspective of the whole world, that THAT wasn't being spoiled, what was?

I also added that that didn't mean the kids weren't good kids (nor did it mean that their being spoiled was THEIR fault.)

Jan. 28 2010 10:59 AM
antonio from the republic of park slope..

check out park slope..
super spoiled!

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
Patricia from new york

What about relativity?

I was more "privileged" than my friends but much less "spoiled" than my brother.

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

Authoritative, not authoritarian, is the way to go.

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
Carla from Chelsea

I think that children should be cherished and that involves a certain amount of spoiling. My daughter is in her mid twenties and many would consider that she is spoiled. She was a good student and worked hard in school. It served her well as an adult and was the most important thing to us. As a kid she never cleaned up after herself, when I visit her now in her home she follows me around with a sponge cleaning up after me.

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
the truth!! from BKNY

I gave my daughter everything she "deserved" as a child and most of what she wanted. She is a little self centered now as an adult now.

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

When I was growing up, my sister and I were expected to clean our room and make our beds. For my brothers, my mother did it for them. Guess which ones grew up to be neat and which grew up to be slobs?

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
Andrea from Westchester County

First, one needs self-discipline to have self-respect. Respect has to be earned, even one's own. So, discipline is a necessary factor in becoming a functional adult.

Jan. 28 2010 10:58 AM
sarah from Queens

I was raised to be very obedient, and I believe this has been a real disadvantage in my adult and professional life. I am overly concerned with following rules (even if they don't exist) and it takes a lot for me to get up the courage to defend my ideas. This is a particular problem because I am an academic.

Jan. 28 2010 10:57 AM
Kathryn from Brooklyn

What do we mean by "good" outcomes from spoiling? Success in a career ($?) or a nice person who cares about others? My experience is that many spoiled children are selfish self centered adults!

Jan. 28 2010 10:57 AM
smidely from

when i think of the most spoiled kids i've known, as adults these kids are still as spoiled.

the world has taught them nothing except that it is theirs and theirs alone!

Jan. 28 2010 10:57 AM
Samantha from Manhattan

In Outliers, the subject of the case study that Gladwell writes of most frequently as a typical privileged/spoiled child is black. Gladwell tries to make the point that the difference is class-based and specifically not race-based. Of course, the case study format has a lot of limitations in what it can control for.

Jan. 28 2010 10:55 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

I’m glad I’ve never read Gladwell. That’s—to borrow from Colbert—the Craziest F*%king Thing I’ve ever Heard!
So you’re telling me economic advantage, having highly educated parents, parents that are in a position to value education over necessity to get to work ASAP, race and all of its implications including institutionalized racism and the such, the likelihood wealthier parents have more time for their children or can hire people to spend time with their children, and other advantages like getting into elite schools and universities based on legacy and not merit have no bearing whatsoever?!?!? It’ call comes down to raising entitled spoiled brats? It’s not only specious as the caller has said, it really is the craziest f*#king thing I’ve ever heard!
Read up on class privilege before praising irresponsible parenting.

Jan. 28 2010 10:55 AM
Liam from East Elmhurst

I wish Joe Biden's mother had infleuenced Mr. Obama in terms of the Republicans "Respectful without be deferential" or no?

Jan. 28 2010 10:54 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Several years ago, I noticed that my husband, when playing Candyland with my son (who was then about 4 or 5) always stacked the deck so that my son would always get the picture cards (and in the right order, yet!). I told him I didn't like it and that he needed to learn that he couldn't always win the game. My husband saw my point and changed his ways. I never "let" him win when we play games and always tells him that no one likes to play with a cheater or a sore loser. Especially since he is an only child, I think that I am particularly sensitive to his not always thinking that he is the center of the universe.

Jan. 28 2010 10:54 AM
sarah from philly

I grew up in a mix family home where favoritism and spoiling was an every day occurrence, but because I was the step child, I did not receive this kind of attention. I am the only child of 5 that grew up in the house, that is a fully functioning adult, married, able to make decisions on my own and have good relationships with other. My siblings who received the majority of the spoiling have never make the leap to full adulthood.

Jan. 28 2010 10:54 AM
Alison from CT

I read Gladwell's books as well but my interpretation is different. I believe it's self-confidence the parents foster that makes the difference. Yes, spoiled kids tend to be confident because they get their way often. The unfortunate thing is that in our society money is the primary status symbol not other virtues.

Jan. 28 2010 10:53 AM
kenneth from tenement town

Yoga + chocolate are the key.

Jan. 28 2010 10:53 AM
db from nyc

[10] yo g:

dude, indeed.

Jan. 28 2010 10:53 AM
adsfs from

9/sbrand -- yes, well said!

Jan. 28 2010 10:52 AM
Tatiana Gomberg

I understand your guests point about spoiled children expecting and therefore getting more in the adult world, but I hate those people!!! They are stuck up and I don't want them around me. Yeah... I'm a little jealous of them... and many people want to BE them, but no one wants to hang around them. I do some hiring for my department at my job and I NEVER hire those types of people.

Jan. 28 2010 10:52 AM
laura from brooklyn

i grew up in an upper middle class supportive household - we certainly weren't spoiled, and being respectful to our parents was a very important part of our upbringing. however, we were taught to question, to be curious and to be assertive. if we wanted something we would have to prove to our parents that it was really something we wanted. it taught us to work hard to achieve what we want in life. i don't see that has anything to do with spoiling. if you spoil your child you teach them the easy way out in life, and that's not a very helpful lesson.

Jan. 28 2010 10:51 AM
Burtnor from Manhattan

The guest draws absurd conclusions based on a number of imaginative leaps: that more privileged kids are spoiled, that the spoiling is responsible for thier assertiveness, and that discipline is the opposite of spoiling. Nothing is defined. Evidence cited is specious. Ridiculous premise and discussion.

Jan. 28 2010 10:51 AM
yo g from

hold on -- this guy's wisdom is based on having a 4 yr old? dude

Jan. 28 2010 10:50 AM
Sbrand from Maplewood, NJ

"Spoiling" implies ruining the child. Each child is a unique individual and different things can "spoil" a child.
For a child that needs structure, no rules at all will definitely spoil them.
For a child that is timid and too obedient, discipline can break their spirit.
Every child should be challenged to accept responsibility while being given the support and discipline to learn how to.
As far as material objects. Consistency is a must. No must mean no. No wavering.

Jan. 28 2010 10:50 AM
db from nyc

Define spoiling.

And... define where in NYC there are not overindulged children. Especially in Manhattan's white, middle-upper classes.

Jan. 28 2010 10:49 AM
Ken from Little Neck

Kids should absolutely be able to speak up for themselves, but that doesn't mean they have to get everything they want without question. When I was young, I always made sure my feelings were well know, and my parents encouraged that. It doesn't mean that I always won, though, and I think that's probably how it should be.

Jan. 28 2010 10:49 AM
helena bogosian from tenafly< nj

you can never spoil you children with love

Jan. 28 2010 10:49 AM
jl from

yes if you spoil your kid that gives me the right, when it interferes with my kid's team, class, etc. to discipline your kid -- and you if you talk back! exactly this happens at my kids' school all the time.

Jan. 28 2010 10:49 AM
Troy from Carroll Gardens

This is all well and good, but the most important issue is that, assertive or not, the kids turn out to be d-bags when they grow up. I vote for fewer d-bags.

Jan. 28 2010 10:49 AM
Suki from Williamsburg

Spoiling your kid is fine as long as they know how to behave in public. If you are spoiling your brats *in lieu* of disciplining them, that is a travesty.

As with all things, balance is key.

Jan. 28 2010 10:47 AM
adsfs from

is the opposite of spoiling deprivation or discipline?

Jan. 28 2010 10:46 AM
adsfs from

define spoiling.

Jan. 28 2010 10:45 AM

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