by DaniGirl on May 23, 2006 · 13 comments

in Uncategorized

A while back, I posted a meme where you check off a bunch of stuff on a list and then count up your score to see if you are “spoiled”. I did the meme without editorializing, but Elizabeth and Phantom Scribbler both hosted some interesting discussions on what exactly it means to be spoiled.

After taking in all that (and a little bit more, but you’ll have to find that reference on your own), I’ve been thinking about it in the context of spoiling your kids. This is one of the things I worry about frequently, because I know my kids are very privileged (to use a distinction Phantom Scribbler made), and I know they are perfect little consumers, target markets as susceptible to advertising as their supposedly media-savvy mother.

But are they spoiled? What does that mean?

We went to the mall on Sunday morning because we had to get out of the house and it was five degrees and windy and raining outside. (Yes, I am still complaining about the weather. Only several hours of sunshine will dry up this puddle of resentment.) The boys just about drove us batty with their requests to go to the toy store so they could play with the train table and the dollhouse while we browsed in a few other stores, but through an entire morning in the mall they never once asked if they could have anything. They rarely do, in fact, and if they do and we say no, that’s usually the end of it. I can’t think of a single meltdown or even argument we’ve had over being denied a treat in a store.

I like to indulge them. I like to give them inexpensive little treats like stickers and colouring books and plastic toys from the dollar store every couple of weeks. Beloved prowls the sale bins at Winners to find good deals on Thomas and Bob the Builder toys. Birthdays and Christmas tend toward the excessive (excessive in my definition is more than three or four presents each) only because we keep finding stuff we know the boys will love, and we are both kids at heart. There are toys and books and videos creeping out from under the furniture, overflowing bins and stacked four deep on the shelf. But does having stuff mean you’re spoiled? Or is it more about your relationship with stuff, with what you have and what you don’t?

Tristan continues to covet trains. He will often say, “I wish I had an Oliver.” Or he’ll talk about whatever gift-giving occasion is on his radar screen and say, “I hope the Easter Bunny brings me a Douglas, Mummy!” For a while, I was making a conscious effort to reply to these pinings with a reminder of all the stuff he does have: “Yes, but you are very lucky to have a Gordon and a Henry and all these other trains, right?”

And then I realized I was being hypocritical. After all, I am the Queen of Covetousness. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what I have, it just means I have a bit of a weakness for what I want – a new couch, a fancy-ass digital SLR camera, a new wardrobe. Fun to want, to dream about, to plan and pine for, but I know realistically that I’m not getting them any time soon. And if Tristan is merely expressing what he might like to have without throwing hissy fits because he can’t have it, how is that any different?

Is it hypocritical to feel smug because I would never indulge the kids with a $500 ride-on Thomas, but will probably spend nearly that in traveling half way across the province to let them ride on a life-sized Thomas – again?

So what is spoiled? Is it about acquisitions, or is it about attitude? My kids are only two and four, but they seem to genuinely appreciate any little thing we give them, even if their attention span is measured in minutes instead of days. They don’t get everything they ask for, but they get way more than they ‘need’. I look around the house sometimes and feel a guilty shame at the sheer amount of stuff they have – and other days I’m grateful to have been able to provide it for them. I’m conflicted.

Do you worry about spoiling your kids? When does consumerism and materialism trip the line into being spoiled? Does indulging your kids lead to a sense of entitlement?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sharon May 23, 2006 at 2:04 pm

I constantly worry about this and my JAcks says I do spoil Nathan because I out more with him than I ever was with Miranda. Miranda is not a consummer, she is pretty good about NOT asking for stuff. Alaways has been that way. Nathan on the other hand is the kid you see leaving certain toy stores in tears because Mommy said we were looking and not buying. He always asking when he can get another train and keeps his “train paper” near and looks at it steady. I try to get rid of it but he seems to know.
He is getting better. I try to get him thing once and awhile but he some times gets up in the morning asking if we are going anywhere to get SOMETHING. Mostly a new train.
Have I spoiled it him. I don’t think so, Most times I don’t get him a thing, but he does seem to ask to get stuff more than his sister ever did.
Mostly I think it’s personality. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

2 dean dad May 23, 2006 at 2:15 pm

I think you’ve nailed it. For me, it’s much more about the attitude. We go out of our way to NOT reward whining or hissy fits, but we certainly don’t go out of our way to deny stuff just for the sake of denying it.
Learning to defer gratification is a valuable life skill. Nothing wrong with that.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…

3 Renee May 23, 2006 at 4:03 pm

This is something that I worry about regularly. Our girls are spoiled; there, I’ve said it. The boy, not yet, and I’m going to try to keep it that way. (hopefully…) I think much of the damage was done with the girls when they were younger (closer to the age of your boys) and almost every time we’d go to Wal-Mart or the mall, I’d let them get something, sometimes $5, other times $25 or more. They got used to that and we ended up with so much crap, there was no place to put it. I’ve gotten them into the routine the past couple of years of only buying ‘junk’ if they spend their own money that they’ve owned doing chores, for good grades, etc. I do still buy them clothes sometimes at the mall (because, hey, that’s something I can justify as ‘needed’, right) or sometimes books and DVDs, but I’ve cut back a lot in the past couple of years (out of necessity, new baby, gas prices, Katrina!).
Your boys definitely sound like they’re on the right track though!
Good going, Dani!

4 APL May 23, 2006 at 4:28 pm

Very interesting post. It’s not the actual consumer stuff that bothers me; it’s the sense of entitlement (which you reference) that can often accompany too much stuff. As an only child, I was probably like your kids–I had a TON of toys, books, games, etc. Christmas was … well, an embarrassment of riches. But I always thanked people for what they gave me, and I never, NEVER, felt like I was owed anything.
With my own son, I’ve made a conscious effort not to buy him something every time we’re out together. He’s very good at playing with a toy or looking at a book and then putting it back “where it goes.” We’ll see how long that lasts… 🙂

5 andrea from the fishbowl May 23, 2006 at 4:32 pm

We’re not huge consumers. We don’t actually buy the girls a lot of stuff. They *have* a lot of stuff, but it comes from Christmases and birthdays… and grandparents. 🙂
I recently hit my breaking point with the “I want this” and “I want that” … so I asked the girls to say “I like this” and “I like that” instead. And they do it! It’s a small change, but boy, does it make a big difference when we’re out shopping. I’m all for expressing desires, but we can’t have it all. And we *shouldn’t* have it all.
There’s a whole post in here about raising healthy consumer attitudes, but heck, I’m in a rush and have to end it here. 🙂

6 Phantom Scribbler May 23, 2006 at 5:18 pm

I frequently think that my son is spoiled, that he doesn’t seem to realize what a privilege it is to be able to get a little something on his outings around town.
But honestly, I deprive myself a lot out of nothing more than some slightly twisted sense of moral righteousness. Like somehow I’m a better person if I *don’t* buy something I really want or need? I think I’d rather that LG thought about spending money in less loaded terms.

7 Chantal May 23, 2006 at 6:13 pm

“Or is it more about your relationship with stuff, with what you have and what you don’t?”
This one jumped out at me.
I think it’s the relationship with stuff you already have too. I find the more stuff my kids have, the less they “appreciate” it. They throw stuff on the ground. Lose pieces. They just plain don’t care. No matter how much I try to teach them to value their belongings. It irks me to no end and prompts me to clean house. It’s a cycle around here and one I’m trying to deal with.

8 Jennifer May 23, 2006 at 7:34 pm

I tend to think being spoiled has less to do with stuff and more to do with getting what you want all the time. That is, not just buying what you want but also doing whatever you want regardless of other people.
For example my kids often want to watch their own DVDs. In the past, if my husband was watching the main TV, then I’d let them go in my bedroom & watch their show on the tiny TV. Now I say, no, you have to wait your turn. Sometimes they take it well and sometimes not.
Or, you know, allowing them to interrupt when I’m talking; or throwing stuff on the floor and expecting me to clean up; or saying “I’m hungry” and expecting the exact food they want within seconds; etc. etc.

9 twinmomplusone May 23, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Growing up I would always get: “oh, you’re an only child, you must be spoiled” Man did that irk me. I don’t think I was. I certainly didn’t always get what I wanted and I had to save from chore money and later from piddly jobs to get what I wanted.
Now with my own kids, its so easy to “spoil” them. There is so much more out there that one can get them and let’s face it, I have more money to get them things then my paretns ever did. So the fright of “spoiling ” them is always with me. We don’t give in to their every whim but we do indulge them in trinkets, they do have every sport equipment you can imagine and we do take them out on lots of outings. But there’s an educational component to all that which legitimizes it.
What would absolutely abhor me would be to have unappreciative kids. We forever discuss the value of things, we give things away to “other people who would need them”, etc.
Just last night we were watching the Apprentice and the reward challenge involved a supper with Trump’s kids. Talk about growing up in excess. Yet, they seemed to be appreciative of what they have and dad set limits to the amount of money available to them growing up and any more they neededthey had to work for. I was impressed.

10 Marla May 23, 2006 at 11:21 pm

This has been on my mind lately too. I’m polishing up a post about it…

11 nancy May 24, 2006 at 1:56 am

Well we have a 4th birthday times two coming up and yes, they are getting spoiled smelly rotten. BUT….I put the stop to all ‘treats’ or purchases for the past 2 months, other than freebies at McD’s…and we made two trips purposely to TRU just to look and make a list (like Andrea) of what we like, or would like to have one day. Both trips were most successful. What may come back to bite me in the ass, is that I shared the ‘wish list’ with family members, grandparents, godparents, cousins and uncles, etc…and well, they are very likely to receive EVERYTHING they like.
Now what about me???? My hubby is traveling in Bangkok and I just rec’d an email that he bought me a TAG watch…holy shit!! I don’t care that is cost $20 but a watch that ‘says’ TAG just seems so elaborate and over the top to me. But, going back to that survey we did, it fits, cause according to that I was one spoiled little bitch. I like it that way.

12 Beanie Baby May 24, 2006 at 1:12 pm

I’m going to say that I think it’s both. (And I’ll have you know that I spent actual precious non-blog thinking time on this question last night!) Attitude is an important part of it, definitely, and if the kids don’t feel somehow slighted because they can’t have the latest toy of their desires, that’s a good sign.
But then I think–ok, what if you’re a millionaire and you’re buying your kids expensive designer outfits and flying them to Disneyworld once a year and throwing them $10,000 birthday parties? Are they not spoiled so long as they don’t seem to demand it? I don’t know. That doesn’t seem right somehow.
So maybe it has something to do with what you/they want, why, and why they get it or don’t get it, as well as how they react.
Maybe “spoiled” has more to do with your attitude about what constitutes hardship. Someone who thinks a week in the Bahamas in a rented hotel instead of their own private house is a hardship has clearly been spoiled. Maybe it comes down to how we define “need,” instead of how many of our wants we have.
Clearly I need to think about this some more, because I’m making about as much sense as a mud puddle.

13 Amanda May 24, 2006 at 10:50 pm

I don’t think it’s being spoiled to have a lot of things, or to do a lot of things like going to the movies or taking trips.I mean, it seems only natural that the more money you have the more you would go out and enjoy these types of things.
I think being spoiled is when you have way more then you will ever use, but you still keep wanting more. Or when you expect to have everything given to you. Or when your parents (or anyone else) keeps buying you things even though they can’t afford to (likely because you would throw a fit if they didn’t).
Your kids don’t seem spoiled at all to me, so I don’t think you have much to worry about.

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