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Do you spoil your kid?

We want what's best for our children. But we often set them up to fail.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 8, 2012 11:55AM
Image: Boy holding allowance money (© Bryan Mullennix/Photodisc/Getty Images)Jenny Feldon had to face an unpleasant truth recently. In the post "I've been lying to myself: My child is spoiled" on BlogHer, she admitted how she has trouble saying "no" to her daughter.

All that stuff in her child's room never seemed excessive because it's "what every kid we knew had." Yet an incident in a store made her realize that the values she tries to model -- hard work, charity, compassion -- aren't enough.

"She needs to know what it feels like to want something," Feldon writes, "to work for it, to feel the uncertainty of maybe not getting it."

I congratulate the writer on this moment of clarity, and I hope it inspires other parents to look at their own kids' rooms.

It's natural to want our children to have the best. But we're not always doing them a favor by providing it.

If everything they want seamlessly, magically appears, they'll never learn the things Feldon mentioned above.

And that, Mom and Dad, is setting them up for major problems in 10 or 15 years.

The kids aren't all right

Children who have been raised to believe they should get whatever they want as soon as they want it are in for some fairly rude awakenings once they're out on their own. What's likely to happen when they can't immediately afford their ever-changing dreams?

Debt, that's what. In-store financing, "90 days same as cash" (yeah, that'll happen) or a credit card could torpedo your young adult's finances faster than you can say "4G." (Post continues below video.)
A child who learns to save up for what he wants is far better suited for the adult world. That doesn't guarantee he’ll never rampage through Best Buy with a credit card. But he has a much greater chance of not landing up to his hairline in consumer debt.

Why? Because he learned early on that deferred gratification can be the key to self-determination.

Deprogram your kids

From what I've seen, too many parents are afraid to say "no." Maybe they think their children will feel deprived if they don't get the best and newest of everything. Or maybe they want to be the fun mommies or Disneyland daddies.

Listen: Your kids need parents, not pals. Practice saying "no" or "not today" or "that's something you can save up for."

But be sure to walk that talk, too. Tell them why you drive an older car or don't buy new furniture every few years: to create a secure future, to save for their education, to reduce your carbon footprint, whatever. Just talk to them about money.

Our children have been programmed by marketing geniuses to become typical American consumers. They really can't help being acquisitive. It's up to us to set boundaries and enforce them. That's what parents do, or should.

While shopping, I've heard moms or dads say stuff like, "All right, all right, stop crying, we're getting it." I'd love to be a fly on the wall when their kids hit puberty. The stakes will be much, much higher -- and a lot pricier than the latest Spider-Man action figure.

How often did you say "no" to your kids? Did it help them become better money managers?

More from MSN Money:

Aug 8, 2012 3:03PM
OMG, I have  been saying this since the day my kids were old enough to talk! I am now divorced and I don't know how many times I have told my kids that I am not a disneyland Dad and can't afford to be one. I was raised by a single mother who taught me to work for what I want and that I would appreciate things more if I paid for it myself. Today's kids feel entitled to get whatever they want and if you don't get it for them then you are the meanest parent on the planet. I loved the line "Your kids need parents,not pals"! My mother was saying that to me 50 years ago and I say that to my own kids now as they are entering into college and will experience having to do for themselves. I may not be rich money wise but thanks to my own mother teaching me money skills at a young age, it has made me work hard for what I want and to appreciate things more and to take care of my possesions. I think this story should be required reading for every parent and child!!BRAVO to the writer of this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aug 8, 2012 2:50PM

what does one expect when the parents are spoiled rotten themselves....


Aug 8, 2012 3:08PM

Rather than buying their kids "stuff," parents should learn that what their kids really want is quality time with them. When I was young, my father worked second shift on a rotating schedule, so sometimes I would got a week without seeing him. When he was off, it didn't matter what we did, as long as he would spend time with me. Sometimes all we did was go for ice cream and talked. That was what was important! And that is what seems to be missing now!

Aug 8, 2012 6:29PM
I agree with Donna on this one.  As a society, we have catered too much to our children, and now wonder why the are little snots or even criminals.  As society and legislators have removed our right to discipline our children, problems with kids have increased exponentially.  There is a big, BIG difference between thoughtful discipline meant to teach, and child abuse.

When ever my 6yo expresses that she is not satisfied with what she has been abundantly provided with, I found that a trash bag and a trip through her room for "boring stuff" is usually just the shot of humility she needs to gain perspective. Especially when bagged items make it to the local donation station and are then given to a child that will appreciate them. 


Addtionally, she has learned that it all can be gone in an instant. The fires in Colo Springs proved that to her in a very real way. Seeing it on the news and having family in the area, she realizied that all her toys would be gone if a fire took our house, and she wanted to donate some of her toys to the relief fund. (How cute). I also explaned that our posessions could be gone tomarrow, but as long as we have eachother its OK.

Aug 8, 2012 5:21PM
I remember very well what it was like to be a kid. I did anything I could get by with. 

Thing is, I couldn't get by with much because I had parents who loved me enough to whip my little A$$ when I was disobedient or disrespectful. 

60 years later... I'm so grateful for parents who taught me right from wrong.
Aug 8, 2012 6:11PM
As a parent of 3 under 6 years old, I say no about 100 times when we go to the store.  If the oldest (5) has brought his own money, he can buy a candy bar and every once in awhile he'll have enough saved for a $10 toy.  The kids get lots of toys for holidays, but I'm the saver and have no trouble telling them "we can't aford it this pay check" or "add it to your birthday list". It's no wonder our society has created a monster of "entitlement" people who think the gov't owes them what they can't earn for themselves.  Do everyone a favor "JUST SAY NO!"
Aug 8, 2012 5:43PM
Last week I buried my mother. She was 94 years old. She demanded my respect as a child and she had my respect till her dying day. I honestly believe that at the age of 94 she would have mustered up enough strength to slap me in the mouth if I disrespected her. I love her for being that kind of parent and I feel blessed.
Aug 8, 2012 3:13PM

This an epidemic - when are these "parents" going to wake up?  Not only are they creating really unlikeable jerks they are raising helpless adults who cannot budget, let alone perform basic tasks such as laundry, cooking or simple home repairs. 


As human beings, our only entitlements are life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.  The rest is up to us.

Aug 8, 2012 4:41PM
What planet are you people living on? I'm 24. My parents didn't pay for prom, senior trip, my car or my clothes. Thankfully they did feed me until I was 18 & living on my own. I've figured out how to pay for college on my own and worked 40+ hour weeks all through it. Aside from Pell Grants I quality for from growing up in 'poverty' everything I have is something I've earned. I've never been on food stamps and I've avoided having children I can't afford. I try to make good choices and work hard every day and I have PLENTY of friends doing exactly the same.
Aug 9, 2012 9:30AM

I see this behavior all the time in the grocery store, WalMart, you name it.  Then lately there has been a commercial where the kid whines all throughout the store saying PLLLLLLLEEEEEAAAASSSE.  The Mom gives in. She loook relieved when the kid finally shuts up. How sad that now it is even an ad on tv promoting this behavior. 


It is sad that we have given in so many times to children.  The effect is terrifying.  In my job as an apartment manager I see the effects of this so much. Recently I had an incident where one of these 20 somethings literally destroyed his apartment and broke a window in another in a drunken rage. After all was said and done the next morning I called him to the office and asked him to tell me why I should not start eviction proceedings immediately,etc.  His answer-"because I am a good kid and I deserve to stay"  My answer-Here is your eviction notice, because I don't rent apartments to "kids" I rent to adults.  You are 24 years old and not a kid.  You want to play in the adult playground you have to play by the adult rules. When you signed the lease agreement you signed as an adult.  You represented yourself as an adult or legal age. Just because you are a "kid" does not mean that you get everything handed to you and bad behavior is rewarded."  He moved out the next day to an apartment across the street.  Similar incident happened there and he is now looking for another apartment to live in where they accept "kids"

Aug 8, 2012 8:10PM
I'm very proud of my son. He told how jealous he was of kids that got everything they wanted. Now he is 30 and said he is glad he had to work. Now he owns 2 houses.
Aug 8, 2012 4:19PM
Great article-I completely agree. My 8 year old is the only one of her friends who doesn't get to watch tv (much less have a tv in her room)and doesn't own an ipad, ipod, computer or a video game console and doesn't have a room filled to the rim with toys-yet, all of her friends prefer our house as the place to hang out because I "actually do fun stuff with them". I buy cheap art supplies and make fun projects, make them scavenger hunts to go on, play hide and seek, go to the park with them etc... and I've never heard a child, including my own, whine about being bored or the lack of 'stuff' in our house. Being involved in your child's life is free and results in a child who understands limits.
Aug 9, 2012 9:41AM

I have been umpiring baseball for over 25 years. And got to tell you that the under 30 crowd is completely out of control. It all starts with LL and the parents who just can't say no, and of course our public school system that is run by the liberal progressives. Who pats each kid on the head telling them how special and unique they are. All along not teaching them anything that will get them a job in the 21st century. That is why jobs that require advanced math and science skills( our little darling rank dead last in the world) go begging as we need to import skilled worked from India, China etc.Our kids greatest success is now measured in how fast they can text, or how many tats they have, or how many Texas Holden games they play per week. Then they enter the real world, and the very few that can land a phat salary job with the government do ok, the rest move back in with Moms. And go back to their bedroom and keep telling themselves how special, and cool they are. Pretty sad for them and the rest of the country. 







































Aug 9, 2012 7:54AM
Speaking as a non parent (please hold your fire) I find most children of the day highly spoiled, and I find that their parents have similar proclivities in terms of seeing themselves deserving of all things regardless of income or situation. I'm sure TV, the movies, advertising and all the rest has some influence on this trend, but as each generation moves farther from the lessons of the sacrifices of wartime and depression generations, forgetting, or never learning, those lessons, the more likely we as a society are to repeat them. Then I believe the lessons will be quite harsh if not fatal, and more importantly, could have been avoided with just a little awareness, normal discipline and caring. 
Aug 8, 2012 8:39PM
My 5 year old son REALLY wanted a DSi. He's wanted one since he was three. I told him since day one "Save your birthday and allowance money. You'll get it." Took him till he was 5 but he he finally got it, just before he graduated kindergarten. I was proud of him and now he's saving up for his next project, a 3dDS.
Aug 9, 2012 2:43PM
What's going to happen with spoiled kids in 10 to 15 years?  Well, in the workplace it's happening now.  We have seminar after seminar on how to accommodate the young workers, to make them feel SPECIAL and UNIQUE, to make sure no one says a discouraging word to the new royalty of our company.  You know - the ones who have no experience, mediocre education, no real accomplishments, whose parents call the company to asky why Madison can't get the week off to go to on vacation, to say Kaitlyn is sick, to ask why Zachary didn't get the job he wanted.  The last little "let's encourage our youngsters" rah-rah session we had, I finally spoke up.  I've been doing good work for this company for over 20 years.  Why doesn't the company bend over backwards to make ME feel special and valued?  What is the company doing to make sure I meet MY retirement goals?  In other words - just like the kids coming in - what's in it for me?  Spoiled kids aren't 10 to 15 years away - they're sitting in the next office.
Aug 9, 2012 12:38PM
It is no secret that kids are spoiled these days. Even toddlers get battery powered cars instead of pedal-power trikes. So many toys are not manually operated, and video/computer games seem to have replaced traditional play. And you wonder why children are fat! People give anything (almost) their kids want to them. We had to WORK to earn money for purchasing what we wanted. One summer, while staying with my grandparents, I worked 6 days a week picking watermelons to make some money. I didn't have to, but I wanted to. I was 13!  Don't tell me that immigrants do work nobody else wants to do. Most of those central Texas boys who worked with me had few choices to make a buck, and were happy to get $1/hr plus lunch in the mid 60s. So were the adults who were there, too.We all appreciated the value of money earned with our sweat. If it takes no effort to get, it isn't worth much; if it took several weeks or months of work to buy, it got taken care of.
Aug 8, 2012 4:15PM
I was 15 when I went out on my own. Since that day I have served in the United States Marine Corps, earned three college degrees, served as a Firefighter/Medic for over a dozen years, become a published author, started and kept my own business in SPITE of this economy, and raised five intelligent, hard working daughters. All but the last I did ON MY OWN. I never assumed the world owed me anything beyond the air in my lungs. I was lucky. No one TAUGHT me discipline, I became a Marine to ensure I learned that. No one taught me right and wrong as I believe everyone KNOWS this unless they suffer mental instability. I've never ACCEPTED anything I've not earned and that includes the love of the most incredible wife a man could wish for. Young people today will never know the pride, self respect, and feeling of accomplishment I and those of my generation know. They have no idea what they're missing. Each day I thank God I instilled these values in MY children. I did not take the approach of being their "buddy" but their FATHER. Yes they've made mistakes, as did we ALL in our late teens/early twenties, but each one is on her own and doing great!


Aug 8, 2012 4:25PM
Thirty years ago, I was a single middle class mother raising her son all alone. I too gave my son everything he wanted (and more!) before he ever realized that he wanted it.  I felt as though I was fortunate to have the money to be able to lavish my son with the things that I thought would make him happy. Instead it made him selfish and insecure. If I had the chance to go back, I would do things very differently but it is too late for me and my son.  He has a deep seated feeling of entitlement and only thinks of himself. At age 30, even though he is now employed he still expects me to bankroll major expenses as they arise in his adult life. I feel as though I failed my son as a parent.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.