Debate Over ‘Spoiling’ Children Continues

The New York Times has published a provocative new essay by Dr. Perri Klass that outlines how the debate over whether American children are overindulged or spoiled is ongoing–and complicated.  From the essay:

In the pediatric office today, parents often bring up spoiling, as that mother did last week, in reference to young babies, sleep and feeding. It’s as if the later, more confusing questions about how to respond to a child’s demands crystallize in those early months when the new baby cries and the parents worry.

The official pediatric line — I said some version of this to that mother last week — is that you can’t spoil babies by taking good care of them. But even that doesn’t turn out to be simple.

“It’s important to be there and to be responsive and responsible, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to be totally at the whim of the baby,” said Dr. Pamela High, a professor of pediatrics at Brown University and medical director of the Fussy Baby Clinic at the Brown Center for the Study of Children. “You’re teaching them patterns and routine and regularity.”

Parents can meet a baby’s needs while still allowing her a chance to learn to settle down and sleep without being held. In a randomized study on babies with colic that was published this year by Dr. High’s group, when parents got help with issues of feeding, sleep, routine and their own mental health, those colicky babies cried less and slept more.

As children get older, setting limits and establishing family routines and expectations gets more complicated. But it’s still a question of balancing immediate gratification and larger life lessons.

It’s also an area where we still feel comfortable and righteous blaming and judging other parents — and ourselves.

Problematic childhood behaviors once attributed to incompetent or destructive parenting are now understood to be hard-wired, set by genetics, reflecting neurological differences. We don’t blame bad parenting for autism now, or A.D.H.D. But “spoiled” evokes traits and behaviors for which we’re often quick to hold parents responsible.

As Roald Dahl put it in 1964 in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “A girl can’t spoil herself, you know.”

Image: Angry girl, via Shutterstock

Add a Comment
Back To Parents News Now
  1. [...] The debate over ‘spoiling’ children continues. (Parents.com) [...]

  2. by Kat

    On August 18, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Children need to understand from the beginning that they are not the center of the world.

  3. by grey shower curtain

    On September 25, 2012 at 5:26 am

    “Wow, great blog article. Much obliged.”

  4. by Erotic Social bookmarking site

    On September 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

    thanks that was a sweet distracting report, plenty of troubles in the planet those days, and almost all we Sheeps do – is exploring what the stars do, such as Click for Leaked Celebrity in Seethru Dress, despite the fact that we rather should really concentrate on what is moving on in the planet, it turns out to become a imprisonment earth unless of course we start up fighthing for our legal rights back!

  5. by figge willi

    On October 2, 2012 at 5:17 am

    Hello! Excellent blog. You offer a a number of knowledge which makes your blog an excellent reference point. I realize that your site delivers lots of the similar related information that my site offers. Would you be curious about a link swap? My blog get over 11,000 visitors a year. If you’re interested in more details, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at Oxner@blogspot.com.

  6. by masters medical

    On October 6, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Very nice design and excellent articles, absolutely nothing else we want :D .

  7. by Free Realms Cheats

    On October 10, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Keep up the fantastic piece of work, I read few content on this website and I think that your website is real interesting and has got circles of good info.

  8. by Click This Link

    On October 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Hello there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics? Thanks for your time!

  9. by Recommended site

    On October 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Dead written content, Really enjoyed reading through.

  10. by Health Ticker

    On October 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Appreciate it for helping out, good info. “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” by Eleanor Roosevelt.

  11. by Priscilla Brockhouse

    On November 3, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Thank you, I’ve just been looking for information about this subject for ages and yours is the best I’ve discovered so far. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

  12. by création d'un site internet tutoriel

    On November 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen in Safari. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon. Many thanks

  13. by HGH Advanced reviews

    On November 7, 2012 at 6:22 am

    I don’t really know as well much about this, i actually just wanted to get some suggestions from your site, but your post caught my attention.Although this is not one of my preferred topics i was nevertheless really entertained through the way you presented it. you have a very high quality weblog.I hope that i can mimic your achievement, cheers.

  14. by Quinton Withee

    On November 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Have you ever considered creating an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  15. by Lane Ziyad

    On November 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Hey there, You have performed an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and in my view suggest to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this website.

  16. by Dee Dangerfield

    On November 15, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Does your blog have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

  17. by BRICKHOUSEJAVA

    On December 7, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I believe that is one of the so much important info for me. And i am glad studying your article. But wanna statement on few common issues, The website style is perfect, the articles is in reality nice :D . Good process, cheers.

  18. by Jamey Steeves

    On February 12, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Hello there, You have done an incredible job. I will certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this site.

  19. by web page

    On April 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I have been surfing on-line more than three hours lately, yet I never discovered any interesting article like yours. It is pretty price sufficient for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you probably did, the net will probably be much more helpful than ever before. “Where facts are few, experts are many.” by Donald R. Gannon.

  20. by to be continued

    On April 29, 2013 at 1:43 am

    thank you for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information. “Truth sits upon the lips of dying men.” by Matthew Arnold.