27 Signs Your Children Are Terribly Spoiled
Surefire signs your precious angel is headed into Veruca Salt territory.
When most people imagine how they want their kids to turn out, qualities like compassion, morality, and kindness tend to top their parental wish lists. What most parents are eager to avoid is a child who grows up overly pampered, overly indulged, under disciplined, and not so compassionate. You know: spoiled.
Unfortunately, the signs that your child is becoming spoiled aren’t always as clear-cut as they seem. So, before you start perfecting your disciplinarian act—or continue with your lax parenting—it’s time to discover these signs you’ve got spoiled children on your hands. And if you want to make sure your kids turn out great, check out these 40 Parenting Hacks for Raising an Amazing Kid.
1. They don’t play well with others.
One of the clearest signs your kid’s been overly indulged? They don’t get along with their peers because of their bratty behavior.
“Working well with others is a major part of life so helping our kids learn this early in life is a plus. It is our responsibility as parents to help them learn this,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Lori Whatley.
2. They drive people away.
If your kid seems to drive away his or her peers—and your friends as well—that could be a sign that they’re behaving in a spoiled manner, and not just at home.
“Do other children enjoy being with your child? Do other parents enjoy your child being with their kids?” asks Whatley. “If not, asking yourself why is likely important.”
3. They have frequent tantrums.
Kids—especially young ones—are prone to tantrums all the time. However, when this behavior continues well past the toddler stage and you find yourself trying to drag a kicking, screaming seven-year-old out of the toy aisle at Target, odds are they’ve been overindulged.
“They have likely learned their parents cave in and don’t like confrontation and so they use this to their advantage,” explains Whatley. “When it no longer works, that is when the tantrums stop. They are looking for a particular reaction and when they don’t get it, the behavior will cease.”
4. They’re not helpful.
While you’re unlikely to find your three-year-old clamoring to do dishes with you, if your kid can’t even be bothered to pick up their room or hand you something when asked, it’s likely due to some parental overindulgence.
“Children should be taught by their parents to do helpful tasks. This can begin early in life as long as the tasks are age-appropriate. For example, requiring a five-year-old to put their toys away is responsible parenting,” says Whatley.
5. They don’t say “thank you.”
Teaching politeness is a process. That said, if your child won’t express gratitude, even when prompted, that’s a good indicator that they’re spoiled.
“If your child cannot express gratitude, it is a sign that they feel entitled to what is done for them and the things that are given to them—so if they’ve just received the big-ticket item on their Christmas list, and they don’t muster a thank you and seem over the moon about it, it may be a sign that your child is spoiled,” says marriage and family therapist Virginia Williamson, LMFT, co-founder of Collaborative Counseling Group in Fairfield, CT.
“This is problematic for a few reasons, for example not being able to show appreciation in future relationships and never being satisfied with how much they have.”
6. They start sentences with “I need.”
We all know that person who, even as an adult, begins their Starbucks order with “I need” instead of “may I please have.” And when you encounter this abhorrent behavior, there’s a good chance said individual was spoiled as a child.
“While children can certainly express excitement about how badly they may want something, they should learn to make requests rather than demands,” says Williamson.
“If your child feels strongly that they need everything they desire, from a snack to the newest iPhone, they may not learn the valuable life skill of distinguishing a want from a need and will frequently experience disappointment and frustration when their wishes aren’t fulfilled.”
7. They’re not generous.
Though generosity is undeniably a learned trait, a complete lack thereof is often due to overindulgent parenting.
“While it’s normal for kids to be egocentric at certain ages and have difficulty parting with things that are very important to them, your child should be able to demonstrate generosity. Whether it’s by offering a toy to a playmate that is crying or being willing to donate items that they no longer use to families that cannot afford them, children who are spoiled often cannot think outside of themselves and lack the inclination to be generous,” explains Williamson.
8. They talk to you like a peer.
Whether your kids like it or not, their parents are not their peers or their friends—they’re there to guide them and make them functional adults. If your kids talk to you with the same lack of respect they use when chatting with their classmates, mark one down in the spoiled column.
“[Kids] should understand that there’s a boundary between parents and children, and that parents create the rules and structure of the family. A child who is spoiled, largely through no fault of their own, believes that they wield the same power in the family as their parents and will often speak to them in a dismissive or disrespectful way,” says Williamson.
9. They have a hard time regulating their emotions.
Everyone has their emotional ups and downs, but spoiled children often become so used to being pacified by the adults in their life that their emotional regulation abilities are severely off-kilter.
“If your child continues to have a hard time calming themselves down, being patient or working towards compromise, this can be an indicator that your child is spoiled,” says Williamson.
However, it’s important to rule out other possibilities before jumping right to the spoiled card. “There are other reasons or for poor emotional regulation, such as an untreated mental health issue, learning disability, or other significant emotional distress that is beyond their capacity to handle, so be sure that you rule out other factors that would require treatment before making the determination that your child is spoiled,” she explains.
10. They lack empathy.
If your kid isn’t displaying any empathy toward others, even as a young child, there could be some parenting issues at play.
“Children of any age and developmental stage can make small gestures of empathy. This can be anything from drawing a picture for a sibling who has been sick or injured or even as simple as giving a parent a hug when they perceive their parent is sad. If your child seemingly lacks the ability to tune in to the emotions of others or cannot be sensitive to them, it could be as a result of being spoiled,” says Williamson.
11. They’re not a good sport.
Losing is never fun. However, if your child can’t handle disappointments when working with a group, it might be time to reconsider how you’ve been parenting them.
“It can be frustrating for any child to lose if they are participating on a sports team or in other competitive situations, however if your child is always blaming others for poor performance, expecting to be singled out for praise for everything they do, yells at others who aren’t doing things their way, and fails to give recognition when their teammates or competitors are successful, you may have a spoiled child on your hands,” says Williamson.
“Healthy children learn to be realistic about their strengths and weaknesses as well as those of others and can take accountability and learn from their mistakes, which serves them well for a lifetime.”
12. They have no filter.
Kids are notorious for saying the wrong things at the wrong times, whether that means giving unwanted information about their parents’ personal life to strangers to providing vivid details of the last time they got sick. However, if your kids are constantly interrupting and unable to read the room once they’re school-aged, that’s a sign of a larger problem.
“Whether it’s material possessions or simply attention, they will ask for what they want without any regard for the time or place,” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a member of the Teaching Faculty at Columbia University. “For example, they may interrupt their parent and demand their attention only to show their parent something that could have waited.”
13. They don’t care if they’re inconveniencing others.
And those impertinent requests themselves, especially when they are a pain to others, are similarly a sign of a spoiled kid.
“[Spoiled kids] also ask without consideration of money, time, and inconvenience to others,” says Hafeez. Ultimately, this becomes a larger issue as it “affects them later in life in relationships, school, the workplace, and other basic social interactions.”
14. They have angry outbursts.
“Typical of narcissists (and spoiled children are being raised to develop narcissistic traits), when they don’t get their way they will be mean and overly dramatic—think door slamming, throwing things, and dishing out deep insults,” says Dr. Hafeez.
“This is a problem because these outbursts are an inability to manage anger. It is okay to be angry and observe emotions. We don’t want to raise children to suppress emotion. However, we also want to empower kids to be with their feelings in a way that allows them to acknowledge what they are feeling and inspiring them to shift to an emotion that feels better.”
15. They are manipulative.
If the phrase, “Mom lets me do that because she loves me more than you” is part of your child’s vocabulary, it’s high time you reconsider your parenting strategy.
“Most kids figure out which parent will allow what. That’s normal,” says Hafeez. However, “A spoiled child will use parents as pawns to serve their agenda. They’ll even pit parent against parent and pair up with the parent who aligns with their way. This is bad because it puts power in the child and disrupts the parental unity.”
16. They have terrible self-esteem.
While spoiled children can often seem over-confident, that’s typically a façade masking their own harsh self-criticism.
“Often anxious and self-loathing, [the] adult version of a spoiled child overcompensates for low self-worth by latching onto others to build them up,” says Hafeez.
17. They demand special treatment.
It’s great to make your kids feel special. If your kid demands being treated as such, regardless of the occasion, that’s far from a good sign.
“For example, you are making special meals for this child many nights and not having one family meal, your child insists on sleeping with you despite your wish to have them sleep in their own bed, they demand special treats on a regular basis, or they demand to be entertained in reaction to any statement of boredom,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine.
18. They whine frequently.
Kids with adequate means of self-regulation can ask for what they want; spoiled kids whine.
“A kid who is whining often is often saying they don’t want to tolerate any negative feeling state and they are saying that you need to fix it,” says Saltz. “They expect you to cater to their feeling and to make sure they don’t have bad or bored feelings.”
19. They bully others.
If your kid has a habit of bullying their peers, that behavior may be a result of overly permissive parenting.
“[Spoiled children] are only aware of their own feelings, not others,” says Saltz. “This often presents as meanness to others, inability to share with others, rudeness, even bullying behavior.”
20. They always ask for more.
“[Spoiled children] do not appreciate treats, they ask for more,” says Saltz. “This is often a factor at holiday time when treats abound. Sweets, gifts, special activities.”
“If your child is given and expecting [treats] 24/7, then their reaction to a holiday cookie may not be ‘yum, this is great!’ It may be ‘meh, I want ice cream!’ If this goes on often enough, then this reflects a problem.”
21. They make everything harder for their parents.
While having kids and maintaining an active social life can be a balancing act, spoiled children are uniquely talented at making it impossible for parents to maintain any semblance of normalcy.
“When your life is being shrunk by the need to cater to their wishes and demands,” that’s a surefire sign your kid is spoiled, according to Saltz.
22. They’re controlling.
“Spoiled behaviors are their way of controlling their environment to make it all feel bearable,” says Saltz.
So, how should a parent respond to their child when their behavior becomes overly controlling? “Children needs clear and definite limits, rules, and consequences to internalize,” says Saltz.
23. They need to be the center of attention.
If your kid tends to suck all the air out of the room, there’s a good chance they’re spoiled.
“‘Spoiled’ is someone who thinks of no one but himself, who sees himself as the center of social interest and concern, who believes the satisfaction of his needs should overrule the needs of others,” says psychologist Carl Pickhardt, author of Who Stole My Child? Parenting Through the Four Stages of Adolescence.
24. They have a hard time doing things for themselves.
“Inability to independently complete simple tasks” is a good sign your kid is spoiled, according to Dr. Jared Heathman, MD, a Houston psychiatrist and therapist. Parents who set appropriate boundaries and encourage their kids to do things on their own find that their kids are eager to show their competence instead of continuing to insist that things are done for them.
25. They are defiant against authority figures.
Whether they’re yelling at a teacher or refusing to go to bed, kids who don’t show respect for authority figures are often spoiled.
“If the child is continuously defiant with authority, it can also be symptom of being spoiled. They have not been made to respect authority and this can eventually lead to an inability to learn in an educational setting or maintain employment. This can lead to decreased self-confidence and result in the child being less assertive,” says Heathman.
26. They have a hard time adjusting to new situations.
While change can be difficult for individuals of any age, dramatic reactions to minor changes in a child’s situation, like a new classroom, a different meal than they expected, or a canceled playdate, are often signs of a spoiled child, says Heathman.
27. They haven’t matured as adults.
A sure way to tell that someone was spoiled as a child? They still act the same way as an adult. While the all-out tantrums may have faded, spoiled adults frequently display the same narcissistic, unsympathetic, manipulative behaviors you might typically associate with a five-year-old who’s never heard the word “no.”
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