Are My Kids Spoiled?

Simple Times

Well, it’s Christmastime.

What’s that you say, it’s not even December??

Doesn’t matter. The second you put the turkey roasting pan back on the shelf it was officially “the season” and people started hanging lights and making lists with the frenzy of a baby shark.

What is it about this time of year that made it drag on forever when we were kids and then sprint by at top speed now that I’m an adult? Part of the frenzy is just trying to fit it all in… the gifts, the parties, the holiday cards, the pageants, the partridges AND the pear trees. I end up hitting January feeling like I’ve just run a marathon and only the fact that my thighs have actually increased in size (instead of the opposite) ensure me that this isn’t the case.

As  a mother, I feel this intense pressure to make sure this time of year is perfect for my boys. It’s always been  my favorite holiday and I want my kids to feel that too. I want them to look back someday wistfully and remember all the great traditions their mom tacked onto this holiday. My concern though, is that sometimes my need to make it special means that I’m probably overindulging them.

It’s something we worry about a lot… my husband and I make more money than our parents did and so we’re able to do things with our kids that we didn’t get to experience when we were their age. Both boys have been on an airplane several times… you know the first time I rode an airplane? When I was 17. They both have passports; I never left the country until I was an adult. They both know how to use an iPhone better than I do. They have better clothes, better shoes, better toys, better EVERYTHING than I had as a child and I’m terrified that they’ll never know how important it is earn any of these things.

A Trip to the Dodgers Game

I once saw Celine Dion say that there’s a difference between being spoiled and being a spoiled brat. I think she was trying to make excuses for the fact that her 8 year old had Bentley or something, but I agree. My boys might have too many toys but they’re really good kids, really sweet, well-mannered boys and they know I’d sooner throw them out the window of a moving car before I’d let them have a tantrum about getting their way. But it bothers me that my five year old thinks his life is over if we eat at home instead of going out to dinner like he wanted to. My four year old always wants to get a new game on the iPad and mostly, his daddy always let’s him. “It’s only 99 cents” Dave will say. But what’s the difference between 99 Cents and 99 Dollars if you don’t have a concept of either??

About six months ago we started doing chores. It’s a way to make them earn some of those things they’ve been taking for granted. I love that they have to do them just like I did. I also sort of the love that they gripe while they work… just like I did.

I think a lot about taking them to serve at a soup kitchen or something similar to show them how many people will struggle for their dinner today while they complain about having a home cooked meal. But I’m unsure if they’re too young, and whether or not they’d get the point. I want to do something to show them how blessed they are but I’m also nervous that it might confuse or worry them. I mean, you only get so long to really be a little kid and while I know eventually they’ll learn about the harsher parts of life I don’t want to take away the innocence that really only exists when you’re a child.


Does anyone else out there have this problem? How do you handle the holidays and getting too many toys on top of the toys you already have?? How do you teach your toddlers to appreciate how blessed they are?

For once I don’t have any conclusive thoughts on the matter. I’m just putting this out in the universe to see if I’m the only one that feels this way.

8 Responses to “Are My Kids Spoiled?”

  1. Raluca

    This is SUCH a timely post, you have no idea. I was just thinking about how I can really teach my daughter about giving back this holiday. Without just dropping off a bag of canned food in her school’s food drive bin. We donate to Goodwill throughout the year and I have actually raised her to be fairly ok with purging old toys when new ones are around the corner so that’s underway already, but I want her to really experience the feeling of giving back. I am thinking of taking her to the store and giving her cash to buy toys for the local Children’s Hospital. Giving her $100 in 20s and having her semi-understand the value of money, choose which toys are best, in terms of value and fun, etc. and then going with me to donate them. She’s in charge, but it’s all to give back to kids in need. I agree with you – my kids are amazingly well adjusted, gracious and thankful so the word “spoiled” doesn’t work for me. But definitely incredibly lucky.

  2. Cousin Dani

    I remember when we were kids at Christmas time, my mom would always take us to buy presents for foster kids. There’s a program where you can pick a kid and buy the toy(s) they want for Christmas. It humbled us and made us realize that even though we weren’t rich and may not get everything we asked for, there were kids out there who were less fortunate than we were and gave us a better appreciation for the things we had.

  3. Heather Kominsky

    Great post! We made one of those Christmas countdown chains with many days focusing on giving to others. A few examples: take 5 toys each to donate to goodwill, choose a family off one of those giving trees and purchase clothes and toys for them, 5 items from our pantry to donate to the local food bank, and go to goodwill and purchase nice winter coats for our local “coats for kids” drive. Then we just try to focus on others by making gifts or treats to take to neighbors and creating homemade cards for friends. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

  4. Auntie Di

    I so know how you feel. I love Christmas! I love to give gifts and make people happy. I felt like I was always holding myself back. I had to be disciplined to not spoil my kids. We had a papr christmas chain. We opened one link each day, written inside was something to get us ready for Christmas ( I also used it to organize myself…kids can put stamps on Christmas cards ) I always included shopping for others, baking cookies for others, we did Toys for Tots , they picked the gifts, then we delivered to the fire station. One thing I wish I would have included was celebrating the real St Nicholas birthday. It’s sometime the first part of dec. there are books about him. He was someone who saw the needs of others, than gave in secret. Have them put out their shoes out at night, see how much money is in them in the morning, then help them think of who they can give it to in secret… No glory for them…well maybe from you when they’re young…but hopefully just between them and God when they get older…instill sacrificial giving..
    In others words, as the others have commented, make sure they see the excitement and joy of giving at the holidays….not just getting.
    Have fun….and pace yourself 🙂

  5. Lesley

    I am glad you posted this. With black friday, small business satuday, cyber monday, I am actually starting to dislike the season. My 2 year old has more than enough ‘things’ given to him as hand me downs from friends. When the grandparents ask what to get him for XMAS I say he doesn’ t need anything. In fact, I don’t need anything. Yes there is some stuff I want, but I don’t need them. I am thankful I have my family, a nice place to live, food on my table. I thank my parents for this upbringing. We had lots growing up but we also worked for what we had which I think is important to learn. My step daughter however has all these wants of name brand expensive things and it drives me crazy. I feel the other half of the family doesn’t do there part in teaching that you should be happy with the things you already have and are lucky. Sometimes I just can’t get into the spirit with all the gimme gimme gimme attitudes. Between being bombarded by commercials and flyers and emails for the best deals and people fighting at stores. It makes me kind of sad. Instead I will try to have get togethers with friends as long as I stress NO PRESENTS. We also donate a toy every year in memory of my gandfather who used to do this every Christmas. He didn’t have much but he always found a way to give to a child that had much less.

  6. Andi

    There’s always a family that gives more that you may not agree with and there are always families that have or give less that may feel that way about you. As long as your kids care for and appreciate what they have, they are not spoiled.

  7. Brenda

    I just happened to stumble on this not-so-recent post, and wanted to share a thought or two from the ‘other side’ of parenting. My kids are all teenagers, so I’m looking at this topic as history and not “where are we headed with the way we’re doing things?”

    There are a lot of personal attributes that we tend to think are the opposite of each other, when really, they aren’t necessarily on the same plane. For instance, we think, “He’s not spoiled. He’s a good kid.” But is ‘spoiled’ the opposite of ‘good’? I know there can be some overlap, but I don’t necessarily think it is. A child can be mannerly and friendly and even responsible with his homework and *still* be spoiled when it comes to a sense of entitlement. I think the opposite of spoiled is grateful, and the opposite of good is bad. 🙂

    And I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think exposing our children to an ‘event’ in which they do a random act of generosity at a soup kitchen will give them a deeply meaningful outlook on the subject. Sure, it’s a good thing and a good start, but even spoiled people can be generous. If I have 100 toys and give my ten least favorite ones to Goodwill, does that mean I’m a giving person? Not really.

    While we didn’t grow up with cell phones and turned out just fine, our kids are apt to need them to get along in today’s world. Our grandparents could’ve said that they grew up without a landline and turned out just fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that we needed landlines in order to function through the last half of the 1900’s. Having those landlines didn’t mean we were ‘spoiled’… it just meant we lived in a different era, and telephone communication was part of ‘baseline.’

    At the end of the day, it’s about a way of life that builds in appreciation for what one has. It’s about raising kids who have the ability to connect the dots between what they do and that which they have access to. It’s about feeling disappointment in themselves – as opposed to frustration at their parents – when they haven’t connected the dots through their own efforts and didn’t get the ‘thing’. It’s about having self-discipline and a sense of purpose that is bigger than self-gratification that doesn’t really leave them satisfied an hour later.

    I totally understand the “it’s just ninety-nine cents” thing, as that’s how I would have processed the decision, myself… but from this end of the parenting game, I am more apt to be cognizant of the fact that while the price of the ‘thing’ may be cheap, the time they’re allotted to be children is priceless. If it’s spent in frantic angst over downloading the next cheap game, then their time has been wasted, even if the financial cost was minimal.

    I’m preaching to the former choir here on many levels. I didn’t do it perfectly by any means. 🙂 Having one or two areas of their lives where there’s a little lack of discipline won’t kill them… but if most every aspect of their lives is simply time spent wanting what they want, as opposed to thinking about what they can accomplish or who they can bless, even if they don’t back-talk or hit their siblings, they won’t turn out to be ‘good’ people. They’ll be ‘selfish’ people with good manners.

    JMTC. 🙂

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