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“Spoiling” a Child with Love and Affection
Parents are often concerned about “spoiling” their children. When you talk about a spoiled child, you have to really understand what this means. What is a spoiled child?
A child is spoiled by taking away his freedom of action! He is
not spoiled by loving him or even giving him things. You can give a child almost anything and it won’t spoil him. But robbing him of his independence (personal freedom) of action will spoil him.
A child can be robbed of his independence of action in many ways.
The first is by stopping him from doing something or making him do something without his cooperation, which you say you are doing “just for his own good.” But this only prevents him from making his own decisions and punishes him further when his own decisions lead him into trouble.
For example, let’s say a child decides to help a friend in his studies after school. As a result, he arrives home a bit late for the family dinner. His father gets upset about this and tells him he isn’t allowed to be late for a family meal—ever! Say the father then takes away some of the child’s allowance as a punishment. Now the child has been punished for his own decision and he realizes that he really does not have freedom over his actions or decisions.
Another common mistake is to continually tell a child how nice everybody is to him and how the world is all run for him and how ungrateful (not showing thanks) he is in return and that he does not show his appreciation in any way. That is another way to rob the child of his independence of action. It makes him feel like he owes you and that he should not try to do things for himself.
The truth is that no child was ever spoiled by affection, by sympathy, by kindness, by understanding or even by indulgence (giving him too much). You could give your child a car, motorcycle or anything else that you, as a child, had wanted and your child would not be spoiled. You could give him better toys than anybody else on the block has and you won’t make a snob (someone who looks down on others) out of him.
What works best is to permit your child to act for himself and make his own decisions with the friends he plays and goes to school with. He can go out and share his possessions if he wants to or not. It is up to him. If he is allowed to live like this, he will find out for himself how the world works. And that is something he has to learn.
We need to break an old superstition (untrue belief) that love and affection so thoroughly upset a child and cause him trouble or even drive him crazy. People believe this—but it is not true.
You can be assured that the fastest way to spoil your child is
not by loving him, but by taking away his freedom of action.
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