Signs of a spoiled child and how overindulging parenting may affect his life in the short and long term

Reading time: 11 minutes
Written by
| Updated on
April 22, 2024
Reviewed by parenting expert
Portrait of dark haired little girl wearing white t-shirt posing with pout lips and unhappy

What you’ll learn

Discover the signs and impacts of raising a spoiled child. Learn effective parenting strategies to support your child’s emotional well-being.

The concept of a ‘spoiled child‘ is familiar to most of us. It’s typically characterized by excessive indulgence from parents. Leading to developing an inflated sense of self-entitlement, poor social skills, and lack of discipline. Often rooted in a well-intentioned desire to provide and care, overindulgent parenting can nurture these problematic behaviors and attitudes.

It is fundamental to recognize the signs and comprehend the long-term consequences of overindulgence. Awareness is the first step towards more balanced parenting methods. The goal is preventing overindulgence without suppressing the expression of parental love and affection.

The mantra “I let them do whatever they want because I love them” can be a misguided approach. This could affect your child’s relationship with peers both now and into adulthood. This article aims to shed light on why this approach can be harmful. Also, it offers insights into alternatives that can nurture healthier attitudes and behaviors in your children.

Understanding Overindulgence and Spoiled Children

Overindulgence in parenting refers to a situation where parents excessively cater to their children’s desires and demands. Often to the detriment of instilling important values and boundaries. This form of parenting often manifests in children as spoiled behavior. Evident in a range of symptoms such as regular tantrums, bad behavior, and a lack of respect for authority could be evident signs.

Spoiled children are often recognized by their excessive demands and expectations. These children are prone to throwing tantrums when they do not get their way. They might struggle to manage disappointment or loss. It’s not uncommon for them to exhibit disrespectful behavior towards others. Particularly, those in authority, as they are used to their needs and wants being prioritized above others.

The development of such spoiled traits can often be traced back to overindulgent parenting. This parenting style, sometimes known as permissive parenting, creates an environment where children learn that their desires should always be met. Mostly, without consideration for others. 

Frequent empty threats further exacerbate the issue. This teaches children that there are no real consequences for their actions. All these factors can heavily influence a child’s development, leading to negative behavioral patterns that persist into adulthood.

Signs of an Overindulged Child

 Spoiled child - Little girl eating colorful ice-cream

Spotting an overindulged child isn’t always straightforward, as their behaviors can manifest differently. 

To understand better, let’s consider some real-life scenarios that should be red flags:

  • Excessive Demands: Imagine it’s a scorching summer day, and you agree to buy your child an ice cream from a passing truck. Suddenly, your child starts insisting on ice cream for every meal, throwing fits when you offer anything else. This is an example of an excessive demand.
  • Entitlement: Suppose you are in a toy store with your child. Without considering the cost or appropriateness of the toy, your child takes a toy off the shelf, expecting you to buy it immediately.
  • Lack of Gratitude: Imagine your child receives a gift from a family member but shows no appreciation, merely tossing it aside and asking, “What’s next?” This demonstrates a lack of gratitude.
  • Temper Tantrums: Let’s say your child wants to play video games past their designated screen time. When you enforce the limit, they have a meltdown, stomping their feet and screaming, “It’s not fair!”
  • Self-Centered Attitude: Imagine during a playdate, your child hoards all the toys, refusing to share with their friend and only focusing on their own enjoyment.
  • Whims: Your child insists on getting a new action figure they saw in a commercial. Upon receiving it, they lose interest within hours and demand a different toy they’ve just seen advertised.
  • Spoiled Behavior: Imagine your child receives a brand new bike for their birthday but sees a friend with a more advanced model a few days later. Instead of being grateful for their own gift, your child throws a fit and demands the same bike as their friend, disregarding the effort and expense you put into their gift. This lack of appreciation and constantly comparing characterizes spoiled behavior.
  • Meltdown: Your child wants ice cream before dinner. You explain that dessert comes after dinner, but this leads to a massive meltdown. They start crying hysterically, throwing themselves on the floor, and insist on having ice cream immediately.

These examples illustrate common behaviors of an overindulged child, helping parents identify these traits in their own children. Recognizing the signs of spoiled kids is the first step towards addressing them effectively.

👉 Struggling to get your child to eat when they refuse? Discover 3 proven strategies in our article. Read it and unlock the secrets to successful mealtimes!

Short-term Consequences of Spoiling

Overindulgent parenting can have immediate effects on a child’s behavior. These effects may not be obvious at first, especially when the child is in the comfort of their home environment. They often become evident when the child interacts with others outside the family unit, such as at a daycare or with other caregivers.

One of the most noticeable consequences of spoiling a child is the challenge it poses to their ability to interact effectively with peers. A spoiled child, accustomed to having their demands met without negotiation, might find it difficult to share or cooperate with others. They may also show an inability to handle rejection or failure, as they’ve been shielded from these experiences at home.

Another short-term consequence of overindulgence is that it may hinder the development of essential life skills. When an indulgent parent repeatedly step in to solve a child’s problems or fulfill their demands instantly, the child doesn’t learn skills like problem-solving, patience, or the ability to tolerate frustration.

Plus, a spoiled child may also face challenges when interacting with authority figures. They might refuse to comply with the rules or show disrespect, as they are not used to respect boundaries and limits.

Therefore, while it may seem easier to give in to a young child‘s demands at the moment, this parenting style can lead to significant short-term challenges. Recognizing these effects can help parents reassess their approach and aim for a more balanced parenting style.

Long-term Consequences of Spoiling

Sad teenage boy leaning on the wall

The long-term consequences of being an indulgent parent are numerous and far-reaching. Overindulged children often grow up in environments that don’t mirror reality, denying them essential experiences such as dealing with challenges, handling setbacks, and learning to compromise.

  1. Lack of self-confidence. Their decision-making abilities are often impaired because their parents habitually take over when tasks become difficult. One spoiled teenager will grow into a young adult who feels incompetent, questioning their ability to handle life’s trials independently.
  2. Skill deficiencies. The absence of necessary life experiences can result in difficulties with various life skills, including communication, interpersonal relationships, personal responsibility, and even practical abilities such as household chores and money management. Studies showed that indulged children suffer from low self-esteem as teenagers, which makes them struggle with decision making and problem solving. Due to an incapacity of thinking from themselves or feeling unprepared to face responsibility.
  3. Develop self-centered and narcissistic traits. Children who grow up showered with excessive praise may develop an unhealthy reliance on external validation. For instance, let’s think of a child that consistently receives excessive praise for every little thing they do. Let’s say young Jacob makes a small improvement in his basketball technique, and his parents throw him a celebratory party as though he’s won the NBA championship. This over-the-top reaction instills in Jacob the belief that he is extraordinarily special and superior to his peers. Over time, he wants this level of adoration and recognition from everyone around him. In school, he demands constant attention and becomes upset if his friends don’t acknowledge his every achievement. He might even start to devalue others’ accomplishments, feeling threatened by anything that could steal his spotlight. This overindulgence could lead Billy to develop narcissistic traits, such as an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. As he grows older, this could impact his relationships, making it challenging for him to form deep, meaningful connections.
  4. Unhealthy eating behaviors. This is another potential consequence of overindulgence. Studies show that parents who don’t set appropriate boundaries around food consumption may inadvertently encourage their children to develop harmful eating habits
  5. Poor emotional regulation and exhibit behavioral problems. The absence of appropriate limits can lead to poor impulse control, contributing to additional mental health challenges. For instance, consider a child who has never been allowed to lose at a board game because their parent, wanting to shield them from disappointment, always manipulates the game to ensure the child wins. The absence of appropriate limits can mean that these children miss out on the valuable life lessons that come with experiencing and overcoming challenges, directly impacting their resilience. Resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, is a fundamental skill that should ideally be cultivated from a young age. This prevents the child from experiencing the challenge of a loss and the subsequent opportunity to build resilience.As this child grows and faces unavoidable setbacks in life – be it a poor grade on a test, a rejection from a college application, or a failure in their career – they may not have developed the resilience necessary to cope with these disappointments. They may respond with intense frustration or despair, having never learned the important lesson that it’s okay to lose sometimes. They can’t see that setbacks can be opportunities for growth and improvement.

Overindulgent parenting can have major implications on a child’s emotional well-being that extends far beyond childhood. Recognizing and addressing these potential issues can pave the way for a healthier transition from adolescence to adulthood, enabling these individuals to lead more balanced, fulfilling lives.

Nurturing Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

Family having a nice time in the forest

To maintain a healthy parent-child relationship and avoid overindulgence, it’s essential to apply balanced parenting strategies. This involves setting appropriate limits, teaching responsibility, instilling empathy, and fostering healthy development and positive behavior in children.

Setting Limits: Setting boundaries helps children understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t. It encourages them to respect others’ boundaries as well. Make these limits clear, consistent, and age-appropriate. Remember to be firm but flexible – some exceptions might apply, but the general rules should be consistent.

For example you might set a rule that there will be no screen time during mealtimes or homework sessions. Make these rules clear, consistent, and appropriate for the child’s age. It’s important to be both firm and flexible with these guidelines.

For example, while the no-screen-time-during-meals rule might generally be non-negotiable, you might allow an exception if there’s a special event like a family movie night. The key is consistency and clear communication about when exceptions apply. This not only gives children a sense of security but also teaches them the importance of rules in a societal context.

Teaching Responsibility: Allow children to face the natural consequences of their actions (as long as they’re not in harm’s way). This teaches them to understand the cause-and-effect relationships of their behaviors. Assign age-appropriate chores and tasks to create a sense of responsibility. Letting kids deal with the outcomes of their actions can be a good way to teach them about cause and effect.

For example, if your child doesn’t do their homework, they may get a low grade or have to miss out on free time to make up the work. This helps them see that what they do has results. Also, giving kids tasks around the house that match their age can make them feel responsible. For example, a younger child could help set the table, while an older child could help with washing the dishes. This helps them feel like they have a role to play in the family and are responsible for something important.

Instilling Empathy: Teach children to empathize with others. Discuss feelings, encourage sharing, and model empathy in your interactions. Show them that understanding and considering others’ emotions is a cornerstone of healthy relationships and societal functioning. One way to do this is by discussing emotions in day-to-day life.

If a sibling is upset because they lost a game, you could say, “Your sister is feeling sad because she didn’t win the game. How would you feel if you were in her place?” This helps children learn to put themselves in others’ shoes. Also, encourage sharing and cooperation during play times and model empathetic behavior in your interactions. If your child sees you responding empathetically to others, they’re more likely to emulate this behavior. Showing empathy in action helps kids understand that other people have feelings too and that those feelings matter.

👉 Dealing with hurtful words from your child? Learn effective strategies in our article. Discover how to navigate challenging moments and build a stronger connection with your child.

Mom and son riding a toy bike

Tips for Promoting Healthy Development and Positive Behavior

  • Spend quality time together by showing genuine interest in your child’s activities and interests. 
  • Allow them independence, let them try to figure things out on their own, as long as this can’t harm them in any way.
  • Avoid offering material possessions as a form of showing love or as a way to compensate for lack of time spent with them.
  • Praise effort rather than the outcome, promoting a growth mindset. 
  • Develop a consistent routine and ensure they have adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.


In conclusion, the way parents approach their child’s upbringing plays a significant role in shaping the child’s personality and future. Overindulgence and spoiling can lead to a range of negative outcomes in children, from behavioral issues and emotional problems to narcissistic traits and poor self-esteem. On the other hand, balanced parenting that sets clear boundaries, fosters empathy, and promotes responsibility can help children develop essential life skills, emotional resilience, and a healthy sense of self-worth.

Remember, every child is different, and what works for one might not work for another. However, the guiding principle remains the same: aim for a balanced and nurturing approach that helps your child grow into a well-rounded individual. It’s essential to be mindful of our parenting choices and strive to create a healthy, empowering environment that allows our children to thrive.

Looking to raise resilient, confident, well-adjusted children, not a spoiled child? Interested in mindful parenting strategies that deter spoiling and correct specific teenage behaviors? Then our event, “5 Steps to Get What You Want from Your Child” can be your guide. We invite you to find tools and strategies for effective parenting.

If you need more quick answers to your questions, our friendly Sophie bot is ready to answer.


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Wischerth, G. A., Mulvaney, M. K., Brackett, M. A., & Perkins, D. (2016). The adverse influence of permissive parenting on personal growth and the mediating role of emotional intelligence. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 177(5), 185–189. 

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