Definition of “spoiled child” from Wikipedia: A spoiled child is a child that exhibits behavioral problems from overindulgence by his or her parents.
If I were to identify one thing that I am obsessively concerned about instilling in my children, it’s a grateful heart. This manifests itself in constant conversations with my 3-year-olds about thanking God daily, not being wasteful, remembering who gave them things, and saying thank you for absolutely everything. I hugely fear raising a spoiled child who lacks a profound sense of gratitude. The other day, however, made me wonder if my daughter was becoming one such child.
Kenna was sitting on the couch next to a xylophone that Alexa had been playing with. For no apparent reason other than boredom, she suddenly kicked it off the couch onto our hard wood floor and almost broke it. I turned to her in shock and said, “How dare you!” To my surprise, tears started falling down my cheeks. It was the first time ever that the behavior of any of my kids has made me cry. I assure you they have done far worse, but this act was so symbolic of everything I work hard against that the feeling of total parental failure just washed over me.
Did this mean, despite all my efforts, that my kids are becoming spoiled? That they take their toys for granted so much that it doesn’t matter if one breaks? I started to ponder what constitutes spoiling, but it led to more of an indictment of myself than Kenna.
Have you heard the often quoted statistic that if you have food to eat, clothes to wear and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world? By having our basic needs met, perhaps we are not simply “richer” . . . but also spoiled. Consider the definition from the beginning of this post, rewritten for adults:
A spoiled adult is a person that exhibits behavioral problems from overindulgence.
We usually don’t think of adults as being “spoiled” because the resulting “behavioral problems” aren’t as obvious as with a kicking, screaming kid. We’ve managed to learn socially acceptable behavior, and that behavior masks the true condition of our hearts. We also don’t think of having our basic needs met as “overindulgence”, but isn’t overindulgence all relative? Compared to 75% of the world, I would certainly say I have overindulged . . .and I have the behavioral problems, from a Christian perspective, to show for it:
I don’t read my Bible as often as I should.
I don’t pray as often as I should.
I don’t serve others as often as I should.
I don’t worship as often as I should.
. . . All of which are actions of gratitude to the One who gave us all, but because I don’t have to be completely dependent on God for my basic needs, I’m often too preoccupied to prioritize them.
I am humbled to think that even though these behavioral problems are not as obvious as my 3-year-old’s, my heart can be just as ungrateful. I may no longer kick xylophones off couches, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spoiled.
As parents, we make choices every day that impact how our kids respond to the blessings they have. Are there areas where you have inadvertently allowed your kids to become “spoiled” (e.g., attention, possessions, behavior, opportunities)? Are there areas where YOU have inadvertently become spoiled?
Determine what you can do to proactively address those areas – for yourself and your kids – and plan accordingly. Put a note on your calendar for one month from now to check your progress – accountability is the key to action!