Parenting: Nurturing vs Spoiling

I was having an online conversation with some fellow moms on Twitter about the idea of where does the line of nurturing our children and spoiling them become blurred.  We were talking mainly on the idea of moms making lunches for their high school children. At first I was appalled at the idea of it. Even my 5 and 6 year olds help with packing their lunches! But as they explained their reasons, my judgy side had to take a seat.  Some working moms said it was one last “motherly ” type thing they could do for their kids. Some stay at home moms said their children’s schedules between school, sports and jobs were so busy that they felt it important to take care of that little detail for them, less stress on their busy child.  I get both of those reasons, they make sense to me and I can see their points.

I think it comes down to the attitude of the child, especially an older child.  If they have the attitude of expecting us to take care of their every need, I feel we are failing them.  As their parents, we absolutely want our children to feel safe and secure and taken care of of.  But I think we can do that without tending to their every need in unnecessary ways…spoiling them.

The one thing on my parenting list of DO NOT DO THIS is raise a child with a sense of entitlement.  There is nothing worse than a spoiled brat child who expects everyone to bow to them and give them their every desire. Except maybe a spoiled brat adult who acts that way.

Am I right?

So how do we care for our children, nurture them, provide their needs without spoiling them?

I’m sure there are entire books and psychological  studies done on the subject but here is what I think…

It’s about the expectations we have of others.  I don’t expect anyone to do anything above and beyond for me. So when they do, I am sincerely grateful.  And that it what I work hard at teaching, by modeling, to my boys.

I’m a stay at home.  I take care of most of the cooking and cleaning around here. And I don’t mind, because, it’s my job.  BUT, I have a very strong motto that my children know well, and that is:

“I’m the MOM not the MAID.”

So, I expect my children to make their beds in the morning. Sure I could do it, I have time.  But it’s a skill I want them to learn. And they are not going to learn it by coming home to a clean room and freshly made bed every day.

I have them help me pack their lunches.  They see what’s going into it and why. We talk about eating our veggies before our cookie.  We talk about not throwing away things that could be eaten later, because food costs money and we need to be frugal and not wasteful.

They help with dishes and laundry and dusting.  I could do it all, and on especially busy weeks, I might.  But how will my children learn those life skills if I don’t teach them?  How will they learn that just because we are tired or busy or just plain don’t want to, things still need to be done.

The laundry fairy is not real.

Oh how I wish she were.

I want them to know that I will always help them take care of themselves, but I don’t want them to automatically expect that I will do everything for them.

When they are grown up, I want my boys to be equipped with all sorts of life skills.  I want them to be able to take care of themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I spoil my kids.  Plenty.  But it has always been very important to me that while I spoil, I also teach gratitude.  I’m proud of the fact that my boys are appreciative of the things that are given to them and done for them. I have worked hard at that!


I point out opportunities to be grateful. Child psychologists who have
graduated from the top psychology schools
would agree that modeling is
one of the best ways to teach children.

I say things like, “Wasn’t that nice of so-and-so to do for us? I sure am grateful for that, I think I’ll send them a little thank you card!”  I’m demonstrating kindness and gratitude through my own actions.  And THAT is how we teach our children.  That is how they become grateful.

They see it in us.

I model grateful behavior by telling my husband thank you for working so hard to provide our needs.  By letting others go before me in line. By leaving the last muffin for someone else because I’ve already had two. It’s about modeling unselfish behavior.  “Wow, she was really nice to bring muffins for everyone. I’m grateful that I even got one muffin, much less two, I think I’ll leave that last one for someone else rather than taking it for myself.”

Our children learn by watching us. See a behavior in your child that you don’t like? Stop and take a look in the mirror. Ouch.  I know. We might not be demonstrating that particular behavior, but maybe we are overlooking it and not expecting more from our child?

No matter what we do for our kids or how much, when they respond with a “thank you”, not an “it’s about time”, we have nurtured, not spoiled.

If my child says, “HEY, where’s my drink?” Instead of “Mom, could you please get me a drink?” I have spoiled, not nurtured.

You can obviously see the difference.  There is a thin line, but a big difference in outcome.

I still have a lot to learn about this subject, and so do my kids.  But we are trying, and that is the most important thing!

What do you think about nurturing vs spoiling?

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