Unspoil Your Child: Raise a Child, Not a Tyrant

Could you unknowingly be spoiling your child? And if you are, what can you do about it? Here's how to "unspoil" your child.

By Georgia Orcutt

You took your son downtown to do a few errands. He had a tantrum outside the toy store because you refused to buy him a toy, and then he staged a meltdown because you wouldn’t buy him a doughnut. You gave up on looking for a birthday present for your sister and didn’t stop at the grocery store on the way home because you knew there would be another scene if you did. You’re putting off asking him to pick up the toys he’s strewn around the living room, and you suddenly remember you’re out of the only cereal he’ll eat. Could you unknowingly be spoiling your child? And if you are, what can you do about it?

Unspoil Your ChildTo find some answers, we talked with Richard Bromfield, Ph.D., a clinical faculty member at Harvard Medical School who has been working with children and teenagers for 26 years. He finds it disheartening and dismaying to see a fullsized adult backing down from a pint-sized toddler. In his book, How to Unspoil Your Child Fast (Basil Books, 2007), he points out that by trying to make life too easy, by striving to bring only smiles and laughter, parents risk precisely what they fear most: children with paper-thin self-esteem who haplessly rely on outside things for stimulation, satisfaction and happiness. He explains that a child needs boundaries and structure to grow and will seek them when they are absent. A child who perpetually pesters his parents may be searching for the limits he needs to grow straight.

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